It’s a good day. Seriously overwhelmed by the responses I’ve received to Thank You, Park Ranger this week. I can’t express how incredible it feels to have a positive impact on the very people who have inspired so much good in my family over the last few years. Thank you Thank you Thank you.
So here I am, feeling ever so slightly intimidated by my newfound respectable sized audience, and it’s time for another post. Actually, I think it’s time to plan!
What??? I know, it seems early, but trust me it’s not. It’s time. The busiest National Parks can fill up campground reservations 4-5 months in advance of the popular summer months. With the holidays at our doorstep, extra time for planning is already in short supply, and trust me, the planning takes time. Early next year, you’ll want to be able to login to the park websites and reserve your campsites as you can expect an even larger crowd next season.
But, this is the fun part! The dreaming part! What have you always wanted to see? What do you want to see next? Historical battlegrounds in Virginia or the wildernesses of Yellowstone? The Mammoth Cave in Kentucky or the Arches of Utah? Do you want to hike the Dakota Badlands or windsurf the shores of Padre Island? What about Mt. Rushmore? The Grand Canyon? The Grand Tetons? The Redwoods? The Olympics?
America is at your fingertips, and at this point in the game, anything is possible.
I tend to plan our long summer trips in two different stages. The first stage is like writing a story’s discovery draft… you’re just dreaming up ideas and possibilities! Have fun and get the whole family involved! Your goal over the next two months is to decide on which parks (and other destinations) you want to visit and approximately how many days you want to be gone. Save all that pesky reservation-making and logistical what-if’s for the much more labor intensive second stage.
Here are some tips and questions to help you start brainstorming:
- The nps.gov web-pages are fabulous and so very user friendly. Spend some extra time looking at the park map and all the headings under the “Plan Your Visit” section as they will give you ideas on things you may want to see and do. This will help you decide how many days you want to be at each park.
- The National Park Foundation page is also a great source of information and highlights each of the parks, monuments, memorials, battlefields, and other lands governed by the National Park Service. I love their User’s Guide – a free download brochure of what not to miss in each region of the country.
- My Countdown page is a complete list of the 59 National Parks sorted by state.
- The Amazing Places book illustrates hundreds of wonderful places to take your kids no matter where you are in the country. Get it. Read it. Love it.
- Check out my Itineraries page for trip ideas. Our 2009 trip to the parks in California and our 2010 trip to the parks in the Northwest are both posted. I hope to get the 2011 trip up soon.
Questions to ask Yourself
- Do you want to travel across the United States or stay close to home? Or maybe find somewhere in between?
- Do you want to see something you’ve never seen before or show the kids a favorite place from your childhood memories?
- What are your kids studying in American history or science this year?
- What activities/events are already on your summer calendar?
- How much vacation time could you and/or your spouse have by next summer?
- Start thinking about ALL your options for carving out time for your summer vacation. My previous post, Thirteen Summers, discusses this topic in depth.
- How much money can you put away per month for the next 8 months for travel? Give yourself a monthly goal and start saving today. Seriously, transfer $10 into your family savings account right now. Check out this website and the (plethora of others out there) that give ideas on how to shave a few dollars out of your expenses each month. Stay tuned… new posts on budgeting for an extended trip are coming up soon.
That’s it for today! Happy Planning!