(BPT) - Summer vacation planning is already in full swing and it appears the great outdoors are calling. According to travel site Expedia.com, national parks and other outdoorsy destinations are among the most popular for the upcoming travel season. Making up more than 84 million acres, national parks throughout the United States offer plenty of room to experience nature at its most beautiful. But where exactly should a would-be park explorer begin? Take some advice from the experts at Expedia.
Narrow down your destination
When planning your national park escape, there are a lot of things to consider. Would you prefer to drive or fly to your destination? Are you an avid camper or in need of more luxurious accommodations? Not all national parks have the same offerings, so do your research or even take a virtual visit to a park. Expedia's travel guide videos are a great resource to see the basic setup and highlights of each park.
Don't miss out on detours
When planning park visits, look at what is along the route or nearby and add some detours for an even more memorable trip. For example, if Yellowstone National Park is your chosen destination, consider adding a day or two at Grand Teton National Park, too. It's just to the south of Yellowstone and offers 300,000 acres of scenic landscape home to elk, moose, bison and soaring birds of prey.
Save stress and money
National parks are a hotspot for the upcoming summer, which means prices are going up and availability will be limited. But there are still smart ways to save on your trip, without sacrificing on quality or location. Just by bundling your travel on a site like Expedia, you can save up to hundreds of dollars. That means booking your flight plus rental car, or hotel and flight at the same time unlocks savings. Also, make sure to choose flexible rates that allow free cancellation or waive change fees, so you can lock your plans in early without worrying if something comes up.
Utilize the visitor center
No matter where you go, parks will have visitor centers loaded with helpful information and experienced staff ready to help you. This is key so you don't miss out on any of the top highlights and hidden gems a park has to offer. For example, learn the best time of day to see the vista at Bryce Point, or which trails are family-friendly.
Get the kids involved
Most national parks have a Junior Ranger program targeted toward kids ages 5-13. This can be a fun way to engage children during your trip! For example, as you explore the world’s oldest and largest sequoia and redwood trees at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, your Junior Rangers will also learn about the history and biology of the park. As they complete a series of activities and share their answers with a park ranger, they'll receive an official Junior Ranger patch.
Ask about accessibility
Planning ahead can help make for a seamless trip, so in addition to packing sunscreen and comfortable shoes, ask ahead of time about parking and special needs. For example, Sprague Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park is wheelchair accessible and perfect for families. It is in high demand during peak tourist season, so make use of the free park shuttle and you don't have to stress over parking. Plus, use Expedia's Accessibility search filters to find lodging with the right amenities for your travel crew.
Plan for variable weather
Seasonal changes can impact how you should dress, so make sure you have appropriate clothing for your park visit. Even in the dead of summer, hikers may encounter extremely cold weather due to elevations. When in doubt, pack light layers, a head covering and pay attention to the park's weather forecasts and advisories. What's more, research interesting drives and indoor activities, so if it rains, your exploration can continue.
Know COVID-19 considerations
Every place you visit may have different restrictions and guidelines regarding COVID-19. It's important to know what to expect and plan appropriately. Expedia has a COVID-19 Resource hub for helpful info on trip planning, health and safety, flexible travel and more. You can contact hotels and attractions directly as well for specifics.