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Mr. Peabody is clearly just as thrilled as I am to go hiking! I mean, look at that tongue!

The mountains are calling and I must go.

– John Muir

Y’all know I love the National parks! If I could spend all my days driving around the U.S. camping in National Parks I would! But alas…I can’t abandon my whole life to chase buffalos in Gran Teton or hike through the Grand Canyon.

BUT, I do ensure that I get in as much outdoor time as I can afford and intentionally plan these trips into my year. This weekend (tomorrow!!!) I’m off to the Great Smoky Mountains to continue my National park journey, and I’m super pumped! I can’t wait to explore this gorgeous park AND run the #GSMhalf. P.S. – If you’re a runner and you love the outdoors, you should check out Vacation Races!

While I love my park adventures, they do take some planning! Set aside some time to do a little research about the park you have in mind. Trust me, a little planning can go a long way! Here are some things I’ve found helpful in planning National park trips efficiently and on a budget:

01. Find out when free entrance days are! If you’re like me, you’re all about those discounts (#ballinonabudget)! There is normally a small fee to enter National parks, however there are multiple days throughout the year you can go for free! There are still 2017 dates left in September and November. Utilize those free days while you can!

02. If you plan to do lots of exploring, sign up for an annual pass! This will save you money in the long run, and bonus you’ll be giving your hard earned money to a great organization!

03. Do your research! Some companies like Cosmos have tour deals with National parks! This could help guide your whole trip if you’re having trouble going the DIY route.

04. It can be as much as $30 per vehicle to drive through some national parks! Instead of driving, consider riding your bike or walking through instead, it will be much cheaper!

05. Each National park has a trip planner! Be sure that you check it out before you leave home. The planner is filled with loads of great information from where to camp to the best things to do at that park. I’ve been checking out the GSM trip planner, and I think I’m in for some amazing treats!

06. Check out the National park trip idea homepage! There are lots of unexpected options here!

07. Pick off peak travel times (especially for the big name parks)! It’s no fun to prepare a get-a-way trip to then realize that hundreds of other people also had the same idea. Do some research and find out when the peak travel times are for the park you have in mind and then avoid them! For example, I went to the Everglades and Biscayne in December last year, and the parks were pretty empty…it was awesome!

08. Pack lots of everything! Water! Snacks! Sunscreen!

09. Lodging around the big parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone can fill up up to a year in advance. Consider camping instead or search for lodging in less known areas.

Are you planning any National park trips this year? If so, I’d love to know about it! AND tell me all about your planning process!

Now…I’m off to pack for my #nationalpark adventure….I may have procrastinated a little too much this time…

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