Guest Author - Christine Wilcox
Summer vacations often hearken people back to the days when families loaded up in cars and pointed their steering wheels toward the nearest mountains and lakes. One of the great things about summer travel in the United States is that there are still a plethora of places to travel to regardless of the state you're in - and to make it even better, there's a great way to get to see beautiful and/or interesting places, get a few history lessons and do it methodically from your home state -- visiting the website of The National Parks Service.
Planning to visit a National Park doesn't have to be a vacation. In fact, it can be as close to a staycation as you can get. When you visit the National Parks Service's website, the first link you need to check out is "Find a Park." Click on your home state, and you most likely will see a few green dots within a reasonable day's drive of your current location.
When you pull up the map, double clicking on an area will zoom in. Single clicking on a green dot will load a pop-up window with information about that site. When the small pop-up window is on the screen, move your mouse over the name of the national park, and you'll be taken to the park's home page.
On each park's page, the key link is "Plan your Visit." There, you can get driving directions straight to the park, information about any fees, operating hours, seasonal availability, things do do, and key tips that you need to know before you go. These key links help you to plan your trip, budget, and learn more about the surrounding area. One of my favorite parks, Craters of the Moon national monument & preserve, shows off some of the best examples of how a terrain is transfigured by lava flows. You'll also get to learn about different types of lava depending on its proximity to the cinder cone, and you'll get a glimpse of how Craters affected pioneers at the visitor center.
The National Parks can also provide excellent volunteer opportunities, which not only allow you a chance to learn something amazing about a great spot in your area, but also meet new people.
This summer, when you're setting up your plans for a vacation but want to go on a budget, check out your area's National Parks. Maybe you'll start something.