Five Reasons Your Family Needs National Park Passports

July 21, 2018

I can’t think of anything more satisfying than getting a new stamp in your passport. Nothing beats having that sense of accomplishment made official by the stamper hitting your passport page. This is certainly true of your international passport. But it’s also very true of a National Park Passport from the US National Parks Service!

Our family makes it a point to see as many national parks as possible, so our kids have each had their own National Park Passport since their first visits to national parks as babies. They are treasured keepsakes for both kids. I think all families should visit national parks, and all people that visit US national parks should get National Park Passports.

Disclosure: Some of the links below contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

What is a National Park Passport?

The United States’ National Park Service National Park Passport program is voluntary for national parks and their affiliated areas, but nearly every national park participates in this popular program. (The above link also takes you to a PDF of all the parks participating in the program.) Visitors can purchase a passport at any participating visitor center within a national park, or you can purchase one online here before you go.

The passports themselves are thicker than an international passport because they contain a lot of great information about the national parks. They are divided into regions of the country, so for example, if you are going to Canyonlands National Park, you will find spaces for stamps in the Rocky Mountain Region section of the passport.

How do I use a National Park Passport?

Once you have the passport, you bring it to any participating visitor center within the national park. There will be designated place (usually on a raised podium) with a stamper on it set to today’s day. There is also usually scrap paper there so you can practice stamping before you stamp the real thing. Find the proper section in your passport for where to place the stamp, and stamp it!

Pro Tip: Have your kids practice doing the stamp, and help them if they need help, but definitely let them stamp their own passport!

Another Pro Tip: If you anticipate visiting a lot of national parks, be sure to maximize the space by fitting in four stamps per open space.

Below are a couple pages from my son’s passport. As you can see, the passports also include spaces where you can purchase colorful stickers from the parks to include in your passport as well. Our kids loved getting these, especially when they were little. Some parks also have more decorative stamps you can include that don’t have the date (like the Mount Rushmore stamp in the bottom right).

Why should I get a National Park Passport?

A very cool souvenir from your national park adventures, right?! If you’re still not sure, here are five reasons our kids (and we parents) have loved National Park Passports.

1. They love to look back at them. Our kids love to look at their own passports to see where they’ve been and where there are gaps. If they can’t remember a park, they want to go back.

2. It’s a great way to track family travel. If you don’t tend to journal your trips like I do, the passports provide a chronology of when and where you went.

3. It makes visiting national parks a priority. Our family has a goal of visiting as many national parks in the US (and the world) as possible. Getting more stamps in their passports makes visiting national parks a higher priority when we plan family trips.

4. They will always have these souvenirs. My kid might lose or wreck the raven puppet she insisted on getting at Canyonlands National Park earlier this year (which cost a lot more than a passport does, by the way). But they treasure these passports like their baby books. It will be something we can put on display at their high school graduations. And they can show their own children someday.

5. They have character. Our kids take care of their passports. (Probably because I take charge of keeping track of them.) You can see from my photos that the page edges aren’t bent up or frayed, and the cover looks like new. But the imperfect stamps and the crooked stickers all give a National Park Passport a little more charm.

 

If you are looking for a fantastic family travel keepsake from your time traveling the United States, there is no better choice than the National Park Passport. I have talked to many parents who have regretted not getting these passports for their kids. I am a little sad I don’t have one for myself. Enjoy!

One Last Incentive…

For those of you thinking about visiting US National Parks with your kids, the National Parks Service offers the Every Kid in the Parks program for families of fourth grade students. If your child is in the fourth grade, their family can visit the national parks for free for a year! Our family took advantage of this on our trip to California. It was so easy!

 

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    cindy ladage
    July 22, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    Great idea for traveling with the grandkids!

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 22, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      Definitely!

  • Reply
    Kim
    July 22, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    I didn’t know about this program! My kids would love this as a keepsake.

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 22, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      Definitely look into it! Such a great way to document your national park adventures.

  • Reply
    Priya Florence Shah
    July 24, 2018 at 7:46 am

    Lovely idea for family travel. I never knew there was a passport for the US National Parks, which I would dearly love to visit. This is such a great idea to inculcate the love of nature in kids. I hope the Indian government comes up with a similar initiative.

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 24, 2018 at 8:07 am

      I agree. Many state park systems in the US have passports as well. I’m not sure how long it’s been around in the US…at least 13 years (when our son first got his), but probably longer. I hope the idea catches on! And I hope you get to US national parks someday…they are amazing!

  • Reply
    Sara
    July 24, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    I didn’t know about this program! I am from Canada, but if I lived in the US, I would definitely want to have a pass and take full advantage of the beautiful national parks. I’m going to look into the Canadian provincial parks – maybe Ontario has something like this. Thanks for inspiring me to look into this!

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 24, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Canada’s provincial park systems had something like this. Many of our states in the US have passport programs (including Minnesota, where I live). Good luck!

  • Reply
    Followingtherivera
    July 25, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    This is such an excellent and fun idea for families! Can non-US travellers have this, or is it just an initiative for US citizens. I’ve only been to one park when I’ve visited so would like to see more!

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 25, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      It’s for absolutely anyone! They just sell them in the visitor center (or you can pre-purchase online), then you just walk into the visitor center to get it stamped.

  • Reply
    Sage
    July 26, 2018 at 7:24 am

    We have one of these, and we LOVE it! (Okay, maybe the biggest kids who loves it the most is me… But still!)

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 26, 2018 at 8:09 am

      Yay! I think it’s possible my husband and I love them more than our kids, but they’ll appreciate all the effort we put into them someday. Right? πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Becca Talbot
    July 26, 2018 at 9:40 am

    This is such a fun way to get kids interested in travelling and the “great outdoors”. I would have loved to have something like this when I was younger πŸ™‚ x

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 26, 2018 at 10:28 am

      I think they’re great at any age. πŸ™‚ Lots of adults get their passports stamped too.

  • Reply
    Alexander Popkov
    July 27, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Nice, Would be nice to have something similar in Europe. These do have some character and hold memories.

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 27, 2018 at 10:27 am

      Yes. I wonder what other countries might do this? I know many state park systems in the US also have their own passports, including the state I live in (Minnesota).

  • Reply
    Federica
    July 27, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    American National Parks are amazing and this is a great idea for families with kids. My daughters love to show at the borders their real passports and I cannot think of something more fun for them than this National Park Passport. Thanks for the tips. I will definitely recommend it also to my friends.

    • Reply
      Kristie
      July 27, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks Federica! It is a pretty cool keepsake, for sure. πŸ™‚

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