America the Beautiful: The National Parks Senior Pass

Hands down, the best value in the RVing world is the National Parks Senior Pass

One of the consolations of old age is the America the Beautiful Pass which like most Federal entities has undergone a name change—it used to be called MANY years ago, the Golden Age Pass.

For $80, seniors can get a Lifetime Senior Pass. Seniors are anyone over the age of 62.

If you want the Annual Senior Pass, it’s $20, as of this posting.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What the America the Beautiful National Parks Senior Pass includes

All U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for this pass which will greatly reduce your expenditures for visiting and camping in National Parks and federal land—more than 2,000 locations in all.

Each pass covers entrance fees for your RV (or whatever vehicle you are in) and all passengers at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard and day-use fees at national forests and grasslands and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Most campgrounds in National Forests give you a 50 percent discount on camping fees with the America the Beautiful pass.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to get an America the Beautiful Senior Pass

The America the Beautiful Senior Pass is sold at all National Park entrances, national monuments, many National Forest ranger stations, Bureau of Land Management field, and district officers, and numerous other places.

Purchase the LIFETIME Senior Pass Here

Purchase the ANNUAL Senior Pass Here

As soon as you turn 62, just show up with documentation that you’re either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (driver’s license, US passport, birth certificate, or green card) and that you’re 62.

Pay the fee ($80) and you’re literally set for life. Since the replacement charge is the same as a new card the procedure is just to get another one if you lose yours. So don’t lose your card! And they don’t accept pictures of the card (in case you like to digitize your paper for trips)—so keep your card handy!

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Parks Senior Pass has lots of benefits for campers

There are many other uses more important to RVers and fulltimers who spend more than the usual two or three weeks a year touring the country.

Six federal agencies—the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau of Land Management—all honor the America the Beautiful National Parks Senior Pass at sites where entrance or standard amenity fees are charged. 

“Standard amenity fees” are governmentese for day use, swimming, boat launch, or campsite fees which is where the pass comes into its own.

When you check-in at one of the campgrounds, look on the envelope you use to pay your camping fee at National Forest and BLM campgrounds. 

On the bottom line, there’s a place for your pass number and a 50 percent discount on the overnight camping fee. Army Corps of Engineers campsites also honors the 50 percent discount for senior pass cardholders.

Even the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will give you 50 percent off of the campsite fees. The TVA offers hundreds of campsites among its six dam reservoir campgrounds in the Southeast available from March 15 to November 15. The length of stay is limited to 21 days during the high season (May 1 to September 30) and 30 days in the off-season (October 1 to April 30, excluding closure dates).

The America the Beautiful pass for seniors will also save you the trouble of going into the ranger station or store to get a permit for National Forest dispersed camping—just display your card on the dash in lieu of the permit. 

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is the Access Pass?

The site also explains, “A free, lifetime pass—available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States that have been medically determined to have a permanent disability (does not have to be a 100 percent disability)—that provides admittance to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six Federal agencies” is only $20. 

At many sites the Access Pass provides the pass owner a discount on Expanded Amenity Fees (such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours).

Purchase the Access Pass Here

America the Beautiful Annual Pass

An $80.00 Annual Pass that provides access to more than 2,000 recreation areas managed by six Federal agencies with up to 100 percent of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services.

Purchase the America the Beautiful Annual Pass Here

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are some exceptions

The only fly in the ointment are concessionaires—private companies that contract with the Federal government to manage campgrounds in national parks and forests.

They aren’t required to accept the pass for a 50 percent discount although there are many who do. Each concessionaire has a separate agreement with NPS.

If the campsite has improvements—water and/or electric hookups—expect to pay full price for the improvements and get 50 percent off the basic campground fee only. 

Most Federal campgrounds don’t have hookups, though, so if you have solar or just like to boondock, an America the Beautiful Senior Pass will come in handy.

There’s just no downside to getting this card. Even if you don’t camp at all you’ll be able to drive through national parks without getting paying the entrance fee.

This has to be one of the best values out there in the RV world. 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many other types of passes are available

If you take a look at this brochure, you’ll see many other types of passes available, including a Military Pass, a Volunteer Pass, a student pass, and many more.

Where are you going next?

RVing with Rex has posted a series of Ultimate Guides to…

These resources were written for RVers who wish to explore a national park or other location in depth and often highlight cheap and free things to do while traveling in the area. Having a tried-and-true itinerary can assist you in maximizing your time in a NPS site by showcasing the highlights including hiking trails and campgrounds in and near the park.

Selected guides include:

You can also read:

Worth Pondering…

National parks are sacred and cherished places—our greatest personal and national treasures. It’s a gift to spend a year adventuring and capturing incredible images and stories in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

—Jonathan Irish, photographer

Plan Your Visit: Free Entrance Days in the National Parks for 2024

6 days national parks are free to visit in 2024

Every national park in America is free to visit for a few days yearly. That includes bucket-list destinations like the Grand Canyon, Arches, Shenandoah, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, and Zion.

Come and experience the national parks! On six days in 2024, all National Park Service (NPS) sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone. Mark your calendar for these entrance fee-free dates in 2024:

  • January 15: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 20: First Day of National Park Week
  • June 1: Juneteenth
  • August 4: Great American Outdoors Day
  • September 28: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The cost to enter parks with entrance fees ranges from $10 to $35. The funds remain in the National Park Service and 80-100 percent stays in the park where collected. The revenue supports visitor services including enhancing accessibility restoring wildlife habitat providing ranger programs and adding or upgrading restrooms, campgrounds, trails, and other facilities.

The fee waiver for the fee-free days applies only to NPS entrance fees and does not cover amenity or user fees for camping, boat launches, transportation, special tours, or other activities.

If you can’t make it on these particular dates, there are still more than 400 NPS sites including national monuments, national historic sites, national seashores, and national recreations that are always free to visit. Currently, only 109 of the 400-plus NPS sites charge an entrance fee.

The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas including all national parks for the pass holder and companions accompanying them.

There are also free or discounted passes available for currently serving members of the U.S. military and their dependents, military veterans, Gold Star Families, fourth-grade students, disabled citizens, and senior citizens. 
Other federal land management agencies offering their fee-free days in 2024 are the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More on national parks

Not sure which park to visit on these six days? 

RVing with Rex has posted a series of Ultimate Guides to…

These resources were written for RVers who wish to explore a national park or other location in-depth and often highlight cheap and free things to do while traveling in the area. Having a tried-and-true itinerary can assist you in maximizing your time in an NPS site by showcasing the highlights including hiking trails and campgrounds in and near the park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Selected guides include:

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can also read:

Worth Pondering…

National parks are sacred and cherished places—our greatest personal and national treasures. It’s a gift to spend a year adventuring and capturing incredible images and stories in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

—Jonathan Irish, photographer

Plan Your Visit: Free Entrance Days in the National Parks for 2023

National Park Service announces five entrance fee-free days for 2023 that provide free admittance to all national parks for everyone

Every national park in America is free to visit for a few days each year. That includes bucket-list destinations like the Grand Canyon and Zion but also hundreds of other national monuments, national seashoresnational historic sites, and national recreation areas.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come and experience the national parks! On five days in 2023, all National Park Service (NPS) sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone. Mark your calendar for these entrance fee-free dates in 2023:

  • January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 22: First Day of National Park Week
  • August 4: Great American Outdoors Day
  • September 23: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“National parks are really amazing places and we want everyone to experience them,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “The entrance fee-free days encourage people to discover the beauty, history, and inspiration awaiting them in more than 400 national parks throughout the country.” 

Detailed information about what there is to see and do at each park is available on NPS.gov or the NPS app. People need to know before they go what is open and available especially if interested in overnight accommodations. 

>> Read Next: America the Beautiful: The National Parks

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2021, 297 million people visited national parks and spent $20.5 billion in local communities. This supported 322,600 jobs across the country and had a $42.5 billion benefit to the U.S. economy. 

Most national parks are always free to enter. Only about 100 of the 400+ national parks have an entrance fee. For parks with an entrance fee, the cost ranges from $5 to $35 and the money remains in the NPS with 80-100 percent staying in the park where collected. The funds are used to enhance the visitor experience by providing programs and services, habitat restoration, and infrastructure maintenance and repair.  

>> Read Next: From Arches to Zion: The Essential Guide to America’s National Parks

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fee waiver for the fee-free days applies only to NPS entrance fees and does not cover amenity or user fees for camping, boat launches, transportation, special tours, or other activities. 

The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas including all national parks for the pass holder and companions accompanying them.

>> Read Next: The 8 Best National Parks for a Weekend Getaway

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are also free or discounted passes available for currently serving members of the U.S. military and their dependents, military veterans, Gold Star Families, fourth-grade students, disabled citizens, and senior citizens. 
Other federal land management agencies offering their fee-free days in 2023 are the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More on national parks

Not sure which park to visit on these five days? 

RVing with Rex has posted a series of Ultimate Guides to

These resources were written for RVers who wish to explore a national park or other location in depth and often highlight cheap and free things to do while traveling in the area. Having a tried-and-true itinerary can assist you in maximizing your time in a NPS site by showcasing the highlights including hiking trails and campgrounds in and near the park.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Selected guides include:

Worth Pondering…

National parks are sacred and cherished places—our greatest personal and national treasures. It’s a gift to spend a year adventuring and capturing incredible images and stories in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

—Jonathan Irish, photographer

2022 Holiday Gift Guide for RVers

Everything you need for the RVer on your list

Big celebrations start with the little things

When you travel in an RV, receiving gifts can go from being fun to being stressful quite quickly. This is because RVs are such tiny living spaces that finding places to put new things can be nearly impossible.

Many traditional gifts are fun things that aren’t necessarily needed by RVers. RVers often end up getting rid of a number of the gifts they receive during the holiday season. This isn’t particularly fun for the gift receiver. The gift-giver would surely be upset to find this out. Therefore, it’s best to avoid the problem altogether.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A list of the best holiday gift ideas for RVers

Fortunately, some gifts won’t end up in the donation bin. If you aren’t sure what kinds of things to get the RVer in your life, try the holiday gift ideas in my list below.

Consumable gifts

Consumables are great gift ideas because they get used up meaning they won’t take up space for long but are still used and appreciated. There are the typical consumables such as food gifts and bath and body products but the items below are even more useful to RVers who may have allergies or don’t have access to a bathtub anyway.

Christmas craft © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Roll of quarters

This one might seem a bit odd but honestly it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for the person who uses laundromats on a regular basis. After all, quarters aren’t always easy to come by and having a roll put away for when you need them can be a lifesaver.

2. Gift cards

Gift cards are always one of the top gift ideas. Give the gift of a great meal by picking up a restaurant card or snag one for a favorite ice cream or coffee chain. Walmart, Camping World, and Amazon cards are also useful when an RVer needs to make a repair or upgrade.

3. Fuel gift cards

Consider getting your RVing friend a Flying J/Pilot or Love’s gift card they can use to buy diesel or gas fuel, propane, or pay for dump station fees.

Christmas display © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Venture wipes

Those who spend a lot of time boondocking know what it’s like to go a few days without a shower. Help make the boondocker in your life more comfortable by providing them with Venture Wipes to clean up with between showers. These all-natural travel wipes use natural ingredients like aloe, vitamin E, and tea tree oil. They easily wipe off dirt and grime giving you a clean feeling.

5. Rainbow sticks

These are tons of fun for camping families. Simply throw your rainbow stick in the campfire and watch the flames change colors before your eyes.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Practical gifts

Practical gifts are always appreciated. They may not seem super fun but they will get used and the fact that they make life a little easier is sure to get you bonus points. Besides, some of these things are fun to receive if you choose a special color or print.

6. Multi-tool

Tools always come in handy while on the road. What better way to save space than with a well-made multi-tool? The Leatherman Skeletool Multi-Tool is a perfect example of this.

Christmas on Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Flashlight

You never can have too many flashlights that work. You never know when you’re going to need to peer into a dark cabinet, under the rig, or walk to the bathhouse late at night.

8. Instant Pot

Many RVers rave about the RV instant pot. The Instant Pot Dual Duo Plus 9-in-1 electric pressure cooker can do a wide variety of jobs. It can cook entire meals quickly using only one pot and is a breeze to clean up. It offers five customizable Smart Programs for pressure cooking ribs, soups, beans, rice, poultry, yogurt, and desserts.

Christmas craft © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Backpack

Exploring the world requires carrying some things around meaning a good backpack is necessary. An ideal backpack for RVers is lightweight, versatile, easy to clean, and packs things in quite nicely.

10. Ice maker

When freezer space is at a premium, ice trays aren’t necessarily going to fit very well. Besides, ice trays don’t hold a lot and refilling them can be a pain. An electric ice making machine sits on a counter and will ensure your RVing friend has ice anytime they need it and give them back their freezer space.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Over-the-sink cutting board

RVs rarely have enough counter space. Fortunately, over-the-sink cutting boards create a bit of extra space for the cooking enthusiast. Best of all, some cutting boards also includes a tiny built-in colander, so you can rinse as you chop.

12. Folding step stool  

A step stool is a super practical gift for an RV owner making it easier to get in and out of the RV and to interior cupboards. A folding step stool is great because it collapses to easily store in the RV when it’s not being used.

Christmas cake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Folding wagon

From laundry to chairs, you never know what you might need to lug around the campground. You could of course carry it all, but a collapsible folding wagon makes things much easier by allowing you to pull items from one place to the next. Best of all, it folds down making it easy to store.

14. Hammock

There is nothing quite as relaxing as spending an afternoon in a hammock in the great outdoors. Give your RVing friend the gift of relaxation by placing a small, yet strong, hammock under the tree this year.

Christmas goodies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Journals and photo memory books

Most people who enjoy traveling also enjoy journaling about their adventures and showing off photos of the places they have explored. Give a gift of a high-end journal or photo book and a nice pen to record their memories.

Experiential gifts

Finally, there is the option of an experience gift. These gifts are great because they don’t take up any room at all besides a slot in a wallet. They are also tons of fun to receive and help the recipient make memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Event tickets

Tickets to a sports event, concert, festival, or other events might be just the thing to make your RVer happy without overwhelming them with physical things that take up space. Just make sure you know where they will be and when so you know they can make it to the event you have in mind.

17. Reciprocal museum membership

Another option is a membership of some sort. Since RVers aren’t typically in one place for long periods of time, many of them like having museum memberships that offer reciprocal benefits at other similar museums.

Below are some of the reciprocal programs available:

  • North American Reciprocal Museum Association
  • The Association of Science and Technology Centers
  • Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • Association of Children’s Museums
  • American Horticultural Society
  • Time Travelers (reciprocal membership network for historical museums, sites, and societies throughout the US)
Christmas cake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Theme park annual pass

Perfect for the thrill-seeking traveler, many theme parks have an annual pass option that includes benefits at multiple parks across the country. These annual passes are great gift ideas. Below is a list of some of the more popular multi-park passes out there:

  • Merlin Pass (LEGOLAND Parks and Discovery Centers, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museums, and Sea Life Aquariums)
  • Six Flags Gold Pass
  • Cedar Point Platinum Pass
  • Herschend Pass (Silver Dollar City, Dollywood, Stone Mountain Park, and more)

While they don’t offer reciprocal benefits, annual passes to parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando are popular with RVers who spend the winter in Florida.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

19. Camping club membership

Yet another card you could get for your RVing friend is a camping club membership. There are dozens of camping clubs out there and all of them offer a different collection of benefits. A few favorites are listed below:

  • Thousand Trails
  • Passport America
  • Escapees
  • Harvest Hosts
  • Boondockers Welcome

20. America the Beautiful pass

An America the Beautiful pass will offer your RVing friends free entrance access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. This includes National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, National Memorials, National Historic Sites, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management.

Poinsettias for Christmas Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

21. State recreation passes

The majority of RVers enjoy exploring and camping on public land. Consider buying them a pass that allows them to recreate in a specific state. A majority of states require a day pass to enter their state park system; some even provide a discount on overnight camping.

Between all of these ideas, you’re sure to find something for your RVing friends. 

Worth Pondering…

Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.

—Dave Barry, Christmas Shopping: A Survivor’s Guide