As we approach the summer months you might be thinking about reacquainting yourself with Mother Nature. There’s no better place to do this than in one of the nation’s many national parks. Whether you want to pitch a tent under the stars, hike or bike a scenic route, or just observe the natural beauty all around you, you can do it all.
Before You Travel to a National Park
Choose the Right Park For You
Not all parks are the same. Research and compare the amenities of the parks you’re considering. Consider your wants as well as your needs. If you want a quiet row in a peaceful lake, make sure the park you choose has that on offer. If you’re visiting in a wheelchair, make sure it has the accessibility accommodations you need. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and contact park officials to confirm that they have what you’re looking for.
Make a Plan
To get the most out of your national park visit, map out a plan before you get there. Know where the park security is housed. You should plan not only what you want to do, but also what you’ll do to keep you and your loved ones safe during the visit. If you’re traveling with small children, make sure they know what to do if they get separated from the rest of the group. Make sure everyone has the park medical and security emergency numbers.
Make a Reservation if Needed
Starting 2024, many parks are bringing back an online reservation requirement. They hope to reduce congestion for park visitors and give them added security in knowing they have a confirmed arrival time. Reservations are free but they may carry an online processing fee. Here is a list of parks that now require reservations.
Load your backpack with essential supplies like a first aid kit, water bottles and nutritious snacks. If you’re staying in the park for a long while, consider the weather and pack accordingly. Include what you need to stay warm, dry, and hydrated. However, don’t pack so much that it weighs you down, making it harder to hike the trails you’re planning on exploring.
Carry an Accepted Means of Payment
While many of our national parks are free, many charge various fees for entry, campground access and certain permits. These fees vary from park to park, with some choosing to charge per vehicle, while others choosing to charge per person. Increasingly, many of our national parks have gone cashless. So, while you might want to bring cash with you for other reasons, make sure you have either a credit card, debit card or can pay via mobile.
Traveling to & from the Park
If you live in the U.S. and your trip to a national park is more than 90 miles away from your home, you might consider purchasing trip insurance. Insurance can cover certain prepaid expenses like car, hotel, cabin and canoe rentals and deposits should you decide to cancel your trip for a covered reason. If you’re planning on renting a car for the road trip to the park, trip insurance offers rental car collision insurance that is generally more comprehensive than you’d get at the rental car agency.
While You’re There
Obey all National Park Safety Rules
Park rules are there to keep both visitors and animals safe. Depending on what the park has to offer, the rules may vary significantly. Check with park officials if you have any questions about what you can and cannot do.
Steer Clear of Wildlife
Though this is likely to be a rule for any national park, you should always stay away from wildlife. Parks are home to a wide variety of animals, from the common squirrel to the grizzly bear. While most of us instinctively steer clear of bears and wolves, you might think it’s safe to interfere with the habits of smaller, less predatory creatures. But doing so could still lead to severe injury. Should you be injured, your domestic health insurance or travel medical insurance could cover associated costs.
If you’re planning on hiking or taking a more strenuous trail, make sure you have everything you need to stay safe along the way. You can find more information on hiking safety here. If you’re a foreign visitor to one of our national parks, it may be a good idea to consider travel medical insurance with hiking and mountaineering coverage. Because these activities are regarded as higher risk, basic travel medical insurance might not cover injuries resulting from them. Hiking and mountaineering insurance coverage, however, will ensure that you get the medical care you need with reduced financial impact.
Keep Food Portable
Whether you’re planning on hiking or picnicking, keep your meals simple. Granola bars, fruit and raw vegetables like carrots or celery provide the nutrients you need for a day at the park, while keeping crumbs that may attract wildlife to a minimum.
Leave No Waste
As you prepare to leave the park, be sure to pick up your litter, tamp out your campfires fully, and leave nothing behind. National parks are meant to be enjoyed by everyone and we should do what we can to preserve them for the many generations to come.
A day trip to one of our national parks can be an amazing experience. Careful planning and preparation can help visitors stay safe as they take in the sights and experience all the landscape has to offer. Once you have your plans in place, contact one of our VisitorsCoverage licensed representatives to help with your questions on how our trip insurance and travel medical policies can give you peace of mind so you can enjoy your trip with your family and friends.