5 Tips On How To Leave The Stress Behind And Enjoy Your National Park Trip

Planning a National Park trip can be overwhelming. Even thinking about going and all the logistics can stop people from planning the trip. We have visited over 30 National Parks, multiple of them 2, 3, or more times, and we want to share our top 3 tips on how to leave the stress behind and enjoy your National Park trip.

Kids sitting on Capitol Reef National Park sign

Let me start by saying we are not plan way ahead kind of people. That means we usually plan our National Park trip about one month out from the trip. Sometimes, we are on it and plan three months out. But not normally.

This means we could miss out on the window to book our vehicle registration. . . But there are other options. Or, if this stresses you out, always be sure to check when those windows open to get your vehicle registration so you can be ready.

Ok, let’s get into it.

#1 – Accept It

Our top tip when visiting a National Park is to accept that it could be really busy. It’s like going to Disney World or Great America. You know you are going to be waiting in lines. It just is what it is.

If you can go into your trip knowing you could be stuck in traffic you can be prepared for it. Pack snacks, download podcasts or audio books, do things that will enhance your trip while you are stuck in traffic. This also means if you don’t get stuck in traffic you will be pleasantly surprised!

National Parks are busier than ever. That is what it is, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to get away from the crowds. We visited Yellowstone in July and did a hike where we only saw two other groups of hikers the whole time. That was Yellowstone in July, one of the busiest months to visit!

The reality is they will be busy if you want to see all the main attractions. Old Faithful will be busy in the middle of the day. A few other options are to see it a night – when everyone else is at dinner or in for the night. Or go in the middle of the day and be prepared for it.

You can offset your day by doing one main attraction and find one more off-the-beaten-path thing to do to break up your day.

In conclusion, be prepared for the crowds and prepare yourself, mentally and with snacks/things to do for them. This will make for a better trip overall.

#2 – Look Beyond The National Park

The Bearthooth Highway is located just north of Yellowstone National Park

There is a reason these lands are dedicated as National Park land. But nature doesn’t stop at a National Park border. In almost every US National Park, there is something amazing to visit and do outside of the National Park.

If you are over the crowds and want to have a day exploring more off-the-beaten-path destinations, look outside the National Park entrance for things to do.

#3 – You Don’t Have To Get Up Early

We are not early risers, and this has actually served us well. When we don’t get to a hike in a National Park until 4 p.m., most people are done for the day. This means fewer people on the trails, more parking, and less stress overall.

If you are an early bird, by all means, get up and try to be the first one in the park, but know that most people are using the same strategy, which can make it pretty busy in the morning.

Instead, you could try a different approach: Take a relaxing morning, explore outside the park early in the day, and head into the park later in the day. This works especially well if you are visiting a northern National Park in the summer when the sun doesn’t set until after 9 p.m.!

#4 – Plan Your Daily Itinerary

This can be done before your trip or on your way. Ideally, you do this before you arrive so you can research any additional things you need to do to see and do all the things on your list.

I recommend planning a detailed itinerary but leaving room for last-minute changes. For example, if you get to a spot and you and your family are really enjoying it and don’t want to leave, then don’t! That is the beauty of creating your own schedule: You can have that flexibility.

The same goes if you get to an area or part of the park and don’t like it. Get in the car and move on to the next activity on your list.

Hopefully, our National Park Planning Workbook will help you prioritize the top things you want to see and do when you visit a park so you can see them all while still having flexibility in the rest of your day.

If you haven’t gotten your FREE National Park Planning Workbook yet, click here to be added to our National Park email list and get your FREE National Park Planning Workbook.

Remember, you are on vacation! It is OK to have some relaxing downtime and for things to change on a whim (which is where some of the best adventures can happen!).

If you want help planning your itinerary, check out our National Park Itineraries.

#5 – Relax

If relaxing isn’t easy for you while you’re on a National Park trip, set a timer on your phone or watch to go off that will remind you to stop, take a breath, look around, and appreciate this amazing trip.

Something will go wrong on your trip—it always does. Hopefully, it is something small. But just remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be amazing and memorable!

If you want to hear more about our approach to visiting National Parks, check out this podcast episode: Why You Should Not Be Intimidated to Visit US National Parks with Bryanna Royal

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5 Tips on how to leave the stress behind and enjoy your National Park trip!

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