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Best Senior Discount

Richard Connor

FIVE YEARS AGO, there was a big increase in the price of the “America the Beautiful: National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass.” For a one-time fee, the pass gives people age 62 and older free lifetime access to many of America’s most popular vacation and day-trip spots.

How big was the increase? In 2017, the price of the senior pass went from $10 to $80. I tipped off some older relatives about the looming price increase, and they bought at the old price. Unfortunately, I wasn’t yet old enough to take advantage.

Still, even at $80, the senior pass is an exceptional deal. It covers entrance and daily use fees at hundreds of parks and recreation areas, plus discounts on things like camping, swimming, boat launching and guided tours.

Although admission to the majority of the 400-plus National Park Service sites is free, 108 charge an entrance fee. Some of these 108—particularly the most popular—aren’t cheap.

For example, Yosemite National Park in California charges $35 for a pass that’s good for seven days. Wintering in Florida? The Everglades National Park charges $30. Summering in Maine? Acadia National Park, a favorite of my wife and me, charges $30 per car. When we show the ranger our senior pass, the fee is waived.

We’re planning a long weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. Unfortunately, our senior pass will not cover the $32 fee for the ferry ride to Fort Sumter because it’s provided by a private contractor. Our senior pass, however, will cover the $10 individual fee to enter nearby Fort Moultrie.

In addition, your traveling companions may also enter for free. If you’re visiting a site that charges a per-vehicle fee, the senior pass will admit the pass owner and his or her passengers for free, assuming you aren’t in a commercial vehicle. If the site charges a per-person fee, the pass covers up to four adults.

Senior passes can be purchased at any federal recreation site, online or through the mail. To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is 62 or older.

The senior pass covers some 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies:

  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Many of us are eager to get back to traveling after the forced isolation caused by the pandemic. A senior pass is a great way to see some of the best parts of America the beautiful.

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squirrel hammer
squirrel hammer
6 months ago

You can also buy an annual senior pass for $20. When it expires you can buy another, but don’t throw away your old one. If you collect four you can trade them in for a lifetime pass.

Last edited 6 months ago by squirrel hammer
Kari Lorch
Kari Lorch
6 months ago

Additionally Congress recently passed law that gives veterans/gold star families lifetime pass access for free. We have used free annual access in past couple years with retired military option, and now its being extended to lifetime pass. Worth looking at for veterans (not only retired) if they have a DOD ID, veteran health ID card, a veteran id card, or veteran designation on their state issued DL/ID. This just passed in December and will be made available by end of 2022.

Mark Eckman
Mark Eckman
6 months ago

I agree, even at $80 it is a bargain. We use this for half price camping at Corp of Engineers parks around the country as well as national parks.

Mike Wyant
Mike Wyant
6 months ago

One of the 1st things I did upon turning 62 was purchase the Lifetime pass for $10. We RV camp A LOT, and camping with the pass is 50% off at all federal campgrounds, including National Parks and COE campgrounds. An incredible bargain.

David Powell
David Powell
6 months ago

This is awesome, thanks Richard! Even at $80 that’s a lotta fun for the money.

OldITGuy
OldITGuy
6 months ago

I bought a spare before the price went up since I use it a lot and and replacing it incurs another fee. On a similar note, last year my wife and I traveled extensively in Utah on a road trip. We bought an annual pass at the first state park we visited and it saved us a tidy sum since Utah has a lot of state parks and many of them charge a fee. So don’t forget to check out annual state park passes depending on your plans.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
6 months ago
Reply to  OldITGuy

Thanks – great tip.

Scrooge_McDuck88
Scrooge_McDuck88
6 months ago

I bought my parents that lifetime pass before the price increase several years ago as a gift. Who doesn’t love a gift that keeps giving?

David Sayler
David Sayler
6 months ago

I also had to purchase mine at the new, higher price. But it is still one the of greatest bargains out there.

R Quinn
R Quinn
6 months ago

A bargain indeed. We purchased one probably 25 years ago, maybe longer. Talk about a return on investment. It’s even good for free entry to the National Seashore beaches on Cape Cod.

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