There are many decisions that are made when deciding on a vacation destination. When it comes to more than just you and your friend or partner, it seems to get even more complicated. Small, and even family vacations, shouldn’t get you drinking or pulling your hair out. These are just a few tips to help make your choice a little less stressful.

The first and easiest thing to ask yourself is what you and the people you are going with like to do. Are you totally outdoor people, strictly indoor types, or a combination? Are you all athletic or in good shape? Do you like warm weather, temperate or cold seasons? Is tourism something you would like on your agenda or is it strictly an activity-oriented type? Do you enjoy “roughing it up” or do you want more convenience? Do you like camping, fishing, backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, bird watching, wildlife watching, history, learning how some of the unique formations in the parks came to be there, snorkeling, swimming? , diving, sailing, boating? , kayaking, rafting, photography, hunting or just lazing around in beautiful places?

The next thing to consider is how much you have to spend and how long you will have. There are so many national parks and monuments that are relatively close to people that it is not expensive to get there. It can be expensive to get to some of Alaska’s exciting wilderness areas, but if you have the money and enjoy the great outdoors, it is certainly worth going for an incredible experience that you won’t soon forget.

That said, it only remains to choose your destination. Keep in mind that almost any area has inexpensive travel options and you move from there to more expensive ones. Also, just because you go to a national park doesn’t mean you have to have a bad time. There are many options for hiking, climbing, fishing, water sports, etc. that don’t involve sitting by a campfire enjoying the great outdoors if that’s not your style.

Camping is generally believed to be the cheapest type of vacation after making the initial investment in camping supplies. This can be a considerable sum, but remember that equipment usually lasts for many years. In general, it is true that camping rates in the parks are cheaper than an average hotel room. And if you own an RV, you can camp in real comfort. Most of the campgrounds are set in beautiful surroundings and allow you easy access to the park’s highlights. There are very few parks that do not have some type of camping. Also, when camping, you usually cook your own food, which also saves you money. And no, you don’t have to eat hot dogs all week unless that’s what you love!

Now, if you live in the Midwest, there are many park options within driving distances that take no more than twelve hours or less, depending on where you live. Of course, you can always choose to fly anywhere, but some parks are a bit far from the nearest airport. Driving allows you the luxury of taking with you everything you think you need for a comfortable stay.

My favorite pick for the Midwest is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is without a doubt one of the best parks for the family. It is found within the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. You can choose to go through the Appalachian Trail, camp in a developed campground or in a desert, or stay anywhere from luxurious suites to cozy budget hotels in nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. And, speaking of Pigeon Forge, you have Dollywood and all the myriad attractions they offer in the area. On the North Carolina side you have more camping, the city of Cherokee which has several Indian memorabilia and museums, rafting, and fly fishing (the latter two are actually offered in both states). The mountains are absolutely beautiful and ideal for taking pictures. See our Great Smoky Mountain website for more details.

Another great option is Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and State Park. They also have camping and wildlife viewing, especially bird watching. A unique shoreline allows you to walk on the beach or swim in Lake Michigan. They even have areas for you to bring your own horses and ride. For those of you who enjoy tourism and history, you can see the five houses of the 1933 World’s Fair or attend the Gathering in Calumic in early May, where the Indians of the eastern forests and the fur traders of the Great Lakes Westerners and Voyageurs recreate what life was like along the Calumet. River from 1730-1830.

If you like boating, there are several places in the Midwest, but the two in the north are Voyageurs National Park and Isle Royale National Park. Voyageurs is in Minnesota and Isle Royale is off the north shore of Michigan on Lake Superior. Both offer great adventures in nature, as well as canoeing, kayaking, speedboating, and fishing opportunities. Voyageurs is considered a water park, which means you have to take a boat to the actual park, but it is a short trip. There are camping spots or hostels to stay that will help you equip yourself, allowing you to navigate the canals and find those great spots to fish. Isle Royale is a long boat ride or a short “puddle jumper” flight. It has only nature camps, but it also has a lodge for those who only enjoy day hikes and some comfort. There’s kayaking, fishing, backpacking, wildlife, with the longest-running research program studying wolves and elk, diving, and shipwrecks. It is truly a unique ecosystem to observe.

The western US has much more to offer in national parks. The most famous is Yellowstone, where you will see Old Faithful and many other geothermal wonders and one of the few places in the Lower 48 to observe grizzly bears up close. You will also see bison roaming very close so be careful. It is located on the border of Wyoming and Montana. There are numerous ranches and lodges to stay in or you can camp in the park. There is also great fly fishing, kayaking, climbing and backpacking. Another big problem is the Grand Canyon National Park. This one is in Arizona, again on the Arizona-Nevada border, but also near the southern border of Utah. It is part of the Grand Staircase, an immense sequence of sedimentary rock layers that extends south from Bryce Canyon National Park, through Zion National Park (both in Utah) and ends in the Grand Canyon. There are camping, backpacking, day hikes, whitewater rafting, and plenty of photo opportunities.

Other great parks, (although they are all super places to visit) in the west, are Yosemite, Channel Islands, Redwood, Arches, Olympic, Grand Teton, Canyonlands, Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Crater Lake, Monte Rainier and Sequoia. All of these have powerful activities that are tailored to the needs and wants of vacationers. Check out our individual park pages for more information on each of these magnificent parks.

The eastern United States also offers splendid vacation options. Acadia National Park in Maine has unsurpassed views of the north ocean shoreline and cliff climbing that you won’t find in other parks. There is also fishing, island exploration, hiking, and beautiful gardens to behold. Further down on the east side is Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The Appalachian Trail cuts through the park for 101 miles, giving you plenty of hiking and backpacking options. There are also camping, fishing, bird watching, and horseback riding.

In Florida, you will find three national parks and one preserve, the Everglades being the most famous. Everglades is so much more than what you’ve seen on television. The wildlife is phenomenal and makes it easy to get great pictures of animals and birds. There are also nature camps (watch out for alligators!) Boating, fishing, airboat rides, hiking, and rare and beautiful flora. Big Cypress National Preserve is right next to the Everglades and is very similar, but it also offers cypress stands, mangrove forests, endangered wildlife species such as the Peregrine Falcon and Florida Panther. Activities include fishing, cycling, canoeing, hiking, and hunting. Biscayne National Park is located in the extreme east of South Florida. As the third longest stretch of coral reef in the world, there are opportunities for snorkeling, diving, sailing, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking, making it a celebrated national park vacation spot for family vacations or crowds. on spring break in search of outdoor adventures. Dry Tortugas National Park is a unique park that preserves Fort Jefferson that was built during the Civil War and never ended, and the nesting grounds of terns and sea turtles. You will be able to enjoy Key West snorkeling, saltwater fishing, swimming, lighthouses, shipwrecks, hiking, beach camping, boating, scuba diving, bird watching, and underwater photography of some of the best coral reefs and life areas. marina in the south. Florida.

Again, I want to emphasize that this has only been an overview of some of the impressive parks that can be seen in our national park system. I urge you to search our site,, and read some of the park pages for the areas you are interested in visiting to find the perfect place for you to have a wonderful, packed vacation. of remarkable memories and photographs. A great deal of research has already been done, so dive in! With national parks, your options are truly endless.

Corie Marks