Taking a road trip to a national park is a classic rite of summer.
The tradition is getting some extra attention this year as the National Parks Service celebrates its 100th anniversary with centennial events at parks throughout the country.
The first family is among those enjoying the parks this year, with visits this month to both Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Yosemite National Park. They’re not the only ones. Last year, more than 305 million people enjoyed the parks, making it their most popular year ever.
If you’re interested in hitting up the National Parks this summer, here are a few important travel tips:
1. Book early. If you’re planning to stay within the parks themselves, you’ll need to plan early. In-park lodges at the most popular parks book up as far as eight months in advance, according to Xanterra, which operates hotels in many of the parks.
2. Go off-season. Everyone wants to visit the National Parks in the summer. But if you’re not tied to a school schedule, visiting in the fall can yield stunning views, fewer crowds and lower prices.
3. Don’t over-plan. Pick one or two landmarks that you want to see, and plan your trip around those. That way, you’ll have a destination each day; you’ll also have time for unplanned detours and won’t be too rushed to enjoy the journey.
4. Consider a Park Pass. If you’re going to visit multiple parks, consider purchasing an $80 America The Beautiful Pass, which will give your car (including up to four adult passengers) access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.
5. Download the app. Many of the national parks have dedicated apps that visitors can download for maps and other important information.
Click through for the 15 Most Popular National Parks in America.