—If school schedules permit, visit during shoulder season—best months are September, October and May.
—National Parks will offer free entrance on September 24 and November 11-13. Go to nps.gov for more information.
—The America the Beautiful pass offers unlimited access to National Parks, forests and federal recreation lands for a year ($80 per car annually). The Senior Pass for ages 62 and up is $10 and good for a lifetime—so if a grandparent is traveling with you, his or her pass covers everyone in the car (nps.gov).
—Many in-park options are reserved 12 months in advance. If a lodging is booked up, check the town just outside the area. But periodically call in case of cancellations. Find last-minute camping at recreation.gov.
Cool Apps for Smart Phones and iPads
—Fotopedia National Parks A gorgeous pictorial guide. Fotopedia.com/ios/national_parks, $3
—National Park Traveler Tour 50 parks in this National Parks Conservation Association field guide. Nationalparkstraveler.com, free
—GeoRoamer Yellowstone Tour GPS-powered audio tours, with park experts narrating. Georoameryellowstone.com, $9
—Chimani Acadia & Chimani Yosemite Local experts guide you to favorite spots and there's a helpful "Where am I?" GPS function. Chimani.com, $5
—State Parks Locator Search interactive maps for parks near you. Mapmuse.com, $3
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.