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If you or a friend has visited a National Park in the past five years, odds are you’ve heard about the Passport Program. The Passport Program is huge right now. Signs, posters, and even t-shirts alert visitors of the program, and for good reason, because the Passport Program is changing the way that visitors see the National Parks.
Despite this age of digital everything, we seem to have a craving for and connection with tangible objects. And while we want to have lots of things, we’re also in an age of minimalism. The Passport Program is the perfect balance between tangible souvenir and minimalist travel memorabilia. The Passport program is one book, of varying sizes, which allow you to take something away from every single park you visit. And it’s not just for the “Big 60.” This book records every National Historic Site, National Memorial, and even every National Scenic Riverway. Every park in the National Park System is accounted for!
The size Passport you want depends on what you will use it for. I have the Full-Sized Passport Book, and I will be going more in depth on this one in a minute, but maybe the full-size book isn’t for you. Maybe you’re an avid backpacker and you’d like a compact book to keep all your stamps in without having to lug around a big huge book. Or maybe you’re travelling with young kids and want something more kid-friendly. The Passport Program can support both of these needs, and if either of the above sounds like you, I encourage you to check out those books at your nearest National Park. If you’re wanting something that is even bigger than the passport book I have, they’ve got you covered there, too! Check out this expandable Passport!
But I’m all queued up and ready to rave about the full-size Passport and all it can offer you the next time you visit a National Park. This is why National Park Visitors like me are freaking out over the Passport.
1. It’s a Check List!
Kind of like when Pokémon cards were all the rage (I guess they’re back in style again…) this Passport let’s you Catch ‘em All! All the parks are split up by region, and each region has a check list of every park listed by state. You are very easily able to mark off the ones you’ve visited and see how many you have to go. As a list aficionado, I love being able to cross things off.
2. It’s a Map!
Whenever I am about to visit a new place, I immediately consult my Passport to find other nearby locations. This summer when we visited Mammoth Caves National Park, the very first thing I did was grab my Passport to see what other parks were nearby. We found Lincoln’s Boyhood Home was in Indiana, hardly even a mile out of our way on our route back home. Without our Passport book, we might not have even thought to check Indiana for places to visit on our trip to Kentucky. But thanks to the Passport Program, we were quickly able to identify another park to visit.
This can also be extremely helpful for planning your next trip when you don’t know where you’re headed next. The maps in this Passport will allow you to look for the areas with higher densities of parks so you are able to hit up more than one.
3. It has a Description and Photo for Every park!
Next to the name of each park there is a short paragraph to explain the significance of each park. This will help you decide if you’re ready to visit a nearby park now or if you’d like to save it for later. The descriptions might also help you get a grasp of the scope of the visit. Is this park one historic home, or is it 12 acres of exploring? Knowing briefly what you’ll find is very helpful in the planning phase.
I also said there was a photo for every park, and when you open your Passport for the very first time, you might say, “Kelly, what gives? There are hardly any photos in here!” But don’t worry. There will be photos soon, and that’s another one of my favorite features…
4. It is Two Collections in One!
Not only do you get to collect cancellation stamps at every single park, which are completely free, but you will also have the option of collecting the Annual Park Stickers. Each year, the passport program releases a sticker pack that highlights a park from every region. These stickers have designated spots in your Passport book next to every description, giving your book full-color photos of the places you’re visiting.
By purchasing a sticker pack, you’re helping to support the parks and the Passport Program, which keeps this resource available to visitors. Not only is it a fun way to give back, but it is another tangible thing you are able to purchase when you visit a park that doesn’t take up any additional space.
When we visit a new park, I love to look for featured sticker pack for the park we are visiting. Almost every park has at least a few prior years of stickers, and some parks have every sticker that has ever been released. Each trip, not only do I get to look forward to adding a new cancellation stamp to my book, but I also get to look forward to getting a new set of stickers to go with it.
The Passport Program is a very inexpensive, very space-friendly way to keep mementos from every park you’ve visited on your journeys. It not only serves as a souvenir, but as a guidebook, too! If you haven’t yet jumped on the Passport bandwagon, what are you waiting for? This easy-to-use book will change your National Park Experience forever!