Exploring the Parks Podcast on Frommers.com

Frommers.com PodcastsA little over a week ago, I was interviewed for a podcast about travel within the National Parks. I spoke with David Lytle who is the online editor at Frommer's. The conversation was fun, and we covered a lot of ground in the process. The program is just over 20 minutes. Have a listen:

Frommers.com Podcast: Exploring U.S. National Parks

The episode can also be downloaded via Frommer's on iTunes [048 - Exploring U.S. National Parks].

I was pleasantly surprised at the direction of our conversation. When I had received the invitation to participate in the podcast, I had thought the interview would follow the typical line regarding park information. I thought it was going to cover stuff like trip planning - where would one make a reservation; what's the best website; know any good campgrounds? And while we do cover some trip planning information, I was glad that we were able to discuss some issues that go beyond the basics, particularly the issues of fees.

Fees are something that park travelers need to know about, and as I mention in the interview, the jump in a park pass this January from $50 to now $80 will probably catch a lot of regular summer visitors off guard. But more than just a jump in price, David and I discuss a bit of the broader meaning to these fees - their rise from the Fee Demo program, the growing dependence parks have for them, the unequal implementation of the fees, and even the social inequity that fees represent. I was sort of waiting for David to pull the plug on me, but I'm glad he didn't. I was worried I was going in a direction that would lose his audience. But after the interview, he had said that this type of discussion is really what savvy travelers want to know about, that it's not just a matter of offering the best deal on a hotel reservation, it is also a matter of providing a broader sense of the issues surrounding a particular destination.


As a fee collector at SHEN, it was very difficult to explain to our visitors why our entrance fees were increasing, but our services were decreasing. (We closed a popular camp ground, and picnic area.) No wonder visitation to National Parks is declining.

I'm glad I didn't disappoint you. I enjoyed our conversation as well. Recording these podcasts is probably the most fun I'm allowed on my job.

While the increase in price for the annual pass, I think that people really forget what an incredible deal current Park fees really are. Right now, a family of four can go to Yellowstone for a week for $25 total. (And with admission to Grand Teton National Park thrown in for free!) $25 often can't even get a family of four to the movies for a Saturday afternoon these days! At Disney World (a prime competitor with National Parks for family vacations), $25 won't even get one member of that family into one theme park for one day!

If an American family is unwilling to pay even the price of movies tickets to spend a week in a National Park - that is probably everything we need to know about why the Parks are underfunded.