Friday, May 14, 2021
Welcome to my Travel Friday’s second B.R.E.A.T.H.S. blog post. Last week, I discussed my amazing journeys when I traveled across the United States within this last year. This week, I am going to discuss something that I came across about halfway through my first and second trips, the National Parks© Passport Program. So what is that? There are different kinds of National Parks Passport book editions raging at different prices, sizes, and experience levels I will review below in order from the most expensive to a free version. These passport books engage environmental and travel enthusiasts alike!
About the National Parks© System Passport Program
Similar to your international passport, these passport books are something you carry with you when traveling to all the National Parks© Services (NPS) in the USA (including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and & Virgin Islands), approximately 420 locations (see map above), and about 400 have cancellation stamps you can acquire in their passport books to track your visits (I found this number because I created that map above on Google Maps using the cancellation stamp spaces in the Collector’s Edition Passport book).
The NPS Passport Program started in 1986 to attract visitors to the parks. There are 62 National Parks©, the rest are labeled as: battlefield, historical site, lakeshore, monument, military park, memorial, parkway, preserve, river/riverway, recreation area, reserved, seashore, and scenic trail. When you travel to a National Parks© Service, you can acquire cancellation stamps to show when you visit the park. (see examples in pic below)
“Passport To Your National Parks© Explorer’s Edition”
The NPS Explorers Edition (9”x8.5”) is the most expensive option of all the passport books priced around $49.95. I have not found this edition on Amazon, but I highly recommend buying any of the passport books at a National Parks© location, usually a visitor’s center or nearby bookstore. When you buy these books, you are supporting our National Parks©. The Explorer’s Edition comes in a waterproof zip up canvas loose-leaf-style five-ring portfolio binder. There are colored tabs organizing all nine of the National Parks regions, full-sized NPS map of all the sites, extra cancellation pages, and removable pages that can be mailed to any NPS to receive a cancellation stamp and they will mail it back (when you include paid postage). Although I liked the durability and convenience of the mailing with this passport book, it did not have a small regional map and it was quite bulky with smaller stamp cancellation pages than the Collector’s Edition.
“Passport To Your National Parks© Collector’s Edition”
The NPS Collector’s Edition (7.5”x10”) is half the price of the Explorer’s Edition at $24.95 (+tax). If you absolutely can’t wait to visit a park and want to spend more than double the price, you can purchase a passport book on Amazon for, $58.80 (+tax), which is more than the Explorer’s edition. The Collector’s Edition comes in spiral bound with hard exterior, a clear pocket behind the front cover that comes with a large map of the NPS, a small two-page regional map, extra pages for cancellations or special stamps, and color coded cardstock pages separated into the nine National Parks© regions making it easy to flip through to the section you need. This is the passport book I chose for my National Parks© journey (see pics below).
EXAMPLES FROM MY PERSONAL PASSPORT BOOK
“Passport To Your National Parks© Junior Ranger’s Edition”
The NPS Junior Ranger’s Edition (9”x7”) is specifically designed for kids, priced at $14.95 (+tax). This book is perfect for the younger environmental enthusiasts and explorers in your family (I would recommend the Classic Edition for teens). The Junior Ranger’s Edition comes in spiral bound with soft exterior, designed to go along with the NPS Junior Ranger Passport Program (has extra workbooks that you complete on-site to earn a Junior Ranger Badge (see pic below), colorful themed pages with pictures, stickers, and hands-on park-related content. This is the passport book I chose for all the kids in my family to give them some incentive and a guide to get them started.
“Passport To Your National Parks© Classic Edition”
The NPS Classic Edition (6”x4”), is the smallest of all the NPS passport books at $9.95 (+tax). This book is compact, has light color-coded maps, and is great for those just getting started on their NPS journey. The book comes in spiral bound with soft exterior, color-coded regions, and NPS map with all sites. This is the NPS passport book I would recommend for teens or for someone just visiting a few parks.
“Passport To Your National Parks© Kids Passport Companion”
The NPS Kids Passport Companion (6”x4”) is the same size as the Classic Edition at $8.95 (+tax). This book is compact, spiral bound with soft exterior has color-coded stamp pages with pictures, and is great for kids just getting started on their NPS journey. I had a difficult time finding this NPS passport book online or in stores.
“Passport To Your National Parks© Companion Guide: Regional Editions”
The NPS Companion Companion Guide passport books are only available at specific locations of the most popular parks. For example, below in the picture is the National Capital Region which has a cancellation space for each of the stamps you can collect while visiting all the sites in Washington D.C. I am not sure how many different regional passport books are available. I will update this post when I locate that information.
“Passport To Your National Parks© Home-made Edition”
Why not create your very own personalized NPS passport book. This way you can build yours in the chronological order you visit obtaining cancellation stamps at each site, adding your own photography, drawings, plant clippings, etc, the creative opportunities you can add to your own passport book are endless. Happy NPS passport stamping!
How to Check if National Parks© Have Cancellation Stamps?
Majority of the parks have cancelation stamps. Before you go to any National Parks© Service, be sure to check out their NPS website or you can download the NPS app they just released. Both NPS resources will provide up-to-date site information regarding park closures and stamp cancellation locations (however, the stamping information may not appear consistent between the sites because each park updates the information on their own).
How to Get National Parks© Cancellation Stamps?
As I mentioned above, about 400 National Parks© have stamps. Plan your visit to any park and you will most likely obtain a cancelation stamp. Be sure to check the date of the stamp at ANY location by doing a practice stamp on one of the extra papers they have. Some parks visitor center may be closed to the public, but there may be an outdoor cancelation station you can use on your own (found this out while traveling during Sept. 1, 2020-April 14, 2021, when Covid still had some places closed AND when I visited some sites in the Midwest during the regular off-season but their hiking trails were still open).
TIP: If you have been to a park before you purchase a passport book or perhaps you forgot to grab a cancelation after you purchase a book, you can find the contact information for that park in one of the resources posted above and mail them a self-addressed and prepaid return envelope for them to send you a cancelation stamp or stamps, let them know what you need.
I hope this information is helpful to you in deciding which NPS passport book is perfect for your journey. Are you ready to explore the National Parks©? Which passport to your National Parks book would you choose? Please share your tips below in the comments.
Thank you for reading,
Dr. Jaime Brainerd, Ed.D.
P.S. In the following weeks on Travel Friday’s B.R.E.A.T.H.S. blog I will be posting pictures and videos of my National Parks© adventures! Stay tuned for more! 😀