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Last year, I flew out to Montana for some good old fashioned family vacation!  Our clan numbered 17 in total, way more than my usual 3.  The three of us fit great in a single row of seats on the plane, but it’s fun to get the whole group together.  We stayed close enough to Yellowstone to get a few days in the park, and were able to take advantage of the

Yellowstone for Free?

Yes!  But not all the time.  You’ll need a child in the 4th grade (or homeschool equivalent) to get into the park for free.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Obtain child in 4th grade.  We suggest you do this legally, though it may take a few years of preparation.  (WARNING:  Children are often messy, loud, whiny, annoying, etc.  Extreme caution is recommended when handling children.)  We love them anyway over here at PWaC!
  2. Go to the Every Kid in a Park website.
  3. Have your 4th grader fill out the required information by hitting “Play”.
  4. Print out your pass and bring it to Yellowstone!  Note that the paper versions are single-use.  Bring extra just in case you lose it!
  5. When you’re at Yellowstone, they’ll take your paper pass and swap you for a plastic pass that fits in your wallet.  The plastic pass is good for the whole school year, September 1st to August 31st!

If Yellowstone isn’t on your list yet, almost every other National Park and Historic Site accept the pass.  I’d recommend printing out a few paper copies to be safe though, as not all sites offer the plastic, more permanent pass.

(Uh oh, some of the parks have a work around to this pass.  This National Park is notably not free.)

The Grand Prismatic Spring of Yellowstone!

The pass was first introduced in early 2015, and went live in September of 2015 for kids in 4th grade during the 2015-2016 school year.

We’ve got big plans to use the pass this year!  Based in Boston, Acadia is only a few hours north, the National Seashore is nearby, and there are a number of Historical Sites and Parks in the area.  I’ll also be taking full advantage of my time off next year, and am thinking a trip out to the southwest would make a lot of sense this summer…

What do you think – Utah?  Arizona?  California?

How to Survive Yellowstone with a Car Full of Kids

Mammoth Springs – one of the many places we got out of the car and hiked around a bit.

Here are my best tips, feel free to add yours in the comments!

  • Pack plenty of snacks and drinks.  Supplies are few and far between once you’re actually in the park, and when you do find them, they’re expensive!
  • Get out of the car.  At over 2 million acres of land, you’ll need a car in Yellowstone.  There is so much to see from the road and even more on foot!  As long as your dressed appropriately and comfortable with the environment, hike!  Let the kids stretch their legs!  Make sure you don’t get too close to animals, always use your common sense, and listen to any advice park rangers give you.
  • Take advantage of the scenic spots.  Overlooks, photo opportunities, and boardwalks all offer kids (and adults) some time to marvel in the beauty of the landscape.
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