If you are 62 or over and you don't already have a lifetime senior pass to the country's national parks, it's time to get in gear and snatch one up. Until Aug. 28, 2017, you can get one of these passes for just $10. But after that date, the price will increase to $80.
What does a lifetime National Park Service (NPS) pass get you? For starters, you'll get free entry into any of the NPS' 417 sites across the country. Covering more than 84 million acres, there are national park sites protecting our country's cultural, historical and environmental heritage in every U.S. state as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
At many NPS sites, a senior pass will also grant free access to anyone in your (non-commercial) car or up to three adults (kids under 16 are always free). At some sites, your senior pass also lets you score discounted fees on camping, swimming, boat docking, parking or guided tours.
Right now and for the next few weeks, seniors who are 62 and over can get all of that for just $10 for a lifetime. But on Aug. 28 of this year, that price will rise to $80, which seems steep, but the NPS has been quick to point out that it's also the first time that the price has risen on this pass since 1994. And the price hike really wasn't an NPS decision. It was mandated by Congress as part of the Centennial Legislation that was passed in December 2016. (So if you're going to be mad at anybody, be mad at your congressional representatives.)
If you're a senior on a fixed budget who doesn't have $80 to shell out all at once, the NPS is also offering its own version of a senior pass payment plan. Buy an annual pass, which gives you all of the benefits mentioned above, for $20 and it will last for one year from the date is was issued. Do this for four years, and you can trade those passes in for a lifetime pass.
Bottom line, at $10 for a lifetime, the NPS Senior Pass is a darn good deal. So if you have the means, get out there and pick one up now. There have been more than 250,000 requests for NPS passes so far in 2017, according to the Washington Post, more than seven times the previous record of 33,000 requests. Some sites have reportedly run out of passes, and are giving out rain checks. Here's a list of places where you can purchase the NPS senior lifetime pass.
But to be honest, it's a pretty good deal at $80, too. So if you miss this window, rest assured that you will still be getting a bargain when you purchase your lifetime pass. If your budget is tight, be sure to check out the fee-free days where all NPS sites waive their fees for the day to let everyone enjoy our country's greatest treasures.
Editor's note: This file has been updated.