As all of us in the fraternity of Senior Citizens are aware, growing older does come with a few benefits…like discounts. I vividly remember the time I went to McDonalds to order my first “Senior Coffee”. I waited until no one but the clerk was within hearing distance, then muttered somewhat bashfully, “Uh, senior coffee, please…”. The young man, probably around seventeen, replied loudly enough to make the other senior patrons adjust their hearing aids, “ONE SENIOR COFFEE…HERE OR TO GO!?!”. “Uh, to…go”, I whispered while looking around, somewhat shaken that my cover had been blown. At that moment I was probably not fully aware that I had just passed through a lovely gateway into the very fertile land of senior discounts. I took my coffee and hustled back to the car.
Over time, I became comfortable with discounts and accepted that they were one of many benefits available upon reaching another milepost in my journey forward. Soon, I was in Publix on Wednesdays, Waffle House on Monday, and having my hair cut at Great Clips, all because I was now a member of a very exclusive group as one of the Oldies. I have a three-page list of senior discounts I received in an email once and use regularly. I still haven’t made it to Massage Envy for the “Happy Ending” package, but I will (20% off).
On our recent trip up the East Coast, we discovered another benefit in the Oldie but Goodie box that did much to confirm our conviction that a big part of Slow Walking through the Golden Years is all about having fun. Obtaining a National Park Senior Pass is a great way to add to that fun and, in addition, make it a little less expensive.
The Senior Pass Program has to be obtained in person. It cannot be purchased by mail or online, but rather at a federal area where an entrance fee is charged, such as an office of the National Park Service or other entity like the National Forest Service.
Ours was purchased through a delightful experience on our recent trip. We had made our way to the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk, NC (see previous post) and arrived at the gate to pay for our parking. A pleasant young Park Ranger, “Smokey Bear” hat and all, took one look at me, and easily guessed my age as no less than 62. The Ranger asked if we had a National Park Senior Pass to which we replied that we did not. Bearing a broad smile, he explained that we could either purchase tickets for the Memorial at $4 per person, or we could purchase one Senior Pass for $10 that would give the holder free access to any National Park, where a fee is charged, for a lifetime. Smiling once again he cautioned, this is providing of course, that the purchaser is 62 years old. I smiled back…this guy is good! The Ranger went on to tell us that one pass is sufficient because the pass holder may also bring three other adults, not necessarily seniors, into the parks for free. All he needed was a driver’s license (and $10) and we were set. We were all in!
After we paid up, we were instructed to park and go to the customer service desk in the Museum and obtain a booklet called a Passport. The Passport is a guidebook to all of the National Parks in the country. It is organized by region, with a listing of the parks in each state in that region, and pinpointed by a number on a map showing the (approximate) location of each park. The Passport also has pages for colored stamps which are printed each year featuring different parks making them fun to collect. There is a charge for the stamps and the funds help with maintenance and service of the parks.
In addition to pages for stamps in the Passports, there are also pages for ink stamp cancellations that can be collected at each park that has a cancellation station. All of the parks we visited on our journey had a cancellation station and we made a point of obtaining a cancellation at every one of them. The cancellations bear the date of the visit and can be very helpful to a senior citizen trying to recall anything prior to yesterday (’nuff said). Collecting cancellations just add to the fun of a National Park visit.
One other bit of information was also shared with us when we picked up our Passports. The Senior Pass allows for a discount of up to 50% off of federal use fees that are charged for campgrounds, tours, boat launches, or parking. This is one sweet deal for us old “silver foxes”!
We had a wonderful day at the Wright Brothers Memorial and at four other National Parks and National Historic Sites as well. These included the First Federal Lighthouse at Cape Henry, Virginia, The Cape Cod National Seashore, The Home of President Franklin Roosevelt, and Val-Kill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt, all covered in earlier postings of Easin’ Along and available under the Fun tab on our home page.
These National Parks and the other 396 that make up the National Park system are gifts to ourselves and to the world. At each one we visited, there were groups of tourists from many different countries there to see what we as Americans have preserved for the beauty and the history that these treasured sites represent. Buying a pass is a great way not only to see them but help to preserve them for future generations.
I may have been a little bashful about ordering a “Senior Coffee”, but you can bet I’ll brag about buying a National Park Senior Pass.
By the way, if you would like a copy of the Senior Discount List, send me your email address in the comments section below and I will send you a copy.
Time for some Slow Walking so I’ll be Easin’ Along…have a great day!