Americans did comparatively little traveling this summer, thanks to the coronavirus. Indeed, 72% of us did not take a summer vacation. But one type of vacation met or exceeded its previous popularity: visits to National Parks. Now, Marriott’s Bonvoy loyalty program has partnered with the National Parks Foundation to help millions of members visit the US National Parks in style.
The thought of visiting the National Parks conjures visions of sleeping under the stars, pitching a tent, or traveling by recreational vehicle in a hopefully pandemic-proof “pod.” Even President Donald Trump testified to the lure of the open road this summer. “I think I’m gonna buy an RV and travel in an RV with our first lady,”
But what about those who would rather launch each day’s exploration of the National Parks with a hot breakfast, or end the day in the comfort of a cozy hotel room? That is where the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program, in partnership with the National Park Foundation, (NPF), a fundraising partner to the US National Parks system, comes in.
Marriott and the NPF have created dedicated travel planning website for Bonvoy members. The website lets them take advantage of discounted rates for stays at Marriott properties located near national parks. Marriot says that Bonvoy member rates start at $99 per night. Bonvoy members can also redeem their points for National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Passes, or donate points to the NPF to help in its mission to protect and enhance America’s national parks.
If you’d rather earn points, why not plan a national park road trip? Bonvoy members will earn points for stays at Marriott properties for future trips, as well as qualifying nights toward elite status. Marriott’s online magazine, Bonvoy Traveler, highlights many National Parks.
There are 421 National Parks, and in 2019 they had a total of 327 million “recreation visits,” a number almost exactly equal to the US population of 328 million. Even during the pandemic this summer, popular parks, like Zion and Yellowstone actually increased their number of visitors from 2019. Fortunately, you can escape the crowds at the 406 Marriott properties located within a short drive of a National Park.
If you’re thinking of doing a road trip to America’s classic national parks, example of Marriott properties near national parks include Springhill Suites Springdale Zion National Park in Utah and Courtyard Gatlinburg Downtown and Fairfield Inn & Suites Gatlinburg Downtown near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Great Smoky Mountains was the third-most visited National Park in 2019 (12.5 million visitors) so planning accommodations in advance may not only save you money, but peace of mind as well.
If COVID-19 is still keeping you from traveling far, many of the most popular parks are in or just outside big cities where there are many Marriott-brand hotels. (There are 30 Marriott brands now, from The Ritz-Carlton to the Residence Inn.) The National Park Foundation says most Americans live within 100 miles of a national park.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the San Francisco Bay area, was the most visited park in 2019,with 15 million visitors, while Gateway National Recreation Area, in New York City was visited by 9.4 million. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, outside Las Vegas was visited by 7.5 million.
A Bonvoy spokesperson said that members can plan and book their National Park vacation up to a year in advance. Or course, due to COVID-19, the National Park System recommends checking the park website to determine its operating status before visiting a park.