Officially called "America the Beautiful - the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass," the Senior Pass is a special privilege given to citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. who are 62 years old and above. It gives them free access to National Parks and all federal recreational sites, as well as a number of discounts. This has replaced what was formerly known as the Golden Age Passport.
The Senior Pass can be acquired by any permanent resident or citizen of the U.S. who is at least 62 years old. With it, they will be able to access recreational areas that are under the management of federal agencies. With it, they also get special discounts to certain amenities within these areas.
The lifetime Senior Pass costs $80 as of August 2017. Those who prefer an annual pass can get it for $20. After purchasing four annual passes in four consecutive years, they can be traded in for a lifetime pass. Aside from its duration and price, the lifetime Senior Pass is different from the annual pass such that the latter doesn’t cover discounts on amenities.
Those who already have a Golden Age Passport do not need to get a Senior Pass. This is because that already counts as the new lifetime Senior Pass. There’s really no reason to get a new one, but if for some reason you want to, you can do so by simply presenting a valid ID. Alternatively, you can have your Golden Age Passport exchanged free of charge with the new Senior Pass.
Getting a Senior Pass
You can get a Senior Pass from any of the participating federal office or at any of the recreation sites that honor it. Below is a list of the participating agencies:
- Bureau of Reclamation
- Fish and Wildlife Service
- USDA Forest Service
- US Army Corps of Engineers
- Bureau of Land Management
- National Park Service
The Pass can also be bought online or via mail, subject to additional fees.
You’ll need to upload some documents that are issued from different U.S. agencies to prove your permanent resident status or citizenship as well as your age. These documents include your driver’s license, green card, birth certificate, passport, or some other state-issued ID or documentation.
ü Mail Purchase
Similar to getting a Pass online, but you will need to include the necessary documents in your mail.
Tip: In some cases, people apply for a senior pass but they don’t get it in time for their trip to the recreation site. The best thing to do in this case is to simply purchase a pass onsite and then return the pass you applied for online or by mail and get a refund. Make sure you don’t sign the pass when you return it.
Other Relevant Information:
- You have to be 62 years old at the time of getting the pass. You can’t apply for it beforehand. This is also the reason why you have to apply for it in person.
- Senior Passes are also non-transferrable. When the holder of the pass dies, it cannot be used by or transferred to family members or anyone for that matter.
- The Pass is only for U.S. Citizens and permanent residents, which means that Canadian citizens cannot apply for it unless they are permanent residents of the U.S. too.
- The Pass also cannot apply to foreign citizens who own properties in the U.S. unless they qualify to be a U.S. resident first.
Using the Senior Pass
To use the Senior Pass, you will have to present it along with a valid photo ID. In case you forgot your Senior Pass, you’re going to have to buy a new one at the entrance, which also means you have to present the required documentation and pay the proper fee.
Coverage: Senior Passes will allow holders to enter recreational areas of accredited federal agencies for free. This includes passage of vehicles that they are passengers of in areas that are paid on a per-vehicle basis so long as it is a non-commercial vehicle not having more than four adults. In case there are more than four adults, a per person charge will apply. For purposes of this rule, children 16 years old and above are considered adults.
Other things to note:
- The senior pass will only cover one vehicle, specifically the one where the holder is a passenger of. Parties travelling with more than one vehicle will have to pay the necessary fees to enter.
- Those who are travelling on a motorcycle or scooter are treated as individual passengers.
The holder will also enjoy discounts on some amenities offered at the national park or recreational area such as swimming, camping, boating, guided tours, and even transportation. These discounts, however, do not apply to gift shops.
The Senior Pass can be used on any of the recreational areas under the accredited agencies mentioned above. There are, however, other places that honor the senior pass as well. The best thing to do is to make it a habit to call up the management first to ask if they honor the Senior Pass.
What to do if the Senior Pass is Lost, Stolen, or Damaged
Lost or stolen Senior Passes cannot be replaced. The holder will have to purchase a new one, following the application process above. If ever the card is damaged, it can be replaced for free at any of the sites where you would apply for a new one. You simply need to present the proper identification requirements. This will also require you to surrender the damaged pass. Requesting by mail will entail additional fees.
If you love to travel even at your old age, getting a Senior Pass is a must. It will really save you a lot on your trips in the long run, especially if you’re getting a lifetime pass. Just make sure to take good care of it and always bring an extra ID with you.