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National Parks Getting Too Much Love - Record Visitation Brings Challenges, One Solution: Let a Tour Operator Take Care of the Details

Story by Austin Adventures

Posted: May 15, 2017

Last year, a record setting 331 million people visited a national park in the U.S.  2015 had earlier set the record at 307 million visitors. Over the last two years there has been a 13 percent visitor increase overall. This is a trend that experts say is here to stay.

Yellowstone NP traffic jam

The good news is that more and more people are enjoying America’s “best idea.” The downside is that roads and entrance stations are more crowded than ever, parking is hard to find, campgrounds are booked full by noon, restaurant reservations are difficult to secure and for those waiting too long to book lodging, there’s no room left at the inn.

Because vacation time is too precious for such factors as frustration and anxiety, advance vacation planning that includes putting a professional tour operator in charge of the logistics can help buy peace of mind and a better overall experience.

“When a national park is in the equation, a good tour company can give you the kind of quality park vacation that just might not be possible on your own,” said Dan Austin, President of Austin Adventures (, a leader in family-focused, multisport vacations here and abroad.

Austin’s company offers a good reason of why one should consider a tour operator for a national park vacation. “We have stayed ahead of the growth curve by adding capacity and trip departures. We also work hard to block the best rooms inside a park, a year or more in advance.” This is an investment (and risk) to the tour operator, having to secure everything so far into the future. But in Austin Adventures’ case, it has been a winning strategy.

Where an individual or family may find frustration going it on their own, booking through an operator can make the process pain-free. A tour operator has the rooms, the restaurant reservations and sightseeing logistics all worked out. They alleviate parking woes by dropping guests off at a trailhead and picking them up at a different spot later. They can also avoid the masses because they know where the crowds aren’t as well as the best times to be there (on Austin’s Yellowstone Park trips they often avoid the crowds at Old Faithful by visiting at sunrise – a short walk from their lodge).

“Guests benefit from our expertise, ‘insider’s knowledge and long-standing park connections,” Austin said.

Rick Hoeninghausen is Director of Sales & Marketing for Yellowstone National Park Lodges. He said tour operators know the area, inside and outside the park, as well as the best places to stay, eat, view wildlife, etc. They have highly trained guides who are focused on customer service, safety and security, as well as having fun.

He went on to explain that quality tour operators often build in special touches that enhance the experience for their guests. For example, Austin Adventures will surprise their guests with fresh made ice cream and fruit parfaits served along the hiking trail.

"We like working with Austin Adventures because we know their guests are getting a very special and unique Yellowstone experience, one that's characterized by creative and thoughtful itineraries, expert and engaging guides, and personal attention. Their guests are our guests when staying in the park, and we know these guests are some of the happiest visitors we'll serve!" Hoeninghausen said.

Some of Austin Adventures’ most popular National Park family itineraries include Yellowstone Family Adventure, Yosemite National Park Multisport, Grand Canyon Family Vacation & Tour, and the Bryce and Zion National Park Tour in Utah. For information on all of the company’s National Park adventures, see:

To receive Austin Adventures’ 2017 catalog of Adventures please order ONLINE or call 1.800.575.1540. For more information on destinations, trips and itineraries offered by Austin Adventures, visit, call (800) 575-1540 or email [email protected].

About Austin Adventures

Based in Billings, MT, Austin Adventures has spent more than 40 years building an international reputation as a top provider of luxury, pre-set and custom-designed small group tours for adults and families to the world’s most captivating destinations. In 2013, Austin Adventures joined the Xanterra Parks & Resorts® portfolio of experiential leisure offerings that includes operations in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Crater Lake, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park; and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also owns and operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel in Williams, Ariz., the Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, Country Walkers and Austin Adventures.