Trip Date 11/01/2019
Posted On 11/04/2019 16:17:04
Camping | Hiking | Texas | Texas Campgrounds | Texas State Parks Pass | Benefits of Texas State Parks Pass | Camping Discounts | Camping in Texas | RVing in Texas | Save Money on Camping in Texas
Our first Texas State Parks Pass expired in September 2018. At the end of our first year as passholders, we did an analysis to determine whether or not the benefits that we received were worth the expense. Based on the time that the two of us spent in Texas campgrounds, the answer was a resounding yes. We purchased our second pass which expired in October 2019. It was again time to reflect back on the previous year to confirm that the perks that we received were at least equal to the cost that we paid.
If you are in search of camping discounts or ways to save money on camping in Texas, this post is for you. If you are wondering whether or not the Texas State Parks Pass is worth the up front cost, this post will help you answer that question based on your circumstances. For those who are unfamiliar with the pass but plan to spend time hiking or camping in Texas (or RVing in Texas), this post will provide you with information necessary to understand the value of the pass. We'll start with an overview of the benefits of the Texas State Parks Pass followed by some cost vs. benefit information that should help you answer the question of whether or not the pass is for you!
Benefits of the Texas State Parks PassThe primary benefits of the Texas State Parks Pass include:
- waived entrance fees at any Texas State Park through the end of the twelfth month following the purchase date for the pass holder and up to 14 guests traveling together (either in one household vehicle or on foot, bicycle or motorcycle);
- a 50% discount on the second night of two or more consecutive nights of camping in a Texas State Park (cannot be combined with other offers and subject to blackout dates); and
- a 10% discount on eligible retail and rental items with a valid pass.
The benefits of the pass changed for the better during early 2019, with no change to the price of the pass. Previously, the discount on the second night of camping was limited to a maximum of four stays. There is now no longer a limit on the number of stays during which guests can receive the second night discount.
Example of Fee Calculation at Texas State ParksAs compared to the state parks outside of Texas, in our opinion, the nightly fee for camping in Texas State Parks is very reasonable. In most Texas State Parks, the nightly camping fee for RVers includes 30- or 50-amp electric and onsite water plus either onsite sewer or access to a central dump station.
What is not included in the rate, however, is the daily entrance fee. This fee is typically a per person per day cost charged for entrance to the park. The fee is charged to both day use and overnight guests. In other words, guests staying in tents or RVs as well as those just visiting the park during the day to picnic, swim, hike, mountain bike, etc. all pay the daily entrance fee. For campers, the fee is charged in addition to the nightly camping fee. (While some parks do not have a daily entrance fee, the fee in most parks ranges from $2.00 - $8.00 per adult. There is typically no daily entrance fee for children under the age of 12.)
For example, we spent three nights at Hueco Tanks State Park in November 2018. The nightly camping fee at the park was $16.00 for onsite 50-amp electric and water. As we met the two consecutive night stay requirement, we saved 50% off of the fee for our second night of camping ($8.00).
The daily entrance fee at the park was $7.00 per adult. For the two of us, an additional $14.00 per day would have been added to our nightly camping fee had we not had a valid pass at the time of our visit. Below is the calculation of our total bill with and without a Texas State Parks Pass:
- Without Pass: $16.00 per night camping fee + $7.00 per adult daily entrance fee = $30.00 x 3 nights = $90.00 total
- With Pass: $16.00 per night camping fee x 3 nights = $48.00 - $8.00 discount on second night = $40.00 total
Having the Texas State Parks Pass saved us a total of $50.00 for this 3 night stay at Hueco Tanks State Park.
Cost vs. Benefit Comparison of Texas State Parks PassThe cost of the Texas State Parks Pass is currently $70.00, and the pass is valid until the last day of the twelfth month following the purchase date. We purchased our second annual pass at Palo Duro Canyon State Park on October 3, 2018, so our pass was valid through October 31, 2019. (By buying the pass near the beginning of a month, the pass was valid for almost 13 months!)
While the example above proved that there is value to having a pass, had the stay at Hueco Tanks State Park been our only visit to a Texas State Park in the twelve month period, we would have lost money - the $70.00 purchase price was greater than the $50.00 in savings! Fortunately for us, we had enough other visits to Texas State Parks while our pass was valid to save far more money than we spent on the pass.
Here's a summary of our benefits from the pass that we purchased in October 2018:
- October 3, 2018 at Palo Duro Canyon State Park for 3 nights: $42.00 ($30.00 in daily entrance fees for 2 plus $12.00 in camping fees; NOTE: The daily entrance fee has since increased from $5.00 to $8.00 per person.)
- November 6, 2018 at Hueco Tanks State Park for 3 nights: $50.00 ($42.00 in daily entrance fees for 2 plus $8.00 in camping fees)
- November 9, 2018 at South Llano River State Park for 3 nights: $20.00 ($10.00 in daily entrance fees for 2 plus $10.00 in camping fees; NOTE: The entrance fee was waived for all guests on Veteran's Day.)
- March 17, 2019 at Bastrop State Park for 2 nights: $30.00 ($20.00 in daily entrance fees for 2 plus $10.00
in camping fees)
Camping at Bastrop State Park
- May 28, 2019 at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center for day use: $4.50 (daily entrance fees for 2)
- June 22, 2019 at Palmetto State Park for 3 nights: $27.00 ($18.00 in daily entrance fees for 2 plus $9.00 in camping fees)
- June 25, 2019 at Stephen F. Austin State Park for 3 nights: $42.50 ($30.00 in daily entrance fees for 2 plus $12.50 in camping fees)
- June 26, 2019 at Battleship Texas for day use: $24.00 (daily entrance fees for 2; NOTE: Closed as of August 2019 for repairs with no announced reopening date as of the time of this posting)
- October 6, 2019 at Davis Mountains State Park for 2 nights: $36.50 ($24.00 in daily entrance fees for 2 plus $12.50 in camping fees)
- October 23, 2019 at Caprock Canyons State Park for day use: $20.00 (daily entrance fees for 2 for two days)
Our grand total of savings for 7 overnight stays at Texas State Parks plus 3 day use only visits while having our pass was $306.50. After deducting the $70.00 upfront fee that we paid for the pass, our actual net savings was $236.50. (The net benefit from our first year with the pass was less, but we still enjoyed a healthy savings of $152.50.)
Is the Texas State Parks Pass Worth the $70.00 Annual Fee?The decision as to whether or not the Texas State Parks Pass is a good investment is a personal decision based on each person's / family's potential visits to Texas State Parks. Here's a few examples to help you make your decision:
- Assume that two adults travel together to visit one Texas State Park each month. If the parks that they choose to visit have an average $3.00 daily entrance fee, the pass would pay for itself (with an additional $2.00 in savings).
- How about visiting just one Texas State Park for one day during each of nine months during the pass period? The
same two adults could choose parks with an average $4.00 daily entrance fee and the pass would again pay for itself
(with an additional $2.00 in savings).
Hiking at Palmetto State Park
- What happens if you add some camping into the equation? Let's assume that two adults camp together for two
nights at three different campgrounds during the 12 month pass period. With an average nightly camping fee of $20.00
and a daily $4.00 daily entrance fee, the pass would pay for itself (with an additional $8.00 in savings).
- Do you have a family that enjoys the beach? A family of four with two adults, one teenager and a ten year old could
plan two long weekends at the beach within a 12 month period and the pass would more than pay for itself. Having a
valid Texas State Parks Pass for a three night stay at Galveston Island State Park would save the family $55.00 on
daily entrance and camping fees in a campsite with 30-/50-amp electric and water. Three days at Mustang Island
State Park with 50-amp electric and water plus the daily entrance fees charged for three of the family members
would also save $55.00. This family would be ahead by $40.00 just after these six days in Texas State Parks!
Mustang Island State Park
- Are you thinking of seeing the fall foliage? Two adults traveling together would break even on a pass purchase after a five night camping trip to Lost Maples State Park. The park's daily entrance fee is $6.00 per person and camping with 30-amp electric and water is $20.00 nightly. Every visit to Texas State Parks made during the same 12 month period would be like adding money to the bank!
- Can tent campers benefit from being holders of the Texas State Parks Pass? Four young adults who love hiking and
experiencing nature together could visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park for two nights and pay for the cost of their
pass. (By camping in a tent site with water only, the group of for would save $8.00 in camping fees plus another $64.00
in daily entrance fees.) If the group of four added a two night tent camping trip to Hueco Tanks State Park, they
would have an additional benefit of $62.00 ($6.00 savings on campsite plus $56.00 in entrance fees).
Hiking at Hueco Tanks State Park
Our VerdictWe definitely plan to purchase another one year pass on our next visit to a Texas State Park. On our radar are visits to Lost Maples State Park during the fall and Palo Verde Canyon State Park to see a production of the outdoor musical "Texas".
Palo Verde Canyon State Park
With over 90 state parks, natural areas and historic sites in the state of Texas, there are plenty of opportunities to make use of the Texas State Parks Pass. Anytime is a great time to buy the pass and make plans to get out and explore the state - either by visiting a variety of state parks for the day or by enjoying overnight camping as well. If you live in the state, there's probably some state parks within a one or two hour drive of your home for you to check out!
Since the state of Texas is so big, even non-Texas residents can benefit from the pass - especially those who camp or RV. The drive to get from one side of the state to the other takes a while and there are plenty of state parks at which you can enjoy your journey. Stop at some of the state parks along your way, explore the surrounding areas and stay for a few nights! You may be surprised at how quickly the savings can add up when you purchase a Texas State Parks Pass!
America the Beautiful National Parks PassIf you are considering visits to some of the national parks in the United States, take a look at our post titled "Is the America the Beautiful National Parks Annual Pass Worth the Fee?". After two years of being holders of the national parks pass, we'll provide a similar analysis to help you decide whether or not this pass is right for you.
Best Membership Clubs or PassesWith the wide variety of membership clubs (AAA, AARP, Escapees, Good Sam, Passport America, etc.) plus the available national and state park passes, which do you find to be the most beneficial and why?
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