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Travel and earn money at National Parks, resorts, and more

If you dream of traveling this coming summer, but need to find a job to earn some money, you don’t have to put your aspirations aside?it’s possible to do both. There are many opportunities for summer employment that can provide both a great travel experience and a paycheck that will cover your expenses and even leave you with some savings.

If you enjoy the outdoors, consider seasonal employment with the National Park Service or jobs with concessionaires in or near the parks and other wilderness areas. If living in the woods isn’t your thing, there are plenty of resorts, restaurants, and recreation companies in other popular summer destinations that hire students for the season.

National Parks, beach towns, and many other destinations experience a tourist boom in the summer, and the organizations that operate in and around them seek help from seasonal workers, like students. Often they provide low-cost room and board, free transportation to work, and other perks in addition to a paycheck.

Depending upon your skills, it’s possible to get an exciting job, such as leading rafting trips. However, the vast majority of jobs are service-oriented, meaning it’s likely you’ll be doing a job such as working at the front desk of a lodge in a National Park or serving food at a beach resort snack bar. However, in your free time, you’ll be able to enjoy the destination itself, be it hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park or lounging on the beach in Cape Cod.


Before committing to a position, you should ask your potential employer, and yourself, some questions to make sure the job is right for you. Here are some points to consider:

  • Before accepting a job, ask the employer questions about your position, housing, payment, time-off, and benefits. Be wary of any employer that cannot give you concrete details about what you’ll be doing, what living and working conditions are like, and how you’ll be compensated. A reputable employer should give you a written contract listing this information.
  • Many seasonal summer jobs will entail living in a somewhat isolated location, and chances are your housing will be communal. If you enjoy being in the outdoors or small resort towns and spending lots of time with other people, this setup may work well, but it can be hard for those accustomed to urban living and lots of private space. Ask yourself if you are prepared for this.
  • While summer may seem far off, you’ll need to start searching for a job and submitting your applications soon, as these positions can be very competitive and many employers fill their openings by mid-winter. Here are details on how to find work with the National Park Service; with separate concessionaires that operate in or near the parks; and resorts, restaurants, and recreational companies in other summer destinations:

    Seasonal National Park work

    The National Park Service offers a variety of temporary jobs throughout the year, including positions just for students within its “Student Educational Employment Program.” This program provides students with temporary National Park work related to their field of study. Positions might include work as a park guide, office assistant, or trail crewmember. Pay and benefits vary by park and position.

    Keep in mind that these jobs are very competitive, particularly in the big parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, and often require previous experience or a certain educational focus (such as ecology). You can increase the chances of getting one of these positions by applying for work at smaller parks and by applying early. There is no set deadline for the program, but each position has its own application due date.

    Visit the website of the National Park Service or call 877-554-4550 for general information about temporary jobs, or contact one of the recruitment coordinators for information about student positions.

    Concessionaire jobs

    Finding work with an independent organization in or near a National Park or in other popular destinations is relatively easy. There are countless hotels, restaurants, shops, tour operators, and other recreational companies that recruit temporary employees for the summer. Job options might include work in food service, housekeeping, retail sales, guide service, and more.

    Pay tends to be low, usually under $10 an hour, but housing and food are often provided at a very low cost. If you budget carefully, you should be able to cover all your travel expenses and come out with some savings. You’ll usually be asked to commit to a job for a certain amount of time, and bonuses are often awarded to employees who complete their contract.

    There are several online resources you can use to find jobs and learn about potential employers. One of the best is, a free website that lists about 75,000 jobs with National and State Parks, camps, resorts, dude ranches, and more. The site allows you to search for positions by job type and location. Job listings include links to the employer’s website where you’ll find information about the company, the jobs available, and how to apply.

    Another good resource is, which allows you to search a huge database of jobs by type, location, duration, and a variety of other criteria. Listings include detailed information about job requirements and benefits. You can apply online for a position, but you must be a member of, which you can join for free.

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