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Explore Alaska’s National Parks by Rail (Courtesy of Alaska Railroad)
12/16/2018The Maitland family has one goal in mind: to be the first family to visit every U.S. National Park and be inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records.
They may just reach their goal by the end of the year.
The Maitland family, which includes parents Jim and Cheri, their 16-year-old daughter Jamison and 14-year-old son Gerald, were inspired to go on this quest after watching the documentary, America’s Best Idea.
They have visited 417 national parks and units in the last eight years, homeschooling the children to make it possible.
“It’s amazing what this has done for our family,” Jim Maitland told USA Today. “A lot of people don’t think that our history is important. But it’s interesting. It shows us who we are.”
The family began their national park adventure in Florida and have logged more than 300,000 miles on their camper van. They’ve even brought two foreign exchange students along for the ride during 10 months of this last year.
“We thought Alaska was going to be hard,” Cheri said. “Every trip we learn something.”
Of the 417 parks the family has visited, some are smaller units like battlefield sites, national memorials, or scenic trails.
“The smaller units, the reason we fell in love with them is they’re all about this country, how the USA was created, the good, the bad, the ugly,” Jim said.
The Maitland family hasn’t found one park that has captured their hearts above all others.
“We love every single one,” Cheri said. “Your favorite is the one that day. If you have children, you love them all.”
At 14 years old, the Maitland’s son, Gerald, would also be the youngest person to visit all of the U.S. parks.
Gerald told USA Today, “You get a different experience at every single park. We went to the Manhattan Project, internment camps. I love war and that kind of history. I could recommend all the parks."
When it comes to traveling, Cheri offered some advice she’s learned over the eight years: “Know before you go. That’s the most important thing. Map where you’re going to go.”
Regardless of how much they planned, the Maitland family faced mishaps here and there.
“It’s a wild ride for sure,” Jim said. “You never know when something is going to happen—busted tire or a broken spring. We always found a way to fix it. There was always a plan B. We’ve gotten down to plan D.”
The family is close to reaching their goal. They’re currently visiting the 10 parks of Hawaii, Samoa and Guam, and have plans to travel to the newest national park in Lexington, Kentucky.