Do you love to visit museums but find the admission to be cost-prohibitive? Especially if you aren’t sure how great the museum will be?

One of the things that we love to do when traveling, or even just keeping busy around our own town is visit museums. I always like to know of a few in the area in case the weather is bad, we need something to do, or just feel like checking someplace new out. However, since we visit them often, for a family of four, the cost can really add up.

Here are five of my favorite ways to save a little money while still enjoying museum visits:

  • Look into annual memberships. This is my all-time favorite tip. If you know you’ll visit a museum more than once, it’s often less expensive to buy a membership and you often get additional benefits like free parking, discounts on food and shopping, etc. When my kids were little, we held memberships to the zoo, children’s museum and Conner Prairie. It was also great because we never felt like we had to spend the whole day there – we could just visit for a few hours and then head home for naps or on to do something else. Museum memberships are a fantastic gift, so if the Grandparents don’t know what to get your family for Christmas, this would be an excellent suggestion.

Museum memberships to save money

  • Coupons. Ever seen the Entertainment Books? How about deals on Groupon or Living Social. I’ll often find buy one get one free deal for museums so I’ll check these places out when planning a visit.
  • Purchase tickets online. Some locations offer a better deal if you purchase your ticket online. Or they might have some kind of special going on. Always a good idea to check the website before you visit.

Save money on museum tickets with membership referrals

  • Reciprocal Memberships. Closely related to tip #1 is reciprocal memberships. There are several programs out there that allow for reduced or even free admission to hundreds of museums and/or zoos if you belong to one of the organizations in your area. There are often stipulations such as they have to be 90 miles away from your membership site, or only allow for basic admission, but regardless this is a FANTASTIC way to save a lot of money when you travel. Thanks to our membership to our local Indiana State Museum, on our recent trip to Chicago, we got free basic admission to Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum AND The Science and Industry museum. Those three visits more than paid for our local membership. The five programs that I’m aware of are ASTC (Association of Science & Technology Centers), NARM (North American Reciprocal Museum), Smithsonian Affiliates, Time Travelers and AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums). I always check out the listing for any of these organizations that we belong to and see if there are museums located where we are headed for vacations. Not only is it low-cost entertainment, we’ve discovered some really cool places that we would never have visited on our own. Since I know that these organizations are often non-profit and struggling to make ends meet, if we’ve visited for free, I’ll often put a bit of money in the donation jar and/or be sure to spend a little in the gift shop or cafeteria. That way it’s a win for both of us!
  • Free Days. Most organizations offer a free day each month. Sometimes it’s just for local residents but often anyone can go. Definitely worth checking out.

And now for a bonus option: If you are lucky, your local library might have memberships you can check out – mine offers a family membership to two Indianapolis Museums. We can check out the membership for one week and visit for free.

Do you have other ideas on how to save money on museum visits? Do you like to visit museums? Any favorites to share?

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