Travels with Children

The adventures I embark upon with my four young children.

Adventures on a Budget

Going on adventures with kids doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money on admission.  Here are some tips for seeing the world without breaking the bank. 

  • Find out if the location has free or discount days.  Many museums will have free admission on a weekly or monthly basis; check their websites for details.  Amusement parks may offer discounted “twilight” admission. 
  • Purchase a museum membership.  Many museums provide reciprocal free or discounted admission to other museums within their associations.  It’s a great deal if you’ll be visiting several museums during the year.  The Association of Children’s Museums (, Association of Science-Technology Centers (, and American Zoo Association ( are examples.  Some museums are members of more than one organization so you can really get a bang for your buck.  This year, I invested $224 in museum memberships, and if I had paid regular admission at those sites, it would have totaled $391.  I still have 4-6 months left on my memberships, so I’ll save even more before they expire.  (Hint:  You can purchase a membership at an out-of-state museum via the Internet without ever visiting the museum.  Memberships rates vary greatly from museum to museum, so doing some homework can really pay off.)
  • Broaden your horizons.  Even though I’m not an avid art lover, we’ve gone to art museums on free family days and had a great time while exposing the kids to something new.
  • If you’re a member of certain organizations, you may receive a discount on admission.  AAA and Farm Bureau are some examples.  Your employer may also offer discount tickets to attractions. 
  • Scour websites for other details.  Some museums offer free memberships or greatly reduced admission to families within certain income guidelines.
  • Go while the kids are young. 😉  Many places offer free or greatly reduced admission prices for children under 3, under 6, or even under 12.  Other places will give a family rate that is a better deal than paying for each individual.  Doing your homework ahead of time, especially via the web, can ensure that you get the best price available.
  • Look for coupons in visitor’s guides and welcome packets.
  • If you live in Minnesota, check out a Museum Adventure Pass for free admission to many metro-area museums.  See for details.

On occasion, I do pay full price for admission, and it’s well worth it!


What’s in a Membership?

With a large family, a museum membership pays for itself pretty quickly.  I purchased our three museum memberships in April and June of 2007, so I still have a few months left on them.  In that time, here’s how it’s panned out for us:

Membership to Minnesota Historical Society:  $55 
Membership to Northwoods Children’s Museum, includes ACM reciprocity:  $100
Membership to Boonshoft Museum, includes ASTC and AZA reciprocity:  $69
(I didn’t do the memberships quite like I wanted this year due to a last-minute trip.  Next year I’ll upgrade the Boonshoft membership and it will include ACM, ASTC, and AZA for around $100.)

Total spent on memberships:  $224

ACM/ASTC/AZA reciprocity used at 11 sites; if we had paid admission, total of $377.30.
MNHS reciprocity used at 11 sites; if we had paid admission, total of $140.

Total savings in 9 months by using our memberships:  $293.30, not including gift shop discounts and other membership “perks.”

Now, I realize $224 sounds like a lot of money (and that it doesn’t include travel expenses, lodging, or meals along our adventures), but I prefer to think of it this way:  For our family of six, with the youngest still being free, one day in one park only at Disney World would cost us $322.  I think the memberships are a great deal!



[…] to the Field Museum, so when we arrived just before noon, the kids were all hungry. We flashed our ASTC reciprocity cards, which allowed free admission to everything but a few special exhibits, and promptly found […]

[…] ASTC membership reciprocity.  […]

  Minnesota Zoo « Travels with Children wrote @

[…] Participates in AZA Reciprocity. […]

  Gette wrote @

Do not be afraid to seek out or ask about discounts. Our income level allows us reduced admission at Science Museum of MN, and free at MN Children’s museum. Generally you have to be eligible for free/reduced lunches or MA. Some go bu income on your tax form. Either way, it never hurts to ask.

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