My family isn't that big, as there are five of us. But it can be really expensive when we have to pay admission to a museum. That's why I'm always on the lookout for free museum admission deals.
If you're going to make an investment–and it is an investment when it costs over $100 for us to visit a museum–make it the smart way. By planning ahead, you can actually save money with a family museum membership.
Consider the timing
We bought our science museum membership at the Franklin Institute during spring break 2015, which was in April. The yearly membership runs through the last day of the month it is purchased, so it was good through April 2016. We were able to use it year-round and through this year's spring break as well.
Read the fine print
Be sure that the membership you're purchasing participates in the ASTC Travel Passport program. This list changes each year of which museums are participating, so be sure and bookmark that list so you can check it before you plan a trip to a museum.
The way the ASTC program works, some museums give you similar admission for free (let's say, two adults and all children in the family), but usually not the “extras” that you get from your home museum like free parking and IMAX admission. That's been fine for us!
Plan to use it
Without putting the time into planning a trip, that membership card is likely to languish in your wallet unused. We visited 6 different museums this past year for the $130 that we spent on the museum membership. We could have done more, but we did get to a point where we were science-museumed out.
We visited the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, then took trips to the Nauticus in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton. We'd already saved money by then, but we decided to really take advantage of the membership benefits.
On our spring break road trip to Chicago, we used the membership to get in free at the Museum of Science and Industry and the Natural History Museum. We wanted to also visit the Adler Planetarium but ran out of time.
Save even more
Once in a while, you may find a museum membership deal at a site like Certifikid and Groupon. Before you buy, be sure it's the type of membership that allows participation with the ASTC program. If so, it's an even better deal!