Especially when my kids were preschool age, I often needed somewhere to take the kids and get a change of scenery. The same four walls start to feel like they’re closing in on you after a while. Fresh air and some fun distractions can be just the solution to family boredom. In our city, there is no shortage of places that offer attractive family memberships: the city pool, recreation centers, art museum, science museum, and the zoo.
Family memberships can be a lot of fun, but they can also be quite expensive, often well over $100/year each. Luckily, there are a variety of ways that you can save money on these memberships. Here are some ideas:
- Check for resident discounts for the city or county you live in. My local pool is about half the price for city residents as it is for non-residents. This does require going in person to the recreation center to prove my residency status by showing ID or a utility bill with my current address. Our local zoo also has some extra benefits for county residents because we have a county real estate tax that helps to support our zoo.
- Keep an eye out for early bird discounts. Most pools and other summer memberships have discounts if you purchase in the winter. My local pool is less expensive if you pay for the membership by March 15th. A nice benefit is this can spread out the cost of summer fun in your yearly budget.
- Choose carefully what time of year you purchase your membership. For example, if a zoo membership is good for 12 months, it might make sense to wait until July to purchase it so that it’s good from July of one year through June of the next year, giving you an opportunity to visit the zoo during two summers for the cost of one year. Of course, this might be cancelled out if there is an early bird discount offered. My local zoo offers a special deal in May that you can purchase a 14 month membership for the price of 12, so that would be a better value than waiting until July.
- Also carefully choose the time of the month you purchase your membership. Many memberships are good until the last day of the month, regardless of when you purchased them. For example, if you buy a membership May 1st, it will expire April 30th next year. If you buy the same membership on May 30th, it will also expire April 30th, so why not buy it on the 1st of the month and gain an extra month?
- Check for reciprocal membership agreements, which means that your membership to one museum or zoo might get you free or discounted entry into other museums and zoos. Be sure to read all the rules carefully, but this can be an excellent bargain, especially if you plan to travel to other cities. For science centers, check ASTC travel passport program and for zoos, see the Associate of Zoos and Aquariums.