Nov 09 2009

Buying (and splitting) a museum membership to save money

If you have museums or a zoo in your town, it may be worthwhile to see if buying a membership would save money in the long run.

We hadn’t visited any of the museums in Pittsburgh until recently. We wanted to change that, though. Nothing like being a tourist in your own town to have fun for a low price!

I looked into the membership options for the Carnegie museums. A membership works for the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Science Center, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Museum of Art.

In addition, our membership card will allow us access to a bunch of museums around the country (so long as they aren’t within 90 miles of Pittsburgh). We’ll be able to visit some the next time we drive to Indiana, plus maybe plan some day trips around here.

If Shane and I visited the four museums just once, we’d pay $88 for admission, or $118 if we visited the history and art museums on separate days. Johnny is young enough to get in for free. Gotta love these cheap years, no?

The membership price for two adults is $100. According to museum staff, the two adults don’t have to live together or be related.

So, my friend Renee and I split the membership. (Hi, Renee!) We’re each named on the membership, so I can take Shane as my guest, or she could take her husband (or anyone!) as her guest. We just can’t each bring a guest at the same time. Make sense?

I was willing to pay $100 for the membership, so only paying $50 to split it with Renee made it a fabulous deal.

Note: Be sure to check with museum staff if you’re planning on splitting a membership. You’ll want to make sure it’s allowed!

If you aren’t sure about a membership, consider:

  • How much would it cost in full price admission if you were to pay a la carte prices?
  • Does the museum offer half-off or otherwise discounted days? Some museums offer deals on the first Friday of the month, for example. Check out their web sites or give them a call.
  • Can you gain discounted tickets from an Entertainment Book or through AAA or some other association?
  • Are you certain you’d visit often enough for it to be worth it? How often do the temporary exhibits change? Enough to bring you back a few times?
  • Are there special members-only discounts? With mine, we get cheaper parking at once place and a discount at their cafes and perhaps the gift shop.
  • Can you share a membership with someone?
  • Which museums/zoos/etc. are included in a reciprocal membership? Would you visit any?

Since Johnny is liable to have a melt-down at any time, I wanted to have a membership in case we needed to leave early. It would stink to pay $30 admission and only stay for a half hour, you know? Now, if he has a problem, we can just come back another time.

I’m considering getting a membership for the Children’s Museum here as well. I’d have to make certain we’d go often enough for it to be worth it. I do know that the winter will be a long one (aren’t they always?) and going to a museum for Johnny to play at is probably better than going to the mall playground or a McDonald’s PlayPlace.

I’m probably going to hold off on the zoo membership for now, though. I think Johnny will appreciate the zoo perhaps next summer or when he’s closer to two years of age. Until then, we’ll probably buy single-day tickets if we happen to go this winter.

Do you buy memberships to museums or zoos in your area? What other tips can you suggest? How do you save money at museums or zoos?



9 Responses to “Buying (and splitting) a museum membership to save money”

  1. I buy a zoo membership for my brother and his wife for Christmas. I’m not sure if they’ve gotten quite the value out of it, but I’m sure they will as my nephew gets older. I think they went enough times last year to cover the cost of the pass, plus a trip to a reciprocal zoo in Ohio.

    I’ve never bought anything for myself though… I don’t go often enough, and there are no museums close enough to consider for frequent trips.
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..Amaretto Apple Streusel Cupcakes =-.

  2. We live in DC, where many wonderful museums are free, but we still buy a family membership to the zoo (which is free as well) because it feels like the right thing to do since we seem to be there once every 2 weeks. The perks for membership are also great, especially the free parking. It’s tax deductible, too.

  3. Good tip! Thanks
    .-= Stacy´s last blog ..Running love =-.

  4. Brilliant idea, Kacie!
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Luxury skincare at drugstore prices (GIVEAWAY!) =-.

  5. Every museum has one free night a week. Also, most people don’t realize that when there is a charge, it is often optional. My Danish niece was in town, and invited a group of us to the Museum of Natural History for the big Lizard show. We were six adults and four kids, and I saw her hesitate when she saw the suggested ticket prices of ten dollars for adults and six bucks for children. I pointed to the “suggested” word, and explained that she could pay what she could afford, which she did.

    The next day, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my friend Sheila. Again, the admission fee was optional, but we chose to pay the full price because there were only two of us, and we wanted to support the institution. I’m not always as cheap as you might think.
    .-= Bargain Junkie´s last blog ..FRUGAL MOTHER OF THE GROOM =-.

  6. “How do you save money at museums or zoos?” I have this friend named Kacie…oh, hi! Thanks again, Kacie. I’m sad I didn’t get a picture of Roanin and Johnny together in the “Silver Cloud” room. We’ll just have to go back!

  7. In Seattle, you can add an aquarium membership to the zoo one for a discount, so we’ve gotten the combined family membership for this winter. The aquarium has indoor space, so it works even on cold and rainy days (Seattle, you see), and we feel like we can bring our 2-year-old there for just an hour or two as we want to instead of seeing the whole thing each time. We end up saving money as soon as we go more than twice in a year to each.
    .-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last blog ..Navel gazing =-.

  1. 2 Trackback(s)

  2. Sense to Save » Blog Archive » Share expenses with a friend!
  3. Sense to Save » Blog Archive » Getting the most out of our zoo and park memberships

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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