How are we able to visit over 2,000 Zoos, Aquariums, Science Centers, Museums, and Historic Sites for little to no cost? I have always been an ROI type of person. I also have also done research and ran the numbers before going anywhere. So it goes without reason that I would research the adventures on a budget.
It started out when we were in Newport, NC, visiting the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium. For our family to visit one time was going to cost us $48 just for one visit. I did a little research on the Aquarium and found their Family membership package costed $89. We knew we would probably want to go back at least once so this was a no brainer. In just two visits to the aquarium, we were already ahead of $7. But we didn’t stop there. We actually visited this Aquarium 3 times while in Newport, NC. This would have costed us $144. So far with just the aquarium we have saved $55. We actually visited this Aquarium 3 times while in Newport, NC. Some of these are 100% free admission while others are 50% discounted admission. You can view and download the full list here (North Carolina Aquarium Reciprocal List).
After leaving Newport, North Carolina, I started more research for things to do on our way towards VA. I knew we wanted to visit the Children’s Museum in Portsmouth, VA. Once again we would probably want to go back at least once, because let’s get real, You can’t truly experience everything with three kids while trying to World School. We like to go through places slow and read all of the interesting facts to teach our kids about the world we live in. So one day admission to the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth was going to cost our family $42. In a 2 day visit we would spend $84 just on the Children’s Museum. So it was time to see what kind of membership packages they had. After research I found that they have a family package called the Stargazer. This provides admission for up to six people for a year. Cost of the membership is $130. So the remainder of the membership cost is now only $46. With this membership we have access to the ACM (Association of Children’s Museums), ASTC Reciprocal Program (Association of Science and Technology Centers) and the NARM (North American Reciprocal Museums). Between the 3 of these Reciprocal Programs, we have access to 400 Children’s Museums at 50% off, over 600 Science and Technology Centers with Free Admission, and over 1,000 arts, cultural and historical institutions along with botanical gardens, children’s museums, science and technology centers.
During the time we were in Portsmouth we also visited the Nauticus and USS Wisconsin Battleship twice. Each day would have costed us $48 for the family totalling $96 for the 2 days. After visiting the Nauticus and the Children’s Museum we decided to visit the Courthouse Art Gallery and the Lightship of Portsmouth. The Lightship works off of donations and the Courthouse Art Gallery would have costed us $12. Each was free with our membership. Our 5 days in Portsmouth we would have spent a total of $192. We have already saved $62 by purchasing the Stargazer Package.
Some programs come with restrictions, though. The ASTC will not work for reciprocal museums within 90 miles of the home museum or your residence. As with everything else I advise everyone to research before buying memberships to make sure it is the right choice for them. If you are really wanting to hit the road saving money and having fun I would suggest a minimum of these 2 venues to buy a membership from. Each of the memberships are available to be purchased and renewed online. Use the links below to purchase the memberships and get started on your way to Adventures on a Budget.
The $89 annual Family Membership to North Carolina Aquariums.
The $130 Stargazer membership to Children’s Musuem in Virginia.