Reciprocal Memberships: Get the most bang for your travel buck

Posted: January 12th, 2016 at 9:52 pm

memberPerhaps one of the best-kept secrets is the reciprocal membership. Museums, zoos, historical landmarks and even the U.S. National Park Service are getting in on the game. Here’s how it works: Join a museum, zoo, etc. at one location and you’ll receive either free or discounted admission (and other perks) at others across the North America.

Be a thrifty traveler and research before you leave home. Plan where you want to go, look at the websites and check out the list of reciprocal sites to make sure who participates in the program. Always call ahead to confirm you have the right information.

How can you know if becoming a member is worth your money? How many times will you use the membership in the coming year? Are you going to see Grandma and Grandpa? Days off from work or school? Spring break and summer vacation? Do the math and see what your savings would be.

Note “The Fine Print,” especially that some memberships have exclusions associated with them, such as they cannot be used within 90 miles of the center or museum where you are a member. To be able to use your membership in your hometown, become a member in a city away from home.

To get you started, here’s a list of associations offering reciprocal memberships:

Association of Children’s Museums (ACM)

Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC)
Science centers, museums, nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, and natural history and children’s museums.

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)

The North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association
800 member institutions from Anthropology to Military to Transportation and more.

National Park Annual Pass
Entrance for a carload to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites; $80. Free pass for fourth graders and their educators, U.S. citizens and residents with permanent disabilities and volunteers (see details). $10 lifetime pass for U.S. citizens and residents 62 and older.

What other reciprocal memberships have you found? Please share them in the comments section below.

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