When we travel, we love to take advantage of educational stops along the way. Sometimes these stops are planned. Other times they are spontaneous. Often we like to find educational adventures in our local area, and other times we travel out-of-state.
Many nationwide associations sell reciprocal passes. Often, buying individual/family passes to one location will get you into many other locations around the country for free or at very discounted rates. We’ve purchased passes like these just because we knew we were going to be doing a lot of traveling and wanted to get access to a variety of educational adventures.
When you are planning to travel, consider buying one or more reciprocal passes.
1. Association of Science-Technology Centers
If your kids love the sciences, then you should definitely buy a membership to the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC). There are nearly 600 science centers, zoos, planetariums, aquariums, botanical gardens, natural history museums, and children’s museums associated with ASTC. Passes are good for general admission to these locations.
Here are the rules: If you buy a pass at your local reciprocal museum, that pass is only good for that specific museum or any other participating museum over 90 miles from the museum and 90 miles from your residence (miles are measured “as the crow flies”). This makes it a perfect pass if you plan on traveling, but not good if you want access to multiple museums in your area.
Buy these reciprocal passes at your local ASTC participating institution.
2. North American Reciprocal Museum Association
Do you want to expose your kids to more art? The North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association is one of the largest reciprocal membership programs in the world. When you have a pass to a museum associated with NARM, you get free access to 675 arts and cultural institutions across North American during their regular museum hours. Your family will also get discounts at museum shops.
Buy these reciprocal passes at your local NARM participating museum.
3. Associations of Zoos and Aquariums
If your kids love animals, getting a pass to a local zoo or aquarium is a must. Make sure it participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This gets you access to over 150 zoo & aquarium locations in North America.
Here are the rules: Some zoo memberships give you more access than others. Some are listed as “100% and 50%” zoos: this means if you buy your pass there, you get free admission to other zoos with the same designation and 50% off all other zoos. Some other zoos are listed as “50%” zoos: this means if you buy your pass there, you get free admission only to that zoo, but 50% everywhere else. In other words, to get more bang for your buck, find a zoo that is labeled “100% and 50%” on their list. (I might also add, we shopped around and found the zoo with the cheapest passes in a drivable distance. For less than $60 we got our whole family into no less than 8 zoos that year, some of which we went to multiple times.)
4. U.S. National Park Service
If you love the great outdoors, then consider buying passes through the National Park Service. This gets you access to about 450 national parks and national wildlife refuges, covering entrance and standard amenity fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle. Children age 15 or under are admitted free and do not need a pass of their own. Buy a pass at a federal recreation cite (see their list of cites where passes are issued).
Have you purchased any passes that were a great value for your family? Which ones would you recommend?