Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Join the Zoo or Museum or Aquarium: The Benefits of Membership

We joined the Mystic Aquarium on our roadtrip stop in Mystic, Connecticut.  Not that I plan on visiting again anytime soon, I can pretty much guarantee that we won't return in the next year since we live about 6 hours away. But the Membership rate ($189) was actually a slight savings over admission for 6.  This is also the math that has lead me to join the Baltimore Aquarium and the Baltimore Science Center.  It does not really explain why I'm a member of the National Zoo, which is free to the public (although there is a parking fee, which is discounted - used to be free- for members.)
Membership versus admission ticket? Here's a few thing to think about when standing in the line of your favorite family attraction or even a place you may never get back to in the near future.
Compare the Membership rate to the total of the per person admission. Don't forget the extras your family may want to do - the IMAX movie, the 4d theatre, the dolphin show. Are they included in Membership versus an additional fee with admission?
Is membership less than the cost of two visits? If it's a place you'd come back to in the next year, or could, membership may be a better option, even if it's a bit more than a 1-visit cost.  I also found with a membership at the local aquarium for instance, I feel less stressed  to make sure we saw every last fish, because we could always come back.
What reciprocal  agreements does the facility have?  The National Zoo, for example, has agreements with other zoos and aquariums so that members can get into those places free or for a discount. So while the Zoo is free, we save money visiting other zoos.  The list of reciprical locations are usually available on a site's website or at the membership information booth.
What other benefits do members get that you would enjoy? Early admission, special events, magazines or newsletters, free snacks? Again, compare those that you can enjoy that day, if it's somewhere you're visiting out of town, and the long-term benefits.  
Do you generally support the work or mission of the facility? Aside from the financial benefit, you may just really like the purpose, the research, the services of the site. The conservation work of the zoo, the rescue work of the aquarium, the historical preservation done by the museum, etc. This non-monetary reason is just as good as any other.
Any places that have great membership programs? Feel free to share in the comments. 
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