Thursday, May 30, 2013

Saving Money By Becoming a Zoo or Museum Member

Does Becoming a Member Make Sense (or save cents)?

Or should I call this "The Peacock Post"?

I think I just bought a family membership to the zoo because I love peacocks. I've always loved them. How can you not? I mean, look at those colors! It doesn't get much more beautiful than that. I brought my good camera to the zoo this time, and 90% of the photos I came back with were of the peacocks. I mean, I like my kids and all, but today, the peacocks beat them out for lens time. 

They just wander around the grounds at The Beardsley Zoo, posing perfectly for photographs (and that's something my kids won't do without some pleading).

But that's not what this post is about. It's about whether or not zoo or museum (or other entity) membership options are worth it for your family. It wasn't something I'd considered until I went to the zoo with a friend who has 4 kids and she was renewed their family membership. So today, before I brought the kids to the zoo (always looking for good activities since school is done!), I thought I'd really think about becoming members. 

For The Beardsley Zoo in CT (Connecticut's only zoo), a family membership is $100. Regular price admission for adults is $12 and kids over 2 is $10. So at the regular price, for my family to go, it's $44; for just me to go with the kids, it's $32. That means at regular prices, we would need to go to the zoo about 3 times to make it worth it. But, being the deal-seeker that I am, I found a Beardsley Zoo coupon for a free kids ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket (good thru 2013). With that new information (e.g. coupon), one trip in 2013 would cost $34 for my family or $22 for just the kids and me. That means I have to go about 4 times (with just the kids) to make it worth it (chances are we'd go at least once as a whole family).

With the $100 family membership (includes 6 kids and 2 adults in a single family), you also get 2 "Bring a Friend" passes, 2 Carousel Rides, $2 in Zoobucks and membership benefits to over 150 other zoos and aquariums around the country (here's a list of all the members; most entrance fees are free-some are just discounted). It's great to have the option to bring someone else along on two trips, and the free carousel rides (worth a total of $4) are a big hit with the kids (and a nice break from the sun if you're there on hot day like today). Also, this zoo is open all year round (except for a couple holidays), so we can even visit the peacocks (and the tigers and linx and all that, too) in the winter!

For us, a membership made sense. It's close enough that we will definitely visit more than 4 times a year (but I will definitely keep count just to be sure), and since we have the membership, I'm sure it will serve as a destination for many of those last-minute "what should we do today?" moments. Plus, we won't feel like we have to stretch out the visit to get our money's worth; we can even pop over for an hour or two just to take up some time.... Oh, and my kids love it there, too (I think that's the most important piece of the puzzle)!

I'm happy we made this choice, and next I'm going to consider a Maritime Aquarium membership. It's a little more expensive ($150/year), but the "3 times a charm" family rule works here, too. And you can go to the aquarium on a rainy day, in any season. I haven't been able to find any single-day coupons for this aquarium, though. Anyone have a source?

These kinds of memberships would also make great gifts! Can't decide what to get your grandkids or nieces or nephews? If it's in your price range, I'm sure their parents would appreciate a family membership!

Maybe it was the peacocks that got to me today, but I really think it was the savings. So my message here: check out membership options at the facilities around you, because if you swing the initial one-time payment, it's really nice to have some good, fall-back kids activities that you've already paid for. I always find it challenging to balance good, educational kids activities on a budget, but this one really made sense to me... and I do love peacocks.

As an added bonus, your membership fee is tax deductible. Just don't forget to save the receipt!

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