Sunday, May 30, 2010

Frugal Summer Fun- Memberships.

One of the best ways to have a frugal summer (and even a frugal year) is to choose a place to purchase a membership to. Aside from a yearly pass to a State Park, you may want to check out the attractions in your area to see if they have a membership option. Many times these memberships include free parking and discounts to the food and gift shops which can add even more value. They may also have many things to do year-round that could be fun for the family rather than just for the summer. For example last year my family got a membership to the Indianapolis Zoo. Our family was able to go to the Zoo more than a few times, a local Mom's group had a playdate there, and we were also able go to the holiday events for Halloween and Christmas. It was pretty amazing to have my kids be able to Trick or Treat in costume next to a Giraffe and write a letter to Santa after seeing a Polar Bear, and even more amazing when I realized that by that time we were going for free.

Aside from membership levels, there are also other promotions that many local attractions have that may not be as well-known. Look at the websites of the places you plan to go to before buying memberships or planning trips, you may find a way for your family to go that is even cheaper. If you would only go once in a year, then it would not be worth a membership, but if having one would ensure that you used it more then it could be.

Here is information about memberships and other details from some of the attractions in Indiana:

- Indianapolis Zoo: The regular admission to the Zoo is $14.50 for Adults and $9.50 for Children 2-12 and Seniors 62+. This means my family of 4 would have to pay $48 to get in, not counting the $6 it costs to park! That would be a lot of money to touch the Sharks and would ensure that we would not go more than once in a year. However, the Zoo offers Membership Perks and you can choose the Level that suits your family's needs. For my family, paying $109 for a Family Basic Membership is just $1 more than going twice. If you do not plan on going more than one time, check into the other discounts available including Military, AAA and AZA memberships.
- The Children's Museum of Indianapolis: This museum is by far one of the best I have been to and has a variety of attractions as well as some that are only featured for a short time. This is a museum that your kids can run and play in as well as learn from the many hands-on exhibits. Admission for Adults is $15.50, for Children (2-17) it is $10.50 and for Seniors (60+) it is $14.50. Parking is free, but my family would still pay $52 to go one time. The museum offers Membership Perks and different Levels based on your family's needs. For my family a membership would be $120, but would make the third visit 50% off and any visit after that free. Aside from the Membership Levels, this museum has more options for those on a budget. It is one of the participating locations for Target Free Family Nights, so admission is free from 4pm-8pm on the first Thursday of the month. They also have other completely Free Days listed on their admissions page so you can check out the museum before committing to anything. If you are on State Assistance, there is another program the Museum participates in called the Access Pass. This allows those receiving assistance to visit the Museum for only $1 per ticket for the whole family. This pass will also have reduced admission for Conner Prairie, Indiana Historical Society, Eiteljorg Museum, and the NCAA Hall of Champions.
- Terre Haute Children's Museum: This is a much smaller facility than the other options listed, but it under construction to become a bigger museum. The prices for Admission are much smaller, Adults are only $4.00 while Seniors and Children 3-12 are only $3.00. My family would only spend $14.00 to get in to the museum, making this a more inexpensive option though it would not be a day's worth of entertainment. Yearly Memberships are also available for $60.00, which may seem steep for a smaller Museum, but this location participates in the ASTC Passport Program, which can grant free admission to participating museums that are located more than 90 miles from the museum that you are a member of. You can check the list of participation locations and use it to plan a family vacation. If you find out you may be close to a participating location, call and verify that your family will have free admission and add it to your itinerary. Other participating locations in Indiana include: Evansville Museum, Imagination Station, Indiana State Museum, Minnetrista, Muncie Children's Museum, Science Central, and WonderLab. Be sure to call before making a trip out to any museum, even if it is listed as a participating location- and don't forget to bring your card!

I know there have to be many more options to choose from in Indiana alone- and wherever you may be located. Look around your area and see what your family likes to do and find out if a membership will help you do that even cheaper. Share your finds in the comments and I can update this post with what you find!

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