Is It Worth the Membership to a New Museum?

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Stuck in the city on a summer weekend? No better time than to check out a museum. ...Even if the Arctic exhibit doesn't thrill you, we are betting that the Arctic air conditioning will! Now, you're thinking, one time entrance fees are so expensive, should I join as a member?

Here are some steps to help you answer the question: Is that membership worth it?

1. Calculate The Basics

Ask yourself these questions:

• How often are you likely to go?

• How many adults and kids usually go at any one time?

• Are any of the kids still young enough to get in for free?

• How much is one-off admission for each adult and child?

• Bottom line: How many times would you have to visit each place to make the membership fee pay off?

A basic membership at our local children’s museum is $85 for two adults and up to four kids. The museum charges full price admission ($7.50) for adults and kids older than one, so even if only one parent and one child goes, each visit would cost at least $15. That means we’d only have to go six times a year to make the membership worthwhile—and way fewer if we went as a family.

2. Calculate the Extras

Now, take a look at the extras that come with membership and the optional extras that cost a little more. For example:

• Do you get free parking?

Street parking near, say, New York’s Bronx Zoo is nearly impossible and the parking lot is expensive. As members, we avoid paying $13 for parking each time we go (in addition to free admission).

• Is there reciprocity with other institutions?

We can pay $50 extra at our local children’s museum for access to children's and science museums across the US and abroad. There are children’s museums in just about every reasonably-sized city in the US—and more importantly, two near grandma’s house. So, we get a lot mileage out of this extra, even if it seems pricy at the outset.

• Do you get guest passes?

Check to see whether this perk is reserved for “premium”  members.

• Can the babysitter or grandparents take the kids without you?

A lot of cultural institutions charge extra if you want your kids to go with a caregiver other than you. But, we paid an extra $30 per year so that our babysitter could take our daughter to the nearby zoo almost every week during the summer, making the extra fee totally worth it.

3. Calculate The Perks

Consider whether the institution has extras that might not have a clear-cut dollar value.

For example, membership fees often include things like:

• members-only hours.

• first crack at new exhibits.

• free admission to special events like summer concerts.

• A fabulously fun holiday party.

Whatever your decision, remember to enjoy your time in the museum—you're paying for it!

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