Early in our full-time travel journey our sister-in-law recommended checking into the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) – we are so glad we did! This association represents science centers, museums and related institutions across the country.
When you have a membership to a participating museum in the ASTC program you qualify for the Travel Passport Program – allowing you FREE admission to participating ASTC museums across the country!
Only a month or so into our travels we picked up an annual membership for the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana while traveling through. The annual membership cost our family of four was $85 (although we would have spend $48 in admission fees during our first visit, so our extra out of pocket was only $37).
Since then, we have used our Museum of the Rockies membership to get FREE admission for our family to science museums, children’s museums, zoos, natural history museums and many other institutions all across the country!
We have conservatively calculated that we have already saved about $317 in admission fees (that’s factoring in the initial $85 investment in the membership). And more importantly it’s provided us the opportunity to learn at these amazing institutions all across the country.
There are the museums we can recall visiting so far on our travels and how much we would have spent in admission costs without the passes.
- Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, Montana), spent $85 on annual membership. Admission would have been $48 for our family
- Kirby Science Discovery Center (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) saved $18
- Science Museum of Minnesota (St. Paul, Minnesota), saved $46
- Lake Superior Zoo (Duluth, Minnesota), saved $30
- Grand Rapids Public Museum (Grand Rapids, Michigan), saved $22
- Museum of Science (Boston, Massachusetts) saved $86
- Museum of Life and Science (Durham, North Carolina), saved $54
- Imaginarium Science Center (Fort Meyers, Florida), saved $40
- Florida Museum of Natural History (Gainesville, Florida), saved $22
- Thinkery Children’s Museum (Austin, Texas), saved $36
There have been dozens of other museums along the road and near our travels – but we don’t obviously go to all of them. We decide based on scheduling, reviews and our personal interests.
*NOTE!* The most important detail is the membership cannot be used at science center and museums WITHIN 90 miles of the science center or museum where you are a member OR of your residence. If you stay stationary this might not be a very helpful program for you – but if you’re traveling outside of those 90 miles regularly than you would get the maximum usage of it.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when using the ASTC Travel Passport Program for FREE admission in a participating institution:
- Confirm that the institution you want to visit is actively participating in the ASTC Travel Passport Program. They could be an ASTC member but not participate in the program.
- Have your home membership card and ID with you when you check-in
- Sometimes special features or exhibits are NOT covered by your FREE admission and could require an admission cost at check-in. You can call ahead to see what’s included and what isn’t.
Also one thing to consider – if you are a full-time traveling family and you cover a lot of ground . . . it doesn’t matter so much what your home membership is through (as long as you plan to be outside of the 90-mile radius as mentioned above). For example, if you’re from the Seattle area originally but plan to take off on a cross-country trip, price out the various ASTC memberships in the Seattle area and get a membership to the museum with the best bargain! No matter how much your initial annual membership cost, the program still applies nationwide for you.
And another side note – if we really like a museum or an institution’s purpose we try to make a point of checking out the gift shop and making a purchase to support them. We are so grateful for this membership and want the institutions to find value in participating. We especially like to pick up reader-level books that are relevant to the things we learned at that particular museum or area. And sometimes your membership card gets you a 10% off discount in the gift shop!
We’ve found the Travel Passport Program has been a great supplement to our homeschooling curriculum and the Junior Ranger program found in the parks system.
Do you participate in the Travel Passport Program? Do you have favorite museums, children’s museums, zoos or other ASTC institutions that you have visited and would recommend? Leave a comment and let us know!