How to Visit over 350 Museums for Free

One of the main parts of planning a trip when you’re travelling with kids is to find family-friendly activities.

Some of the best options I’ve found are museums where kids, youth, and adults can have fun and explore a variety of hands-on exhibits.

The only problem is that some places like that can tend to be pretty pricey, and with a family of even moderate size, that can add up, especially if you’re running on a tighter budget.

For example, last weekend my family visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

The cost per adult is $21.95 and for kids between ages three and eleven, it’s $12.95.

So for a family of four, that would usually cost nearly $70.00 for a single trip (depending on the age of your kids).

However, my family went there without having to drop a single dime on admission.

How’d we do it?

Well, let me tell you a little secret called the ASTC Travel Passport Program.

Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh

The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) has over 350 participating museums—in the United States and 14 other countries around the world—and if you have a membership to any one of them, you get into all of them without having to pay general admission.

Okay, okay—yes, you do have to pay the initial membership fee for whichever ASTC museum you decide to join, so that part isn’t free. But in most cases, that fee quickly pays for itself, making it totally worth it.

Terre Haute Children’s Museum

For example, our membership at our local museum only costs us $75/year (some memberships at other museums might cost more), so between how often we go there and all the other museums we’ve gone to, it has absolutely paid for itself and been totally worth it.

You can find a list of the participating museums at the ASTC website to locate which museum is closest to you, and to find out if there are any in your next family vacation destination.

Note: I am not officially affiliated with ASTC or any of its participants and do not get any kind of commission if you choose to purchase a membership at any of the locations listed.

So do I really care if you purchase a membership or not? Nope! Not one bit. But am I just a nice human being who likes to share awesome resources with others who want to travel with kids because this is an amazing opportunity you’d be a fool to pass up? Well, I’ll let you decide. 😉

When’s the Best Time to Start Planning a Trip?

So we just celebrated New Year’s and are now our first few weeks into the new year.

ball-cheers-crowd-59884

How many of you set a New Year’s resolution to travel more this year? Or perhaps to take that one big trip you’ve been dreaming of for the past decade?

Well, first of all, if you didn’t set such a goal, you totally should.

And second of all, for those of you who did make some travel goals for this year, you might be wondering when you should start planning your trip(s).

Well, here’s the answer: the sooner the better!

Well, kind of.

Planning early is important because the earlier you start, the more likely you are to get cheaper prices, because costs typically are higher the closer you are to your travel date.

Like one of our readers, Mary, commented, “What I usually do is to try to book as much in advance as possible, in order to get cheaper rates.”

So from our experience and hers, it’s definitely a good idea to start planning early.

But at the same time, planning too far in advance sometimes isn’t possible, because many airlines and accomodations allow people to make reservations only so far in advance.

For example, if you look at Google Flights in the middle of January, it only lets you book into the beginning of December—so only about eleven months in advance.

Similar patterns occur across other reservation platforms as well.

So the best time to start booking a trip seems to be about a year in advance.

ballpen-calendar-close-up-1558691

Of course, you can always start researching and planning more generally much earlier than that.

Another Option

But what if you didn’t start planning a year in advance but you’ve set that New Year goal to take a trip sometime earlier this year?

Well, another great (and perhaps more realistic) option is to start planning all your trips for the year right now—at the beginning of the year in January.

That’s because one of the most important things you can do to make sure you actually accomplish that goal is to plan for it in your budget.

And like we’ve said before, having a yearly budget is an extremely helpful step into making travel a reality in your life.

One of the biggest things that holds many people back from traveling is not having the funds required to take the trips they want.

But if you plan and carve out a certain amount of your income in advance, you should be able to save up for some traveling in the upcoming year.

banking-cash-deposit-1602726

And if you can’t afford to pay for the trips just now, you can at least start looking ahead and planning so that you know approximately how much money you’ll need to set aside each month to have enough to pay for your trip when the time comes.

And that way, if you have your trip(s) planned out at the beginning of the year, everything is in place and ready to go, so you’re not scrambling or coming up short at the last minute.

We’re actually in the process of planning three (maybe four) trips for this year right now. It feels SO good to find flights as cheap as $187 round-trip from LA to Orlando and hotels 30% cheaper than they usually are.

Planning trips early right now makes it possible for us to take them, when we’d never be able to afford them otherwise.

So go for it—jump in right now and start booking your trip(s) for the year, or at least start planning and saving for them.

Who says you can’t accomplish your New Year’s resolutions? 😉

Should I Set up a Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly Budget?

To travel on a budget, first you have to have a budget.

When I was in college, I took a family finance class.

The class was awesome and the professor was great, but a little old-school.

For example, he recommended having a printed copy of your budget on the fridge and updating it by pencil with each transaction so that you have a regular visual of where your spending is at.

back-view-fashion-fridge-1458687.jpg

I get the logic behind that, and maybe that works for some people, but it didn’t for me. I much prefer doing my budget digitally (but that’s another post altogether).

Not One-Size-Fits-All

Another method he recommended that didn’t work for me was this: making your budget a monthly budget.

I tried that, but here was the problem:

At the time, we got paid every other week.

Plus, with our paid-by-the-hour student jobs, our income wasn’t perfectly consistent from one paycheck to the next.

So when I tried planning a monthly budget, I was really just having to guess how much we’d be making for that whole month.

ask-blackboard-356079

But too often my projections for how much we’d earn and would be able to spend didn’t match up with reality, so the budget basically became useless.

So here’s what we learned and recommend:

Base Your Budget Style On Your Pay Schedule

If you get paid weekly, make a weekly budget; if you get paid monthly, use a monthly budget.

It makes so much more sense to budget with the money you actually know you have, instead of just randomly guessing how much you might have for the whole month.

accounting-blur-business-1028726.jpg

Then look ahead at what you have going on within that time period—bills due, baby showers to attend, birthday gifts to buy—and budget accordingly.

I have found budgeting this way to be so much more effective and useful.

What about a Yearly Budget?

If you do have a predictable budget, I think it’s wise to plan a yearly budget as well.

A yearly budget better allows you to prepare and save for expenses down the road—and I mean that both metaphorically and literally. Because, hopefully, having a yearly budget will help you better be able to save up to travel.

asphalt-clouds-fields-56832

Why?

Well, it helps you keep the big picture in mind.

If you use only a budget for each pay period instead of for the whole year, it’s easier to say,

“Hey look! I’ve got a little extra money here after budgeting the rest to bills and all the necessities! Woohoo! I’m going to stop and grab some fast food!”

Or rent a movie. Or buy some trinket. Or whatever else you don’t really need—instead of putting it towards traveling.

99258468-portrait-of-a-happy-young-man-in-sunglasses-throwing-money-banknotes-at-camera-isolated-over-white-b

But when you’re keeping the goal of your trip(s) in mind with a yearly budget, you will remember to set aside the amount you need to allot each pay period in order to reach your goal and the cost of your trip(s).

Patience Is a Virtue

If you’re just first getting started with this Fernweh lifestyle, it might take some time and patience before you can save up enough for your trip goal.

That especially depends on how big your income is compared to how big your trip goal is.

Maybe you won’t be able to save enough this year (though you very well could!), but I bet if you budget and save diligently this year, you could totally go into next year’s yearly budget with plenty of confidence and moolah to plan and take that trip.

3 Steps to Making Travel a Priority

We’ve had so many people ask us recently how we manage to have the time and means to travel as much as we do.

Well, here’s our first tip: make travel a passion and a priority in your life.

You might say you really wish to travel, but do you actually set it as a priority?

Or are there other things that take higher spots on the shelf? How badly do you really want it?

Because when it comes down to it, you have to decide if you really do want travel as a priority in your life, or if there really are just other things that you’d rather do instead.

But if you really do want it badly enough, you can make it happen.

Perhaps that sounds like a “Well, duh; but then what?” answer; or maybe you’re thinking, “Psh, yeah right. That’s easier said than done.”

Well, here are three steps to help transform your intangible travel dreams into a realistic passion, hobby, and lifestyle.

1. Make a list of what’s holding you back

If you feel like you’re not traveling as much as you wish you could, take a few minutes and write down the main things you think are holding you back.

Is it money? Time? Not knowing where to start? Or what?

2. Be willing to sacrifice

Anything that’s really worth it usually takes some sacrifice in one form or another.

So after listing what you think is preventing you from traveling, think about what it might take to overcome that obstacle—and what you might need to give up to make it happen.

For example, if money is the challenge, look at where you’re spending and if there’s anywhere you could cut back so that you could put that money towards saving for a trip instead.

3. Take action!

shia-labeouf

In the infamous words of both Nike and  Shia Labeouf, “Just do it!” Set a goal of where or when you want to travel next, and write it down! As they say, a goal not written down is merely a wish.

And what better time to set a goal than now at the beginning of the new year?

Then set smaller goals that will help you get to that main goal—goals like, “I’m only going to eat fast food once this month and put the rest that I’d usually spend towards travel.”

The Beginning

This was just a simple introduction to some basic steps you can implement to get you started on the path to having a traveling, Fernweh lifestyle.

We’ll focus in and go into greater detail for some of these steps later.

But for now, we just wanted to give you a place to get started.

To give us an idea of how to better help you with future posts, write in the comments what your answers are to step #1. What are the main things holding you back from traveling? Or you already make travel a priority, what changes have you made in your life to make that a reality?