Dear Boston Mamas: Shared Museum Memberships

boston-childrens-museum.jpgToday's Dear Boston Mamas question comes from Anne via e-mail:

Hi Christine, My friend and I split a "plus one" membership to our local zoo. The zoo pass lists my name and my friend's, "plus one." It is a family pass, which in this case seems to include whatever little kiddos we have with us. Our zoo allows anyone (the plus one) to enter with the pass, even if my friend and I aren't there, so that a babysitter, or my husband, can bring my daughter. An employee at the zoo gave us the idea. I'm wondering if you know how it works with a Boston Children's Museum membership. They have great reciprocal agreements with other fun venues, so I'm thinking if several moms or families can go in on membership, it would be worth it, even for those of us who wouldn't be using it very often.

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Dear Anne,

Great question! I made some phone calls yesterday to clarify membership terms regarding your "plus one" question for the Boston Children's Museum as well as for a few other major local attractions in Boston. Here's what I learned:

Boston Children's Museum

The Boston Children's Museum offers two membership plans -- the regular family membership ($125) admits up to 6 people, and the primary cardholder must be present for use. The plus membership ($250) is the same as the regular family membership but also offers 2 one-day guest passes that admit 6 people. So, this museum doesn't allow for membership sharing exactly in the way you envision, though for the higher level membership, a "plus one" could use the guest passes. As you pointed out, the BCM has great partnerships with other museums (membership includes free admission to hundreds of science and children's museums across the country), so I'd say that if you foresee your family going to the museum a few times a year, and you also like visiting museums when you travel with your kids, even the basic family membership would pay off compared to paying regular admission ($12 for adults; $9 for kids ages 1-15) per visit.

New England Aquarium

If you don't take the T, between admission, parking, and (inevitable) snacks, a visit to the New England Aquarium can get pretty spendy (admission is ~$21 for adults and ~$13 for kids). So even if you just visit a couple times a year with friends or family or guests from out of town, a membership (plans start at $75) would pay off (added bonus: you can avoid long lines, as friends of ours discovered). When I called the aquarium, they clarified that no membership sharing is permitted; the named cardholder must be present.

Museum of Science

I didn't need to call the Museum of Science because they are very clear about their policies in their membership FAQ. Memberships start at $75 and, like the aquarium, are worth considering given that admission to the exhibit halls alone are $20 for adults and $17 for kids. Adults living at separate addresses cannot be named on a single membership. So, you can't share your membership card with a friend or relative; one of the members named on the card must be present. However, you can give a friend one of the guest passes included in your membership to use in your absence.

Museum of Fine Arts

When I called the Museum of Fine Arts, the representative I spoke to said membership sharing was permitted, noting that this would work for memberships starting at the dual/family membership ($100) level. Only one physical address may be put on a membership, so the representative suggested putting the address for one parent on the membership, but then providing the e-mail address for the other parent so that both parties receive information from the museum. This is a great deal to consider given that membership sharing is permitted and regular adult admission is $20.

Zoo New England

I know you already have a zoo membership but I wanted to investigate this venue for other readers. My final call was to the Franklin Park Zoo. You can split a membership (and go separately or together) so long as the adults sharing the membership are named on the cards. For example, if a parent couple wants a zoo membership (i.e., both visit regularly) and also have another adult friend who wants to join in, they should opt for the Friend level membership ($110), which allows for 3 named adults (plus 4 kids + 2 guests). (Regular admission to Franklin Park Zoo is $14 for adults and $8 for kids ages 2-12. Regular admission to the Stone Zoo is $11 for adults and $7 for kids ages 2-12.)

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Ultimately, you'll need to do the math to see if a membership works for your family and "plus one" at a given location. In general, I would say that if the venue is one that you anticipate visiting more than a couple of times a year, a membership would be worth it. And perhaps for venues that don't allow membership sharing, you could work out a mutually beneficial arrangement with friends (e.g., they come as your guests and you all carpool together and they pick up the parking tab).

Finally, if you aren't ready to take the plunge on a membership and are looking for a deal on one-off visits, contact your local library to see if they offer discounted museum passes. We've used museum passes through our local library several times and it's a phenomenal bargain. The one downside is that sometimes you need to reserve well ahead of when you want the tickets, but it's worth a call.

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Image credit: Boston Children's Museum

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Have a question for Christine? Drop her a line! And of course feel free to comment in if you have recommendations beyond those made above.