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Save Money on Travel with City Pass and Memberships

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Family travel and sightseeing can get quite expensive. Luckily, no matter what city you’re going to or attraction you’re seeing, discounts exist that can save families time and money. City Pass (and similar passes) and memberships to zoos, museums and other organizations are some of our favorite ways to save money on travel.

City Pass

Many cities around the world offer sightseeing tourist cards or city passes. Depending on your itinerary, these can be major cost savers and usually pay for themselves. These passes are available for one to seven days and cover many popular attractions, tours and museums for a flat rate price. Some additional perks include coupons and guidebooks. Check with the local Tourism Bureau to see what’s offered in the city that you’re visiting.

San Diego City Skyline

Check out San Diego with a Go San Diego card.

Passes are also convenient and time savers. Many attractions usually have separate entrances for pass holders bypassing the lines to enter or buy tickets. We’ve used many of these passes around the world. We were in Bavaria, Germany recently and used the Bayern pass which was a 14-day pass to 40 attractions around the area including many castles and palaces.

We usually make a spreadsheet with a list of attractions we want to see and compare the prices with buying individual tickets versus getting the city pass. Sometimes, we don’t get the passes because we can’t cover too many attractions in the time allotted.

More Ways to Save Money on Travel

National Parks

If you’re planning to see many of the nearly 400 national parks, monuments or historic sites across the United States, definitely look into the America the Beautiful Pass. This pass costs $80 per car for a whole year. Park admission prices range from $5 to $25 per 7-day visit. We love this pass and it actually motivates us to explore more national parks.

Yosemite National Park with kids

Yosemite National Park.

Museums and Zoos

Going on a road trip soon? Museum Reciprocal programs are great values for traveling families. If you have an annual pass/membership at your local museum, you can go to other participating museums across the country for free or at discounted rates. Discounts may also apply at gift shops and special exhibits or concerts. Call the museums you’re visiting ahead or check their websites for any restrictions and always have your card with you. Some of our favorites include:

Zebras at The Living Desert in Palm Springs, California.

Zebras at The Living Desert in Palm Springs, California, which is part of a Reciprocal Zoo Program.

  • Association of Science and Technology Passport Program. Join your local science museum and get free general admission to over 300 centers in over 12 countries. You must live 90 miles from the nearest museum you visit.
  • American Horticultural Society. Botanical Gardens are a great place for kids to be immersed in nature. Your hometown garden membership allows you free or discounted admission to almost 300 gardens across the United States and Canada.

Be sure to store the passes in a safe place since some are irreplaceable. Read the fine print, do your homework and search for these passes during your travels. See how much you’ll save!

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Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…

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