ASTC Passport Program: Get Free Admission to Museums & Science Centers Across the Country & Beyond

It's no secret that buying a family membership to one of NYC's kid-friendly museums can be a real money saver, especially if it's your go-to bad weather play spot. (My child has spent many a rainy day romping around the Hall of Gems at the American Museum of Natural History, just like I did when I was her age.) But some museum memberships come with more than just free admission to the one institution—they also get you access to other culture spots at no additional cost.

While recently researching our post on ways to save on the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, we were reminded of one of the best bargains like this for families: the Association of Science-Technology Centers' Passport Program, which potentially gets you free admission to hundreds of museums around the world. However, as with any good deal, there's some fine print. We've got the scoop on the rules and restrictions for the ASTC Passport Program to help you decide whether it's worth it for your family. All you need to do is a little math.

If you buy a family membership at a participating museum or science center, the ASTC Passport Program gives you free general admission to more than 300 other institutions in over a dozen countries. The list of participating New York City museums is impressive: the New York Hall of Science, the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the New York Transit Museum, the National Museum of Mathematics, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Staten Island Children's Museum (plus the nearby Hudson River Museum in Yonkers and the Long Island Children's Museum). Family membership fees vary by institution.

But there are two catches:

1. Science centers and museums located within 90 miles of each other are excluded from the program unless that exclusion is lifted by mutual agreement. So when buying a family membership at a participating institution, make sure you ask whether it has reciprocal arrangements with other local culture spots. One of our readers told us that she has used her family's New York Hall of Science membership to visit the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the New York Transit Museum, the Long Island Children's Museum and others at no cost.

2. Additionally, you need to live more than 90 miles away from the institution you want to visit (aside from the one where you bought the membership and any local museums with reciprocal agreements).

Yes, those are potentially big caveats. So is it worth buying a family membership to a participating museum just to get the ASTC Passport Program benefits? That depends on you, and here's where that pesky math comes in. If there's a local participating museum that you visit multiple times a year, check the membership packages like we did in this post. Usually a membership saves you money if you visit four or five times annually, and then the ASTC Passport Program is a nice added value that may even get you into other local museums. (You'll have to check with the museum where you buy your membership as ASTC doesn't have that info on its website.) Also, if you frequently travel to a specific destination more than 90 miles away, check to see if any institutions in the area participate in the program. You can find a list of all the participating institutions worldwide on the ASTC website and even search by country, state or name.

Find out about other great family culture deals in our Museum Guide.

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