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Attractions for Less: Saving Money on your Family Vacation

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Museums, tours, zoos, aquariums, shows, haunted houses, insectariums, planetariums, pioneer villages, amusement parks, science centres…The choices are endless when it comes to fun activities for vacationing families. But admission costs can add up quickly when you’re paying for each family member, putting a hefty dent in your vacation budget. Luckily, there are ways of reducing these costs. 

1. Go to places with plenty of free attractions.

Some destinations, more than others, have an abundance of stellar attractions that cost absolutely nothing at all. A Washington D.C.  mom said she was so used to free museums that when on vacation, she once walked into one with her kids, completely forgetting to pay until she was stopped by security. All 19 of the renowned Smithsonian Institute’s Museums in Washington are free. This includes the National Zoo, where you can visit their most popular residents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the giant pandas. At the National Air and Space Museum, kids can see the actual plane Orville and Wilbur Wright flew in 1903 and compare it to the space rockets on display.- www.gosmithsonian.com 

2. Check into free days or times.

Top attractions often have days or at least times of day with free or reduced admission costs. For Madagascar fans, Wednesday is suggested donation day at the Bronx Zoo and on the other coast, in San Diego, several of the museums in Balboa Park offer free admission on varying Tuesdays of each month. Check websites to find similar deals. – www.museumfreedays.com

 3. Look at memberships.

Often museum and science centre memberships have reciprocal agreements that grant members free admission to affiliated attractions. So, for example, if you have a membership to the Ontario Science Centre, you can visit over 270 museums worldwide. In Chicago alone, there are six different sights you can enter free with your membership including the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Chicago Children’s Museum.

 4. Go Play outside.

Enjoying public parks and green spaces not only saves money, but also gives your families a break from the sometimes-hectic pace of having fun. So, if you’re in Toronto, visit Toronto Islands and High Park. In winter, skate at the Harbourfront and Nathan Phillips Square. In Boston, explore the Emerald Necklace, a 1,100-acre chain of nine parks. Find out where local families spend a day outdoors and follow their lead.

 5. Find Package Deals. 

City Passes are an example of  promotions that offer significant discounts when you purchase multiple attractions at one time. A book of tickets for the most popular attractions in 11 cities can save you up to half what you’d pay if you bought them at the gates. Toronto, New York,  Seattle and Atlanta are some of the cities that participate in this particular program. The Southern California pass includes a 3-Day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Bonus Ticket plus admission to Universal Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld, and the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park that works out to a savings of over a hundred dollars per person. Many of the city passes can be bought with air miles, which adds to the bargain factor. Other cities have their own pass systems that are well worth checking out.  www.citypass.com

On Ottawa’s tourism website,  you’ll find  packages that include tickets to the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian War Museum along with discounted accommodation. www.ottawatourism.ca

 6. Cut your coupons.

Don’t forget the old-fashioned coupon, which these days, you can also find on-line. Check the tourism website of your destination  as some boards have excellent discount programs like Orlando’s Magicard – www.orlandoinfo.com/magicard . But be wary of coupon websites, some  are scams that require you to buy a membership to be ‘eligible’ for a discount or require you to endure time-share presentation.

7. Finally, and most importantly…take it easy.

Remember, as tempting as all the activities are, you don’t have to do everything. Getting away from our busy schedules and creating memories together as a family is really what it’s all about and that can mean just hanging out at the hotel pool.

Get kids excited about your family’s travels at www.justkidstravel.com -A travel planning website for kids.