RVers can SAVE BIG with reciprocal memberships that give you free or discounted access to a network of museums, zoos, and more!
Have you heard of reciprocal memberships before? If not, get ready to learn how to save a lot of money while visiting more educational and cultural centers across the country.
So, stay tuned if you like to visit museums, aquariums, zoos, and science and technology centers during your RV travels.
In this article, I explain what reciprocal memberships are, how they save RVers money, and list the best ones for RVers.
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What Is a Reciprocal Membership?
A reciprocal membership program is a collaboration between cultural institutions that extends benefits to all members of participating institutions. So, if you have a reciprocal membership with, say, one museum, you’ll get benefits from all other museums in that network.
Benefits may include free or discounted admission, merchandise discounts, special newsletters, and other great deals.
Benefits of Reciprocal Membership for RVers
The biggest benefit of reciprocal memberships is getting to visit more museums, zoos, and science centers for less money! Buying one membership from a participating center (like at your local zoo, for example) gets you membership benefits at lots of places.
Buying a membership at a local institution means you can use it more often, both when you’re home and when you travel. However, you don’t have to purchase a membership locally. You can usually buy a membership to any participating institution to enjoy the network’s benefits.
There are more benefits as well. Let’s just list them all out:
- Save money by buying one membership to get member benefits at multiple participating locations
- Get access to more places as you travel for free or at a discount!
- Affordable and easy way to supplement your roadschool curriculum
- Be inspired to travel to more places based on where participating centers are located
By the way, using reciprocal memberships is one of 7 Ways to Find Cheap or Free Things To Do While RVing.
7 Best Reciprocal Membership Programs for RVers
There are some great reciprocal memberships for travelers. Deciding which one is best for you depends on your interests and where participating centers are located.
If you do most of your traveling on the East Coast, you don’t want to buy one with participant locations on the West Coast. Unless, of course, you want to expand your RV horizons!
*Just be sure to carefully read the reciprocal membership program rules and guidelines for each program. Different programs offer different benefits. Plus, different participants within the same program may offer different discounts and benefits.
1. Your Local Zoo, Aquarium, Museum, etc.
The best place to start your search is with your local organizations. You’ll get the most use out of programs that you have local access to. That way, you can use your membership when you’re at home as well as when you’re traveling.
Check with your local zoos, museums, aquariums, and any other cultural center to see if they are members of a reciprocal program. This information is often on the membership page on their website.
If you don’t have local options or their program doesn’t appeal to you, there are many more you can become a member of. You simply choose one place in their reciprocal program to become a member of; it usually doesn’t matter if you’re a local or not.
2. Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)
The AZA reciprocal membership program gives free or 50% off admission to participating zoos and aquariums. There are approximately 150 participating zoos and aquariums in more than 40 states. Plus, a few in Canada!
You can see a list of participating zoos and aquariums on their membership page.
3. Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC)
If you like anything STEM-related (Science, technology, engineering and math), this reciprocal membership is for you. The ASTC Passport Program is a network of around 200 participating science and technology centers and museums.
You can see the current list of participating centers on their ASTC Travel Passport Program page.
4. Association of Children’s Museums (ACM)
Attention RV families and roadschoolers! If you have young children or homeschool your kids from your RV, you’ll probably want to join the ACM Reciprocal Network.
This network includes 200 children’s museums across the country. The reciprocal program gives 50% off general admission for up to six people.
Learn more about the ACM Reciprocal Network and participant list.
5. North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM)
The NARM association consists of several hundred participating institutions. Most participating organizations are museums and galleries, but their network also includes botanical gardens, children’s museums, and zoos.
6. Time Travelers
History buffs, this one’s for you! I’m a big history buff myself, but I also want to become a member just so I can call myself a time traveler.
The Time Traveler’s reciprocal program gives free or discounted admissions to several hundred historical sites, museums, and societies. Check their website for the most up-to-date participant list.
7. American Horticultural Society RAP
This is a great reciprocal program for anyone who loves botanical gardens, arboretums, conservatories, and butterfly gardens.
The American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP) gives special admission privileges and discounts at more than 345 gardens throughout North America.
You can search for participating gardens by location on their website.
Do You Have a Reciprocal Membership?
The above list only covers some of the biggest reciprocal programs, but there are many more out there. It may take a little research upfront to find the best one for you, but it is well worth the effort!
Do you enjoy a reciprocal membership to any of the above programs or another? If so, please share your experiences and recommendations in the comments below.
The Best Camping & RV Memberships
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Speaking of memberships, you should watch the above video on the best camping & RVing memberships. Narrowing down the list to five of the best campground memberships is difficult. There is a huge variety of memberships available, and they're spread out across the country.
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