Thanksgiving Point Garden

How To Use the Amazing ASTC Travel Passport Program – Free Museums and Gardens

The ASTC Travel Passport Program is amazing!  As a traveling family, this program has saved us so much money.  I feel like it would be really selfish not to share exactly how the ASTC program works and how it can benefit you.  

Being an ASTC member allows you to visit ASTC museums in other states for free! It is awesome!

Let’s learn about all the benefits of the ASTC passport program and how you can save money while you are on vacation.  

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ASTC Travel Passport Program

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What is the ASTC Travel Passport Program?ASTC Passport Program Children Creativity Museum in San Francisco

ASTC stands for The Association of Science-Technology Centers.” The ASTC Travel Passport Program includes museums and science centers in nearly 50 countries around the world.  

The ASTC passport program is a reciprocity science center and museum pass. Which means if you have a membership at your local museum or science center you also have access to other science museums located throughout the world.

They must be on an approved ASTC museum list to receive free admission. The ASTC travel passport is a worldwide program with museums in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and even Africa!  The participating ASTC museum list is updated every six months.

Are you Kidding Me, Free Museums?

Free Museum? Does the ASTC Travel Passport Program really let me get into museums for free?

Yes, it does!

How can this be?  I have never heard of such a thing!

The ASTC Passport Program may be the best-kept secret for all families!

Hook me up! This will save me so much money! How do I participate?

How Do I Become a Member of the ASTC Travel Passport Program?Thanks;giving Point

First, you need to find your local museum that participates. You can do this by looking at the ASTC museum list. (linked above) 

Find your Local Participating ASTC Museum

I am in Utah, my local museum is Thanksgiving Point.  Thanksgiving Point offers a children’s museum, dinosaur museum, butterfly museum, farm, and a beautiful garden.  Thanksgiving Point offers plenty to do while I am not traveling, and makes it worth the cost of the membership.

Cost for the ASTC Travel Passport ProgramASTC Passport Program

The ASTC Passport Program is included in the price of your local membership!  Yes, that is right! Buying a local membership can get you free entrance to participating museums when you travel! 

The cost for my local museum is $275 dollars for an annual family pass.  The pass includes admission to six different museums within my local area.

It is always good to shop around.  Another children’s museum in our area participates in this program and their annual family pass is $175. 

For my local membership, I felt like paying a little more was worth it because it included so many more museums.  It was also located closer to me compared to the children’s museum that had a lower cost of membership.

Important 

If you have two local museums, you can not gain free entry to both.  To use the ASTC Passport Program the museums must be 90 miles apart from each other.

How Do I Use the ASTC Passport Program?

Now that you have purchased your local museum pass, you can use the ASTC Passport Program. 

  • Plan a trip at least 90 miles away
  • Go to the ASTC website and enter your location
  • Explore the list of participating museums
  • Go to the museum of choice 
  • Show your local museum pass and ID, then get your free tickets
  • Have fun

We have traveled all over the United States and have taken advantage of this program. 

Hot Tip

Be aware that each museum may have certain guidelines, such as only 2 adults and 2 kids can enter with the pass, but more often than not we have had the museums let our whole family in plus grandparents if they are with us. It is best to call ahead and find out what is included!

Our Experience

We have used our ASTC travel passport in Northern California and Southern California, Austin and Dallas, Texas, Oklahoma City, and Chicago.  We love to visit science museums! Another great bonus is that children’s museums are included

Let’s Review the Rules for the ASTC Passport Program

Dallas Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The ASTC Travel Passport Program includes so many museums that will allow you to have free entry. 

ASTC Passport Program Rules:

  • Museums must be 90 miles away from local museums or residences.
  • Must bring photo ID.
  • Make sure to bring your local membership card.

That really is it!  It such an amazing program!  We have saved so much money especially in Chicago where ticket prices to the museums are over $20 per person

Best Parts (and a Few not-so Great Parts) of the Program for meASTC Passport Program - Science Center

My favorite part of the ASTC Travel Passport Program is its role as a “vacation filler.”  If you’re like me, you know how family vacations can go: you are either running around amusement parks bleeding money or cooped up at your sibling’s house with a bunch of kids running around who eventually drive everyone crazy.

If I’m cooped up, there is no better way to break the monotony than to take the kids to a children’s museum.  The one thing that holds me back is the cost.

When I get in free, it is amazing! We get out of the place we are staying at, get excited to see a new place, and don’t have to question whether it is worth it.  Score!

Perk of ASTC Membership

We have been able to get “host” family members in for free.  You probably know what it is like to have family in town. You feel obligated to take them to some venue close by to keep them busy.

How would you feel if your out-of-town relative pulled out a pass that not only paid for them but paid for you as well? That would be awesome!

Well, that happened to folks we visited in Oklahoma. We were able to get some extended family members in for free as well. It was actually quite funny to see their reactions.

 They thought the museum was playing some joke on them, and there was some catch. But when they realized they were actually getting in for free, we were heroes for the day.

Perk of ASTC Membership

It is not as painful to renew your local museum pass knowing that you can use it to get into museums for a fee when you travel.  My museum gives me a discount when I renew, and also lets me get others in for 50% off. Your museum may have similar benefits.

Pitfall of ASTC Passport Program

Parking.  We went to a children’s museum near San Francisco and had trouble paying for parking.  My husband finally just pulled into a parking garage, and we ended up paying around $40.  Yikes!

The sign in the parking garage that you could see from the street advertised a low price, but when you got close enough, the fine print let you know that was only for the first fifteen minutes.

Are you kidding me? Lesson learned. Before you go, scout out the parking situation when you scout out the museum.

Pitfall of ASTC Passport Program

Not all museum workers are familiar with the program.  On occasion, we have got to the front of a line and the worker looks at us like we are from Mars when attempting to get in for “free.”  Usually, a call to a manager solves the issue, but plan on allocating some additional time at the counter to get your tickets.

And on top of bringing the items discussed above, have the website pulled up on your phone that shows their ASTC museum list of participating locations.

American Horticulture Society – Free Gardening Programs

Along with the ASTC Travel Passport Program for science museums, there is also, a program from the American Horticultural Society that allows entrance into gardens as you travel!

Many cities have beautiful botanical gardens around the country. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to get in for free?

In Utah, we have Thanksgiving Point, which has many venues. The gardens are incredible! Our pass is both for the museums and gardens, and so we are about to participate in both programs!

What Are the Differences with this Program?

Thanksgiving Point Garden

Both the ASTC program and the Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP Garden Program) are both designed to help you save money as you travel.

It is easy to find a participating garden. First,

  • Go to the American Horticulture Society Website.
  • Click on the state to which you will be traveling.
  • You will see a list based on which garden participates in each state. 

Most of the gardens that participate allow free admission.  Others have discounted entry.

Honestly, I am not sure if I have ever participated in the travel perks of the RAP Garden Program.  (Part of this may have to do with having little kids and preferring slides to flowers.)

But this can be a great perk.  If you have used it before, please tell us of your experience in the comment section.

Save Money on Vacation

I love saving money when we are on vacation, both of these programs are so wonderful.  I bet you are ready to jump in the car and get a membership for your local museum or garden! 

Especially, if you are traveling to a big city in the near future.  This pass can save you so much money as you travel!

Are you Ready to use the ASTC Travel Passport Program?

Thanksgiving Point Garden

Hopefully, you learned what exactly the ASTC program is and how you can benefit from it while traveling.  I highly recommend this ASTC travel passport program and hope you get to enjoy it as much as I have.  

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102 Comments

  1. Good to know! Especially for traveling families that visit museums often. I can see the value and efficiency in the ASTC program.

  2. This is a great program, we will have to check it out locally. Thank you for passing this information on to your readers.

  3. This is fantastic!!! As a toddler mom, its hard with the prices being SO high to have memberships to all of them separately. This is the best!

  4. This is a great travel benefit and travel tip! I’m checking right now to see if any of my local museums participate.

  5. Wow, this is great! I had no idea this program existed, but definitely useful for future planning. Thank you!

  6. I have a couple of visit memberships to other places but have never heard of this one. Thanks for the tips and I’ll be sure to look into it further.

  7. Never heard of this program, a great way for families to save money and educational.

  8. Love all the information! Also love that it is something unique that many people wouldn’t think to do! Thanks for the info!

  9. Fabulous photos! Love seeing kiddos having fun and what a great way to play and learn. I had no idea these passes exisited, thanks so much for sharing will keep them in mind for sure 🙂

  10. This is so great! I used to have one and it sure saved money and gave us something to do. I didnt realize Thanksgiving points participated. If I remember right there was a really cool museum it covered in Salt lake.

    1. Yes, there is another participating children’s museum in Salt Lake but the ASTC program only works if it is at least 90 miles away from the membership museum.

  11. Definitely going to check into this. We have a local children’s science museum that is a member and we’re going to visit our grandchildren in Kentucky in a week! It would be great if we could take them to some nearby museums for free!

  12. What a wonderful program! I will pass the link along to a friend with small children that I think would be very interested. Thank you!

  13. Love these kinds of programs!! We have been involved in a few different ones and another that was military-related. Our boys used to love visiting museums and getting hands-on knowledge of this and that. What a great resource for learning!

  14. We love visiting museums! What a great way to save some money along the way. I searched for museums around me. Thanks!

  15. I love this! Especially in the summertime this is perfect for morning outings with the kids. Our local library does certain programs like this that allow you to pick tickets daily for fun day trips!

  16. What an awesome program, especially for a large family. All kids love going to museums who cater to children! My son loved the Science Center in Baltimore Inner Harbor so much, but it always expensive, so we limited our trips to once every other year. 🙁

  17. What a great program and an awesome idea for the summer when we’re going to be looking for things to do with the kids!

  18. Thanksgiving Point is so beautiful all year round! I’m going to share this post with my sister who lives near there and is traveling with the family this summer. I’m sure this will be something she is interested in!

    1. So cool! I’ve never heard of this before! Seems like a reasonable price to get into so many museums.

  19. This is a great program. I’d never heard of it! I recently moved to Colorado and discovered that I can get tickets to museums, gardens, and even the zoo for free from the library!

  20. This is a totally new program to me, but you provide such great information, I think it’s wonderful! I also love your pictures. We have a lot of dinosaur fans in our household too!

  21. Zoos do this, too. Though I am picky about which zoos I will patronize. I do a lot of research before we go to make sure the environment for the residents (animals) is appropriate.

  22. I remember your other post about the passports, but this one adds flowers!! Your pictures are beautiful. I would love to visit one of these places especially early spring.

  23. Wow! I had no idea. Sounds like a wonderful deal. I’m going to let my daughter-in-law know about this. Thanks for sharing.

  24. This would be really good for college students, especially if friends go in on it to research together.

  25. This is such a neat idea! I wanted to take the kids to some museums this summer/fall as we have lots of family visiting with kids as well. I’ll have to look into this in our area!

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  29. We’ve actually used this program through our museum membership! LOVE IT! I have no words for $40 parking!!!!!

  30. Our local children’s museum participates in the ASTC program and we have used our membership to get into a ton of museums while traveling. It’s super great when you don’t even realize you can get in for free and then the person at the counter says you are good to go in. Super great perk.

  31. This is a well-kept secret! I have not heard of the passport program before. I wish I knew about it when my kids were smaller.

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