I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Pricey Field Trips for FREE or Cheap

Pricey Field Trips for FREE of Cheap! {The Unlikely Homeschool}

When you are homeschooling at the speed of life, learning...most REAL learning...happens away from a worksheet or textbook. 

Some of the most memorable and meaningful life-schooling is done when you take the show on the road...when you venture out to meet real people and see real stuff...when you experience real life the way it WAS lived or IS lived...when you take a field trip.

But, let's face it.
A large homeschool family is a herd that moves rather slowly and comes with a pretty hefty entrance fee.
Field trips aren't cheap!

Or are they?

Over the years, my family has enjoyed more than our share of learning-on-the-road adventures. We have seen the sights. We have met the people. And we have come home with money in our pockets. 

Here are my best tips for pricey field trips for FREE or cheap!

Annual Membership Rates

Even if you plan on making your trip a one-time-and-then-we're done kinda thing, for the larger-than-average homeschool family, purchasing an annual membership to a museum or attraction is often cheaper than buying a one-day-only pass for everyone attending. In addition, membership usually comes with behind-the-scenes perks, discounts at the gift shop, or free admittance to special exhibits.

Low-Income Rates

Depending upon your annual income, you might qualify for a discounted rate at most field trip venues. Sometimes this requires filling out a form ahead of time and/or submitting income proof, but sometimes it does not. Be sure to call ahead and ask about low-income admittance.

Pricey Field Trips for FREE or Cheap {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Reciprocating Science Center Rates

Over 300 science museums around the nation (and even the world) have partnered together to offer free admission to anyone holding an annual pass to any one of the museums. In other words, if you buy an annual pass to ANY of the museums on the list, you can get free entrance to all of them.

There are a few stipulations, however.
  1. The science center that you are visiting cannot be within 90 miles of your house.
  2. Your membership cannot be to a museum within 90 miles of the reciprocating museum that you are planning on visiting. 
  3. The offer is good for general admission only. Most of the museums on the list, however, do often discounted rates for special exhibits with proof of membership.
We just happen to live two hours away from two of the major cities in our state, both of which offer two or three reciprocating museums each. By applying online for membership to a museum in a different state, and paying around $40 annually, we can meet the requirements for the first two stipulations and enjoy FREE general admission to every reciprocating science center in our state and around the country. (Quick aside: An annual membership pass would be a great Christmas gift for a long-distance grandparent to purchase. So, be sure to add it to your Christmas wish list this coming year.)

If you do purchase a reciprocating pass, please remember to always carry your membership card with you as each museum only holds a registry of its own members. 

Also, even though they are all partners, every museum on the list has a different annual membership fee. Be sure to purchase your membership at one of the smaller, less-expensive sites to save the most money.

Groupon Deals

If you are the plan-ahead type, be sure to look for half off or BOGO coupons to local museums and attractions on Groupon.com. In our area, annual membership to the state historical society can often be purchased through Groupon providing free or discounted entrance to all the registered historical sites around our state.

Pricey Field Trips for FREE or Cheap {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Library Passes

In an effort to make educational experiences affordable, many libraries are now offering day passes to local museums. These are checked out on loan to library cardholders in the same fashion as a book. Most are offered on a first-come-first-serve basis and must be returned within a particular time frame.

Smithsonian Visits

With nearly 20 museums (mostly in the Washington D.C. area), the Smithsonian Institutions are ALL absolutely free! Plan on taking a tour of a castle, an air and space museum, an art gallery, a history museum, and so much more with nothing but pocket change...for the parking meters.

National Museum Day Tickets

Once a year, the Smithsonian celebrates National Museum Day by offering everyone two free tickets to participating nationwide museums. While two tickets might not provide entrance for your entire family, it could make for a substantially cheaper visit. Some restrictions apply.

Every-Kid-in-the-Park Initiative

To promote outdoor educational experiences, the National Park Foundation will be granting every 4th-grade student around the country free entrance to ALL national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges during the 2015-2016 school year. For more information, visit Open Outdoors for Kids.

Homeschool Days/Group Discounts

Many local attractions schedule an annual Homeschool Day and offer significantly reduced rates for homeschoolers who provide proof of home education. (One year, all seven of us were able to attend the "homeschool days" event at an aquarium for the cost of one regularly priced ticket.)

In addition, most locations offer special group pricing. Invite another homeschool family to join you and attend the field trip for a fraction of the cost.

One Final Word

Whether you're traveling across the street or across the country, don't forget to take a journal to notebook your experience. Or just print a copy of this FREE Field Trip Log and record your journey. Happy trails!


  1. Should you be visiting the UK(!), many museums are free. There are tax arrangements which mean that it is worth their while to be free but the downside is that items in their shops and cafes are rather over priced.

  2. All your tips are great. We love our annual pass.
    Blessings, Dawn

  3. Wow!! Jamie these are amazing tips! Some I had no idea about:) thank you for the time it took you to investigate all these ideas.

    1. I'm sure there are many more freebies out there. I just keep living and learning as I go. Since we like to take a lot of field trips, I've learned to always ask if there are any discounts that might apply before I pay the ticket price.

  4. I realize this is an older post, but I wanted to ask a question and didn't know where else to submit it. Perhaps you've already written an post answering this question (and feel free to direct me to where I can find it!)... We are looking into homeschooling our children (who are not yet of school age) and I wanted to get an idea of how much homeschooling costs a typical family on average per year, who perhaps does more of an eclectic style, like you guys. I realize there are new, boxed curriculums and then there are many free curriculums on the internet, as well as free resources, free field trips... but, when all is said and done and you look back at your year, and you've tallied up your purchases, how much would you say an average family spends?

    1. Great question...you have to remember that every homeschool budget will be different due to priorities and financial limitations. I spend around $400-$500 per child per year. But, that includes art/music lessons, field trips, school supplies, AND curriculum. A person could get by on much less or spend much more. I spend the most on my daughter because she is the first one to hit certain subjects and grades. If I buy a teacher's manual to use for her grade, I can save it and use it for upcoming boys. But, if add up my budget total and divid by 4 (the number of learners I have), it roughly comes to $400-$500.

    2. That is helpful and you bring up good points. Thank you!