It’s easy to take our hometowns for granted. While we may pass famous landmarks, state or national parks, renowned museums, hallowed sporting venues or even an amusement park, we often don’t have the time to explore these attractions that are so close to home. Right now, while you’re on school break, is the time to try something new. Go see a play, challenge yourself at the driving range, visit the zoo or take a scenic harbor cruise—and make all those arrangements using resident discounts and other savings strategies. Here’s how to vacation close to home on a shoestring budget.
What: Amusement Park Discounts
How: NEA Click & Save
NEA members get up to 40% off ticket prices at some of the top theme parks in the U.S., such as Six Flags, Busch Gardens, Adventure Island, Water Country USA, Sesame Place, Legoland and the Orlando Eye. Use the NEA Click & Save Entertainment Store to also find discounted tickets to shows and sporting events in your area. To find top events near you, log in to Click & Save, click on the Tickets tab and select Shows. Select your city from the drop-down menu. You will see what tickets are available in your town. (NEA Click & Save also offers discounts on Restaurant.com certificates, luggage, tech toys and other vacation essentials.)
What: Free Museum and Zoo Admission
How: Bank of America or Individual Museums
If you have a Bank of America® credit card, like the NEA Cash Rewards Card, you get free admission to some of the most popular museums, zoos and aquariums throughout the country on the first weekend of every month. Check out the list and simply show your Bank of America® card with a picture ID, and you’re in. Admission is for the cardholder only. Authorized users carrying their own card also get in for free.
Additionally, some of the nation’s most popular museums offer year-round or special “pay what you want” days. For example, “Pay What You Wish” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the first Sunday of the month from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and every Wednesday from 5 to 8:45 p.m. Check the museum’s website before you go for more details.
What: Discounts/Upgrades on Hotel Stays, Airfare and More
How: NEA Vacations
NEA Vacations allows members to receive discounts on airfare, cruises, guided tours and, yes, even hotels and resorts. As a bonus, earn valuable NEA Travel Dollars that you can use to save on future purchases (excluding airfare). Let’s say you book a hotel using NEA Vacations; in addition to receiving the room at a discounted price, you could also receive extra incentives such as a free room upgrade or complimentary meal.
What: Reduced Fees in Resort Towns
How: Resident and Educator Discounts
Check in with the visitors bureau if you’re heading to a nearby resort town to see if they offer any resident or educator discounts. In some resort towns, residents often get a discount at restaurants, spas and local activities, and educators are often eligible to receive reduced entrance fees at museums and cultural sites.
Also, if you type the word “free” into the search box on the visitors bureau website, a list of free events should populate and will most often be organized by date.
What: Discounted Passes for Must-see Attractions
How: NEA Click & Save Discount on CityPASS
Most major cities offer CityPASS and Go City cards, which provide you with admission to several popular attractions for a lower price than you would pay if you bought a ticket for each attraction separately. With CityPASS, you pay one price (per person) to receive a card that provides entry into several sites. Use NEA Click & Save to save money on the already discounted pass. For example, a Boston CityPASS normally costs $100 for adults and $78 for children, but NEA members can get it for $55 and $42, respectively. And you’ll earn 2X WOWPoints, which are just like cash! Use WOWPoints on additional purchases to receive bonus dollars off your purchases.
What: Try Something New
How: Groupon and LocalFlavor
If you’re open to new experiences like learning how to swing dance, decorating cupcakes like a cake boss or even perfecting your photography skills, check out websites such as Groupon and LocalFlavor. You’ll find plenty of options for things to do locally as well as discounted tickets for shows, tours and even movies.
What: Night Out Discount
How: HR Department and Your Local Library
Many school HR departments offer discounts for local attractions where you can often purchase tickets for the movies, theater productions, sporting events and even harbor cruises at a discounted price.
Your public library will often have passes that you can check out for discounted or free admission to various places in town and even around your state. For example, many libraries in Connecticut have passes for the state park beaches, Mystic Seaport, the town pool and museums throughout the entire state.
What: Mingle with the Locals for Free
How: City-sponsored Events
Most major cities (and even some small towns) have taken to this movement of First Friday and Second Saturday (or some variation thereof). On a specific day of the month, local art galleries (usually in a centralized art district) stay open later for people to walk through their galleries and enjoy the local art scene. It’s always free to the public, and many times there are food trucks so you can treat yourself as you stroll among the shops.
For instance, Miami offers visitors and residents free admission to the Pérez Art Museum Miami on the second Saturday of the month, and in Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art is free Friday nights and the Guggenheim and the Whitney both have pay-what-you-want nights on Saturdays and Fridays, respectively.
Check out the local newspapers online for the city you are visiting to see a listing or calendar of events. Many papers have “What to Do this Weekend” or “Community Calendar” sections promoting upcoming happenings in that area so you can plan your weekend before you go.
What: Free Entrance to National Parks
How: Holidays and Fourth-graders
Did you know that all fourth-graders and their families can gain free access to all national parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year? It’s true, thanks to the Every Kid in a Park initiative.
There are also 10 fee-free holidays throughout the year where you can gain free entry to any one of the 400 National Parks, saving you anywhere from $3 to $30 per person.