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, whether you have a school break or a long weekend coming up, 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: Free museum and zoo admission
How: Bank of America or individual museums
If you have a Bank of America® credit card, such as the NEA® Customized Cash Rewards Visa Signature® credit card, you get free admission to some of the most popular museums throughout the country on the first weekend of every month. Check out the list of museums currently open and when you go, 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 Bank of America 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.
Other museums offer free admission to educators on certain days: The Pérez Art Museum Miami offers free admission to all Florida K–12 educators and the rest of the public on the first Thursdays and second Saturdays 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-wish nights on Saturdays and Fridays, respectively.
What: Discounts/upgrades on hotel stays, airfare and more
How: NEA Travel
The NEA Travel Program allows members to receive discounts on car rentals, cruises, guided tours and, yes, even hotels and resorts near your home or in your favorite vacation spot. The first time you sign up for NEA Travel, you’ll receive $500 Travel Dollars to use like cash to buy down the cost of your purchase. You can receive additional Travel Dollars for various things such as signing up for the NEA Travel Newsletter or the NEA Members Shopper’s Guide, as well as purchasing/completing a flight through NEA Travel.
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 it offers 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
Most major cities coast-to-coast offer CityPASS 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. For example, a Boston CityPASS costs $65 for adults and $54 for kids 3–11. With the Boston CityPASS, you have admission to four attractions—New England Aquarium, Science Center, Boston Harbor Cruises, Harvard Museum of Natural History or the Franklin Park Zoo—for 30 days.
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.
Use these resources for tickets when attractions and sports allow for visitors again.
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 or local vendors set up so you can treat yourself as you stroll among the shops.
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 Outdoors initiative.
Typically, there are also fee-free dates throughout the year when you can gain free entry to any one of the 400 National Parks, saving you anywhere from $3 to $30 per person.