A Guide To Getting and Using Your AZA / ASTC Travel Pass

What is A Reciprocity Pass?

Reciprocity is a partnership between other participating museums and science centers. This allows you to use your membership to gain access to other zoos, museums and science centers at no, or very little additional cost. And there are a TON of them.

We've found the Science Centers to provide more of a discount than anything else, but it's pretty awesome.

What membership did we choose? And how much was it?

We decided to go with the Western North Carolina Nature Center membership, because it was affordable and offered the best balance we could find for what we were looking for. Remember, we lived in Virginia – so this wasn't close to us, which was actually a good thing – read more on the limitations to find out why.

Details on the Family Membership we chose
Quick summary: it's $89 a year, they give you a card (it's pretty flimsy, but still). It allows access to a AZA and ASTC participating locations. Note: Keep it with you because they'll want to see it.

What do you get with the reciprocal membership?

AZA: Association of Zoos and Aquariums

List of Participating AZA Zoos and Aquarium by state, and their benefits (look for ones that have 100% & 50%. That means you get in with a family of 4 at no cost).

Google Map of all ASTC Locations in the US
I made this map of al the locations so I could see, at a glance, what was close to us. It has been helpful in making our travel plans.

Map to find the nearest AZA Participating facility near your location
This map is super handy to find the zoos and aquariums that participate [Added 4/18/2019]

ASTC: Association of Science and Technology Centers

ASTC Travel Passport Program Participants

Are there limits to the membership?

Yes, there are some. They're a *little* confusing. First, here's the details from WNC Nature Center:

It is the member’s’ responsibility to familiarize themselves with the policies of this program, which are outlined below but vary with each facility and may change at any time. We recommend always calling the institution you wish to visit to clarify their reciprocal admission policies.

  • Most facilities will limit the number of adults and children admitted under reciprocal programs to two named adults, as listed on the membership card. Therefore if you have more than two adults listed on your membership, you will most likely have to pay full price for the additional adults.
  • The ASTC Passport Program states that if you live within 90 miles of a science center, you may not use your membership with another facility to get into that science center for free. You may not be able to use our membership at science centers within 90 miles from your residence therefore if you are planning on visiting a science center within this range, you should call the science center to verify the details of their participation in this reciprocity program.
  • Other facilities may change their reciprocity policies at any time so again, we recommend always calling ahead before you plan to use your membership at other facilities. See below for links to the reciprocity programs and their rules and restrictions.
  • As all memberships are non-refundable, we do not offer refunds due to changes in reciprocity by other organizations.

Ok, let's summarize:

Who does it cover?

Your family, mostly. But if you have a bigger family like ours, you might have to pay for additional kids. For example, a lot of the science centers will cover two adults (or grandparents) and two kids, for a total of 4 people. This means if you come with all 3 kids + 1 grandparent, you're gonna need to buy 1 adult and 1 kids ticket to cover the gap. Not a big deal, but a good thing to know about.

Why 90 Miles? What's that about?

Well, if you live in, say New York City – you could clean up on this membership and spend your entire summer going to various locations for the cost of one, and all participating locations just lost out. So, they limit you on places that are close to home.

Do Facilities Change their Policies?

I haven't experienced this yet, but a facility could change their policies with regard to discount, or individuals covered etc, if not cancel their program entirely, so call ahead to make sure.

Tips for Calling Ahead

You don't want to get the kids excited about seeing some cool place, only to find out they changed the rules and now you either pay the full cost, or leave with disappointed kiddos. Here's what I usually say:

“I have an AZA / ASTC reciprocal membership from the Western North Carolina Nature Center, do you still honor this membership? And if so, what access does it include?”

  1. Tell them where your membership comes from – the staff have a list that they'll reference, so be ready with that information.
  2. Ask what it includes to make sure you know what you're getting if you're researching. Often times, Science centers have levels of exhibits, some of them cost extra. For example, you'll get general admission to all exhibits, but probably not the IMAX movie.

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Joseph Hinson is first and foremost a family man. He is the founder of Hinson.co, president of Out:think Group, creator of a ton of different projects and all around geek. Contact: j@hinson.co