How to Afford Memberships and Season Passes on Any Budget

Budgeting, Shopping Tips

We're all about making fun memories with our family instead of buying more stuff. We all have as much stuff as we really need, amiright?! But, it can be EXPENSIVE to constantly be going and doing as a family. To save your money and your sanity, here are our best tips for how to save on season passes and memberships.

mom and daughter smiling in teacups from

Being a mom is the best — and hardest — job in the world. One of the hardest parts?… Keeping the kids constantly entertained! When kids are young, keeping them entertained is EXTRA hard because their attention spans last just about as long as fresh cookie dough lasts in the house. Not long folks, not long at all. 

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So when you are out doing fun activities with littles, it can be a challenge to get your money’s worth all in a single day. When this is the case, use our tips to help you decide if a season pass or membership is a better choice for your family. 


girl and father feeding a giraffe at zoo from

So many people often find themselves in this conundrum: You might not be able to afford a season membership, but then you might also pay WAY too much for a one-day pass.

If you like a place and if you see yourself visiting it more than a few times in a year, look into the cost of buying a membership there! Why? How? Where? Well, let us explain…

  • A Membership Often Doesn't Cost Much More Than a One-Day Pass – If you sit down and do the math, you'll often find that buying a family season pass/membership somewhere doesn't cost much more than paying for a one-day pass for each person. This is not always the case, but you might be surprised.
  • Kids Never Last Long – If you were to buy a full-day pass, it would go to waste! Most young kids last an hour or two somewhere. A season pass allows you the flexibility to go somewhere for even 30 minutes, get your fill, and then head home without feeling guilty.
  • Bonus Perks – Most memberships we see come with perks…10% off food, early hours for members only, half-off for guests you bring, free this, discounted that, pass-holder appreciation day something or other. There are ALWAYS perks for members, which just adds to the value of the membership.
  • Now's the Time –  Kids don’t stay young forever. But when they are super young, many times their passes are free and you only have to buy one for the older kids and adults in your family. Most places allow kids three and under free admission, making it all the more affordable.

If it's close to your home, your kids enjoy it, and if you foresee using your membership enough to make the cost worth it, then go for it! Having a stack of membership cards gives you a plethora of outings to choose from and the option to switch up your routine often.


mom and daughter at a museum from

The retail price listed on the website isn’t always the best option. There are definitely ways to hack the system and save even more money when you buy your passes. Check out these tips to help you get the very best price!

  • Buy Off-Season – Not sure when their low season is? Ask. Many places offer deep discounts on passes to boost sales during slow months. 
  • Watch Local Daily Deals – Keep your eye on the daily deals in your area ESPECIALLY during their “low season”. Try Groupon to see what is available. 
  • Sign Up for Emails – Whether you're a member or not, sign up for the email list to wherever it is that you'd like a membership to. Companies frequently send out special secret deals to their email subscribers that they never announce to the general public. 
  • Ask, Ask, Ask – Ask the company if they run specials, and when. Find out if there are ways to get additional discounts on season passes. Ask your friends on Facebook where they have memberships and if they feel it's worth it. For heaven's sake, ASK!
  • Buy Them at CostcoCostco has incredible buying power and always offers passes at a discount, so before you buy ANY passes to ANYWHERE, make sure to check there first.
  • Get a Rewards Card – Destinations like Disneyland offer discounts on admission and goods sold on their properties when you sign up for a Disney Visa card. Just make sure to pay off your card monthly to benefit from the rewards without paying extra interest fees!

Pro Tip: Check out Black Friday deals! Many places do a one-day CRAZY deal on season passes for the holiday weekend if you buy. Plan in advance and set money aside so that you can hit “Purchase” when that day comes.


family going to an aquarium from

Once you find a way to get a great deal on the passes, it’s time to find the money in your budget so you can say heck yeah to that membership. Here are some great ways we’ve found to sneak it into ANY budget.

  • Ask for A Gift – If you don't have the cash for a membership somewhere, ask for it for Christmas or your birthday! If you get enough people involved in a group gift, it's even less expensive. 
  • Split Passes – Family rates are often better deals than buying individual memberships. Did you know that many places will let you SPLIT a membership with someone, even if they aren't in your family? It's true!
  • Work at It – We encourage you never to say “We can't afford it.” Instead, ask yourself “HOW can we afford it?” If you really want a membership somewhere, then take the time to research, shop around, and make sure it will truly be used BEFORE buying. Then, work your tail off to find a good deal or fit it in the budget. That may mean picking up some extra work from home for a time.
  • Pick and Choose – Believe it or not, you do have to say NO to some memberships. Pick and choose the best ones for your time of life, the age of your kids, your location, and what you can truly afford.

Lastly, if you are going to invest your hard earned money into a pass, then you better believe you need to use the HECK out of it! Anything less would STILL just be a waste.


two girls playing at a trampoline park from

Your list of options will definitely depend on your local area and the likelihood of travel. However, if you want some great options to get you started, here are some places we recommend for season passes. 

  • Six Flags – Some of the perks are unlimited visits, free entrance for friends, good at all Six Flags locations, and $300 in-park savings. 
  • Disneyland – Annual pass holders get free parking, food, and entertainment discounts, and pre-sale access to special events. 
  • Disney World – Passholders get Photopass downloads, merchandise discounts, free parking, food discounts, resort discounts, and tour discounts. 
  • Sea World – Get one free guest ticket plus 50% off three additional tickets on select days.
  • YMCA – Pay the lowest fees on camps, sports teams, child care, swimming, and more. 
  • Local Pool – Check your local pool for their specific perks!
  • Children’s Museums – Yours may offer unlimited admission, exclusive event invites, and discounts on educational programs. 
  • Local Theme Parks – Your kids who are old enough could be dropped off with friends for a day of independence if the park is nearby. 
  • Zoos and Aquariums – Animals can be more or less active at different times of the year, so give yourself a chance to see them at their best! 
  • Trampoline Parks – A season pass is drastically less expensive than paying full price for a single-day over the use of the pass. Get that energy out!

So whaddaya say?! Get out and enjoy all the fun things there are to do! It’s so worth it to invest in making memories. Where are your favorite places to buy a membership (and where does it make sense to get a day pass)? Let us know in the comments below!

Image with text that reads "how to afford season passes on a budget" from Fun Cheap or Free

Need more great tips for living large on a budget? 

Now have fun and make some memories!


  1. Leigh

    Check out the reciprocal benefits of local memberships too. Our local science museum membership gets us in free or at a reduced price to about 300 museums around the country, which pays for itself on trips.

    Looking for a sale it was cheaper to buy the aquarium membership for a trip, then it was to pay for one days admission.

    • Fun Cheap or Free

      That’s a great point, thanks for sharing!

  2. Becky Suglia

    We joined the Franklin Institute, which is a dream of a science museum, when my kiddo was in elementary school. Even though we lived 1 1/2 hours away, we still got plenty of use out of it over the course of the year. It was interconnected with other museums, so we got to visit lots of cool places! We had invites to “super-secret members only” events too, including midnight star parties in the planetarium!


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