My family and I are all about staying on budget, but having fun with the kids at the same time. At the beginning of this year, we decided to get a membership to the Thinkery Children’s Museum in the Mueller neighborhood of Austin. Since then, I’ve had several conversations between other moms with families as to whether or not these types of memberships are worth the money, especially if they are out of town. Here are some things that we had to consider before making the membership decision and some lessons we’ve learned.
First, we had to assess whether or not the museum would fit our family’s specific needs. We first went to the Thinkery when my oldest was about 6 months. I heard they had a baby section that was closed off to older children, and thought that I could just modify the rest of the experience for him. It turns out that this small area, although very well done, was not enough for the money we spent. He was able to explore different toys, master an obstacle course, and go for a story time, but that was about it. When we took his baby brother a couple of years later and my youngest struggled for the same reasons. Now that they are two and four, the entire museum is at their disposal, including the engineering exhibits that fly over their heads, but allow for some interaction. Their new exhibit, having to do with Earth and the weather, was a family favorite. My son was able to manipulate a tornado, earthquake, and learn all about how air and water are constantly moving to create new land structures. Of course, with all of these things to learn and large groups of kids running around, we had to be sensitive to overstimulation. This museum, however, has several spaces inside and outside of the building that are made for quiet time. Breastfeeding moms can go into their own room to feed their babies if they need to, and there are little reading nooks where you can sit on a comfy pillow with your child and focus on a book. This is extremely helpful since my kids get anxious around crowds.
After actually getting the membership this year, we’ve learned some helpful tips. For this museum, it only takes about five visits to pay off the membership costs. It’s been halfway through our year, and we’re one visit shy of our five. Doing the math upfront and really narrowing down some general dates as to when we can visit helped ensure that we would get all five in. Also, we try to cut other typical visit costs. We have a blast making an entire picnic of food, snacks, and drinks to take with us to the lunch area, not forgetting to prepare the dinner upon our return. However, we do budget for the traditional visit to Amy’s Ice Cream for dessert; a perfect summer treat.
So, if traveling out of state for that vacation is stressing you out, consider a membership to a museum in Austin, San Antonio or Houston.