An exciting aspect of homeschooling is the opportunity to take your children on field trips to enhance the lessons they are learning. The possibilities of places to visit are nearly endless, yet going to museums, zoos, botanical gardens, aquariums, science centers, planetariums—most anywhere—comes with a price tag. If you’re educating more than one child, taking field trips on a regular basis can put a significant dent in your pocketbook. We’re here to help you discover ways to keep these trips within your budget. Let’s take a tour of different venues throughout the country to see what they’re doing to help homeschooling families save on these costs.

Let’s Go to the Library!

Signing up for a library card allows you and the kids to check out books anytime, which is an ideal way to save money, but libraries offer so much more, like story time programs, guest speakers, or kids’ clubs. The Louisville Free Public Library in Kentucky partners with Fund for the Arts and other businesses to allow you and your kids to enter local sights and attractions at no cost. Can’t beat that!

If you live in or around the Derby City, you can pick up your Cultural Pass at any library in the metro area. The passes are good from the beginning of June through early August. Places like the Actors Theater of Louisville, Carnegie Center for Art and History, the Kentucky Derby Museum, and Louisville Ballet School are just a handful of the participating options. One parent is eligible to accompany a child under the age of seventeen. According to Fund for the Arts Engagement Coordinator Monica Beaver, more than thirty-two thousand passes were distributed in 2018. Check your local libraries for free or discounted programs they may offer.

Let’s Go to the Zoo!

Working on a unit about animal science? Then head to the zoo or aquarium, and get up close (almost) with polar bears, ring-tail lemurs, or hammerhead sharks. Again, visiting these locations can get a little pricey when taking a family. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums makes it a cinch to save some cash at one of their participating venues by offering the Reciprocal Admissions Program. For example, if your family becomes members at the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, California, you receive a 50 percent discount or even free admission at parks such as the Mote Marine Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, the Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden in Evansville, Indiana, or the Alexandria Zoo in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Let’s Go to the Park!

We’re not talking about your neighborhood park with slides and swings; we mean the 419 National Parks covering more than eighty-four million acres in fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. Experience the wonder of Grand Canyon National Park located in northwest Arizona, the fifteenth site to have been named a National Park, or visit the Gateway Arch National Park and ride to the apex of the 630-foot monument in St. Louis, the tallest structure in Missouri. The National Parks System offers Free Entrance Days throughout the year so you can visit on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January, during National Park Week in April, and on Veterans Day in November. They also have “Every Kid in a Park” program, a federal public lands youth initiative to get all fourth graders and their families into the National Parks for free.

Let’s Go to a Museum!

The thought of a museum visit might elicit some yawns, but the reality is that these treasure troves can be exciting spots to explore when studying ancient history, art, dinosaurs, or even sled dogs. According to data released by the Institute of Museum and Library Service, there are thirty-five thousand active museums in the country, and many are free. Starting with the big league, The Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC has nineteen galleries, gardens, and museums, including the Air and Space Museum where you’ll find the 1903 Wright Flyer and a lunar rock you can actually touch. Admission is free. If art is a part of your lesson plan, possibly take a trip to a smaller museum such as the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, which has the state’s largest art collection on display. Admission is free. Also look for free admission days at large museums in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago.

Copyright 2019, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

This post is Part Three of our Homeschool Field Trip series. Check out some of our other Homeschool Field Trip articles below:

6 Tips for a Stress-Free Field Trip

Free Field Trip Printable Pack

Field Trip Hacks: Educational & Recreational Activities on a Budget

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Julie Engelhardt has been a freelance writer for the past thirty years, writing for family, home and garden, travel and general interest publications. She is originally from California and moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2015. She loves living in the southeast and exploring the rich history of that part of the country. She is the proud mother of two sons, Alex and Chris. Her hobbies include sewing, reading, hiking, and baking.