Worried about being in the house all summer long with the kids? If you have a local zoo, consider purchasing a family zoo membership. If you plan on going to the zoo more than twice in a year, the membership pays for itself! The plan we purchased for under $150 covers all of our family members plus we can bring guests. Considering we enjoy going to the Jacksonville Zoo several times a year, it is always worth the cost for us.
We’ve had a membership for a few years now and I think I have zoo trips down to a science! A month or so ago, we met two other families at the zoo for a fun afternoon. As we were leaving, another mom turned to me and said, “I am impressed! You made it through the whole day without spending any money.”
Yup. I bring my kids to the zoo and often (though not always) leave without spending anything other than the cost of gas.
Here are my tips for rocking your zoo membership and getting the most bang for your buck.
1. Know what your zoo has to offer. Our zoo, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, has much more to offer than just animals. We have a carousel, splash pad, two play areas, a little “4D” theater, stingray bay, giraffe feeding, train, sea lion show, butterfly hollow, free petting zoo and numerous events. There are also boat rides and kayak rentals as the zoo is on the river.
2. Dress accordingly and pack what you need. Our zoo is sprawling and when the temperatures get hot, the zoo can be uncomfortable and stinky. We always work in the splash park so that the kids can cool off. They wear their bathing suits with a shirt or cover up/dress. I bring a thin easy to pack sports towel and underwear for the kids. After they are done splashing they can change out of their suits if they want but they normally let them dry naturally. It is cooler in wet clothes!
2. Know what your membership covers. Our membership covers the admission to the zoo and offers discounts on food and merchandise, as well as “member pricing” on the extras (carousel, giraffe food, train rides etc.)
3. Buy “tickets” at the bulk pricing and use them wisely. I tend to purchase the carousel rides and train tickets at the member bulk discount. I keep them in my camera bag because I always bring my camera to the zoo!
4. Pack snacks, lunch, and drinks and bring it with you. I freeze water and bring it in a lunch cooler with sandwiches. I have an awesome camera bag that doubles as my “kid adventure pack.” I carry wipes and snacks in it. If you are looking for a great bag you can find a great price on AvidMax camera bags at Avid Max Outfitters. If you don’t feel like packing food, make sure to find out what the membership discount is on food. I think our zoo has higher food prices than Disney World, and they pretty much sell Bubba burgers and hotdogs!
5. Make up a rule before you go to the zoo. I have a one treat rule. If the kids listen well and refrain from asking me to buy everything they see, I will get them each one treat. Since it is hot here in Florida, the treat is normally a shaved ice for Pea and an ice cream cone for Pork Chop. However, if the rule is broken there is no treat. Stick to your guns!
6. Plan your trip in advance. We rarely do a full day at the zoo. We also never walk the whole zoo in one trip. Kids get tired and cranky that way. Since we have memberships we break our trips up into pieces. One day we’ll walk the Africa loop and play in the splash park and the awesome playground. The next time we do the Australia section. Pork Chop loves the giant otters and sometimes we will spend half of the trip watching them swim. I am fond of photographing birds. Some trips we spend more time in the bird sections (but the kids think the birds are the stinkiest animals at the zoo!)
7. We like to learn fun facts about the animals and then recall them while visiting.
8. Bring a friend! My kids get so excited when we go to the zoo with someone new. They show their favorite spots and chat about their favorite animals.
The zoo is a fun and economical way to get out of the house during the summer break! We try to go a few times a month. Having a pass reduces a lot of the stress of “wanting to get in your money’s worth.” The zoo has many well laid money traps ready to ensnare unsuspecting parents with fussy children. Planning our trips ensures that we don’t break the bank on one of our many outings! How do you get the most out of your membership?
Do your kids love animals?
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And make sure you pack some snacks before you head to the zoo!