Culture, not clutter: Museum memberships for London families

Museum memberships are the perfect gift idea, particularly for doting family members who otherwise might fill the house with ALL. THE. STUFF.

Membership has lots of benefits – from supporting an organisation you believe in to free entry, fast track access and exclusive events. On a practical note, it makes family visits less stressful as you know you don’t have to squeeze EVERYTHING into one tiring day. Many of these places have free or cheap half term activities, and we know how often school holidays swing around! And I’m sure the gift giver will be delighted they’re getting you something that you and the kids will really enjoy using, long after the wrapping paper has been recycled.

Last Christmas our main present to the kids was a London Zoo membership. Despite living an hour or so away, we still made good use of it, visiting London Zoo and its sister site in Whipsnade eight times between them. I’m even hoping to squeeze in our ninth trip before it expires! The children love the zoo, and on solo parenting days it was a life saver to have access to a free and easy outing, particularly for Museum Dad. In 2020 we’ll be making the most of being National Trust members. I look forward to sharing our visits with you here and on my Instagram account.

Without further ado, here’s my suggestions for London museum memberships, from the extravagant to the surprisingly affordable. More museum membership schemes are available, but I’ve picked the ones I think most London families would get most use of.

 

NATIONAL AND LARGE MUSEUM MEMBERSHIPS FOR FAMILIES

All the big museums run membership schemes. They are set up to send as gifts, so you’ll get a welcome pack to wrap. These memberships aren’t cheap, so work best if you’re likely to visit at least three paid exhibitions or places a year. Prices below include the direct debit discount, although understandably some people might not want to sign up for a recurring payment for a gift.

 

TATE

One for art lovers, Tate membership includes free, immediate entrance to paid exhibitions at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, early openings for popular exhibitions, and access to the stunning members rooms. If you’re quick, you might just catch the brilliant for all ages Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life exhibition before it closes.
Price: From £78 for one adult, and either £120 for a member plus guest or £162 for 2 adults with a membership in their own names and the option to bring a guest each. Add £12 to each price for non-direct debit purchases. You can bring up to 6 children per member.
Link: https://www.tate.org.uk/join-support/tate-members

 

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Probably the best benefit of a Natural History Museum membership is the chance to skip the ridiculously-long-at-whatever-time-you-visit entrance queues. You get free entry to paid exhibitions – I hear rumours of a cracking blockbuster family exhibition in 2020 – and access to the members’ room. If your children love visiting the NHM already, a membership will definitely help make it an easier experience.
Price: From £68 for 1 adult, or from £87 for 2 adults. You can bring up to 4 children per member.
Link: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/support-us/membership.html

 

HISTORIC ROYAL PALACES

A Historic Royal Palaces membership includes free and unlimited entrance to four London historic palaces – Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace and Banqueting House. Hampton Court is a particular favourite of ours, especially with its expansive Magic Garden playground and famed maze. There’s plenty of special events throughout the year – over Christmas we’re planning to help Princess Victoria dress her tree, and take part in her family panto at Kensington Palace.
Price: £76 for 1 adult or £108 for 2 adults, including up to 6 named children (aged 5-15). If you pay by annual direct debit you get 3 months free on your first membership, that’s 15 months for the price of 12.
Link: https://www.hrp.org.uk/membership

 

NATIONAL TRUST 

Our personal choice for 2020, a National Trust membership includes entrance to 11 historic homes and gardens in London. And if you’re planning any UK travel it works out even better value with hundreds more sites nationwide, including beachside parking along parts of the coast. They put on plenty of family friendly activities, usually with a small charge of around £3 per child. Museum Girl and I had great fun searching for pumpkins in the walled gardens of Fenton House, and we’re planning to take the kids’ new bikes for a spin at Osterley Park over the Christmas break.
Price: Family from £78 for 1 adult, or £126 for 2 adults, and up to 10 named children. Under 5s free.
Link: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/join-us
Tip: if you have a child with disabilities or additional needs, consider getting a £10 Junior membership and applying for a free, transferable companion card. Note this membership doesn’t include parking, and any additional children would also need a Junior membership to enter.

 

WONDERLAB AT THE SCIENCE MUSEUM

With over 50 hands-on science exhibits and their (sometimes literally) explosive science shows, Wonderlab gallery in the Science Museum is a huge hit with children. The annual pass is only a few pounds more than a one-time visit, so if you visit twice it pays for itself. We’ve been members a couple of times now, and it was the perfect place to take our science mad exchange student with the Teen.
Price: £15 adult, £13 child, with a £3 discount per annual pass for a family of 3 to 5 (no more than 2 adults).
Link: https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/wonderlab-annual-pass-gift-voucher

 

SMALLER MUSEUMS MEMBERSHIPS FOR FAMILIES

 

LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM

London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is a firm favourite with this family, thanks to its historic buses and trains, hands on galleries, driving simulators and play areas. It’s membership is a little different to those above, as it’s a single entrance ticket which offer unlimited repeat visits for 12 months after your visit. It works out great value for money as it pay for themselves after your very first visit. The museum consistently offers brilliant crafts and activities during the holidays, all included free with your already-paid entrance. Most recently we’ve enjoyed their delightfully low key grotto, with festive crafts, singsongs and a badge from Santa – all included with your entrance.
Price: Online prices for a 12 month ticket from £16.50 for adults (£18 on the door), kids FREE.
Link: https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/visit/tickets
Read my review of London Transport Museum here.

 

THE POSTAL MUSEUM

The Postal Museum has two options for families to visit regularly. The first is a gift voucher for a standard entry ticket which includes one ride on the tiny underground Mail Rail and year round access to hands-on galleries packed with stories of 500 years of the first social network. Their family activities – including crafts, storytelling, film screenings and book readings – are a regular feature in my listings guides, and all are FREE with your entrance. The second option is their newly launched Family Membership which includes all of the above plus ten tickets to Sorted! The Postal Play Space (usually £4-5 per child), a membership pack and card, and cafe discounts.
Price: Gift voucher online prices from £16 adult, £9 child (3-15), under 3s FREE; Family membership £70 for up to 2 adults and up to 3 children.
Link: For gift vouchers see https://www.postalmuseum.org/visit/plan-your-visit/tickets/gift-vouchers/ and for Family membership visit https://www.postalmuseum.org/connect/support-us/membership/
Read my reviews of Mail Rail and Sorted! here, and the Postal Museum here.


Do you need to give someone a hint? Share this post to your social media or send the link to the gift giver directly – I’m sure they’ll be delighted for the steer.

Which gift membership would you most like to unwrap?

 

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