I was at the gym one day trudging on the treadmill when a fellow walked in who looked decidedly un-gym-like. And I thought…
“ Huh, if I was traveling and camping and needed a good shower, or I was road-tripping and needed to work out the kinks, why couldn’t I just use my gym membership and go for a free swim or take a yoga class or use the weight machines…”
It got me thinking that there are memberships that I, or you, may have at home that could be of benefit on the road.
Membership in organizations like AAA or CAA or the National Parks are obvious membership opportunities that are beneficial at home and while traveling. But there are less common ones. In many cases independent organizations have teamed up to offer reciprocal admission and other benefits for their members.
Yes, the memberships you purchased to enjoy at home just may have great value as you travel as well. They can save you money and they might even connect you with locals.
Membership Benefits on the Road
Gyms. I’m a member of LA Fitness. They have 800 clubs throughout the United States and Canada. They have pools and spas and classes such as spin and yoga and I can go to any one of them with no additional charge above my membership. As I say, when out on a camping or road trip, or when just away on business, using this makes great sense.
Museums. ROAM – Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums has a list of museums that offer reciprocal free admission to museum members. If you're a member at one of the museums or galleries on the list you can get free or discounted entry to any of the others. Some museums like the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art require a higher level of membership for reciprocal benefits to kick in.
Science centers. The Association of Science and Technology Centers. Become a member of one and your membership will likely include entry to over 300 centers in North America. There's a list on the Ontario Science Centre site here.
Zoos and Aquariums. There's also the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In this case your membership to one AZA accredited zoo or aquarium in North America will get you discounted admission to others. You can see the list on the Toronto Zoo site here.
Gardens. Join the American Horticultural Society for $35/year and get free admission to over 300 gardens throughout the US and Cayman Islands plus you get their magazine six times a year and discounted entrance fees to garden shows. Find gardens here.
Hiking and Nature centers. The Association of Nature Center Administrators has a list of more than 180 centers nationwide that offer free or discounted admission and program purchases to one another's members. If you're a member of a nature center you may want to look at the list.
Service clubs. I know a family who traveled the world and, in many places, used their Rotary Club membership to make local contacts and save some money. I can't pretend to know the ins and outs of this program but, according to their website the “ITHF (International Travel and Hosting Service) exists to promote and facilitate regional, national and international “connections” between its members. ITHF members travel to all different parts of the world and host members from all other parts. Members' lives are enriched by these connections and cross cultural exchanges.” If you're a member of a service group it's worth checking on the international benefits.
Ski clubs. Reciprocal member benefits usually apply to the private ski clubs. Resorts like Whistler just north of Vancouver don't offer memberships. They offer season passes and don't typically offer reciprocal arrangements unless they are virtually on the same mountain. Then your lift ticket could apply to both hills. However, if you're a member of a private ski club that membership could get you on the hill at other private ski clubs. Take a look at your benefit package.
Tennis, boating and golf clubs. What better way to meet locals than participating in your favorite sport. As with ski clubs, the reciprocal benefits are through private clubs, not public ones which are typically pay-for-use not membership based. Ask your club for a list of reciprocating clubs at your destination.
University clubs. If you're a member of your Alma Mater university club you likely have access to clubs around the world with restaurants, bars, fitness facilities and even use of golf clubs and guest rooms. The University Club of Toronto has been running since 1906 and is affiliated with over 300 other university clubs around the world. Check the membership benefits of your Alma Mater society.
Business Networking Groups. Business Network International (BNI) is an international organization of networking groups for entrepreneurs and small business owners. If you’re a member of one, why not drop into a meeting, meet some locals, do a little business on your trip and possibly write some of it off.