How to save money on museum fees by visiting the gift shop instead!

So this is probably going to be self-explanatory, but I think we’ve all found ourselves at one time or another in the position of wanting to cut back on expenses, and wondering whether something or other is worth the entry fee or not.

For whatever reason, art museums are some of the most commonly-mentioned sightseeing activities in guidebooks and other travel sources; this is changing pretty quickly, as adventure junkies and hipster weirdos demand ever-more “unique” travel experiences, and skip the museums entirely.

It makes plenty of sense, though. If you don’t visit museums for fun at home, why bother visiting them somewhere else? Some of those tickets cost $20 or more, and can’t you see everything on a computer anyway? Yes. Yes you can.

It’s kind of a predicament, because I’ve visited plenty of interesting museums; those that have weird exhibits, interesting explanations, unusual works of art that aren’t just Renaissance paintings like all the others, and so on. But you never really know what you’re going to get until after you buy a ticket.

Unless you visit the gift shop instead:

Gift shop postcards
There isn’t even a velvet rope to block your path.

Yup, that’s every important painting in the museum, prominently and conveniently displayed in postcard form for you to peruse. All for free, of course.

I’m always surprised at how extensive the gift shop selections can be, especially when they have full-size posters that are the same size as the real paintings. I mean, yeah, it’s nicer to see the real one, but is it worth $20 if you’re just going to forget everything anyway?

Besides, you can get up close and examine everything on your own time, without being rushed by everyone behind you:

Gift shop prints
The plastic wrap is kind of like a protective glass case, but oh well.

I don’t mean to badmouth museums too much, or recommend not going at all. But if you’re short on cash, or you’re just running out of time, a gift shop visit is the next best thing.

It’s also a good way to sample what’s inside, to see if you really want to spend the money to see what’s there. Occasionally there’s a really famous work of art inside, and for some people, that’s worth the price of entry. For others, not so much. But this is a good way to check.

Gift shop ceramics
Some of this would actually be useful, too.

Museums are always going to be an iffy sightseeing activity, because you never quite know what you’re going to get until after you buy a ticket and go inside. You’ll feel like you might be missing out if you skip it, but you might feel like you’re wasting your time and money if you go inside and it’s just boring.

So if you’re on the fence about museums, give this a try instead. It might even be kinda fun.

Not great fun…but kinda fun.

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook or Twitter.

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11 Comments on “How to save money on museum fees by visiting the gift shop instead!”

    1. You generally don’t know what’s in there, and you might be in the city for all sorts of reasons and interested in seeing things, but in a hurry and short on cash. It’s not worth flying all over the world to do this, but it might be worth passing through if you’re there anyway.

  1. I’d never thought of using the gift shop as a snapshot of what’s in a museum before, but this is a really good idea! Although most museums will choose the ‘prettier’ paintings for prints, something you can hang on your wall rather than something interesting and unique.

    Or you could come to London and see all our museums for free. :)

  2. I would think that a lot of tourist know what they want to see at a particular museum. So this suggestion will only work if you are browsing for museums to visit. Best to do that beforehand.

    1. I would say that if you know which museum has the Mona Lisa and other famous things like that, then yes, but smaller museums or even big museums in smaller cities won’t have anything famous, so people go in there just to wander around for a while. I would say most people only know a few paintings or sculptures by name, and the rest of the time they’re just randomly visiting to see what’s there.

  3. i don’t agree with you here.
    you say that, if people don’t go to museums in their city, they shoudn’t go in other cities. it’s almost the same as your topc “wh visit turkey if i haven’t seen LA”. maybe some people live in small cities with not many museums or somewhere, where there are no new exhibitions each month? and if you go to egypt, why not visit an egyptian museum, because that’s something you can’t see in your country or city. or, if you’re in spain- why not visit a dali or picasso museum?! maybe there was a picasso exhibition in your country 15 years ago, maybe never. i don’t think that the giftshop is anywhere near the real exhibition. hey, they sell art prints all over the internet- why not just buy a mona lisa reprint?! or a van gogh.. you contradict yourself. it’s like googling nice pictures of different places over the world and saying it’s the same as travelling there. but maybe you jut don’t really like museums.

    1. I like visiting museums, but some people hate them, so I think this is a decent way for them to get a quick idea of what’s in there, see something new that they wouldn’t be able to Google because they don’t know the name, but without having to spend lots of money and time to do it. I’m not saying it’s the right way to do things, and seeing the real exhibit is better, but some people just won’t do that at all.

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