National Trust membership can be a tempting option when you’re looking to save money on days out and these days saving money is a must. Is National Trust membership worth it though? In these cash strapped times is committing to buying this a good idea?
I’ve been a member of the National Trust for a number of years, on and off, and thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the scheme and review whether it’s value for money and whether it’s a good idea to purchase in 2023.
In answer to the question. Yes, the National Trust membership is worth it! It’s been great value for us and we’ve explore so many places recently. But actually it hasn’t always been and it’s not for everyone. Read on to find out more in my honest review!
This post has been fully updated in December 2022 for the 2023 season – we’ve had another fab year of being members and it’s not changed our minds despite price increases (see below for updated prices)
And if you’re ready to learn more see about getting National Trust membership here.
This post is aimed at people living in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Scottish residents should look at the National Trust for Scotland and if you’re visiting from overseas there are options for a Touring Pass which I’ve talked about at the end of the post.
What do you get with National Trust Membership?
First of all when you become a member of the National Trust you get your personalised membership card and a car sticker.
This gives free access to many sites around the country and free parking at their managed car parks. It’s not all country houses though, there’s a wide variety of sites around the country like:
- British UNESCO world Heritage sites like Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire
- Ancient sites and landscapes like Avebury
- Medieval castles like Bodium Castle which is one of many castles near London
- Stunning coastal areas like the Giant’s Causeway and Cornwall’s beaches
- Country houses, estates and gardens like these Pemberley locations.
When you join you’ll also get a handbook that details all of the sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A magazine is also produced that comes three times a year.
If kids join with the junior membership level they can get a fun kids pack too. This might be worthwhile if they have grandparents who take them out and who also have their own memberships.
Finally, you’re contributing to keeping these areas looked after which in a world where that’s not often easy or guaranteed is something worthwhile I think. The heritage of the UK is pretty special and I’m grateful we have somewhere that has funds and the knowledge to help with the upkeep.
You can also buy membership as a gift although it must be paid for in full and can’t be done by direct debit.
Can you save money with the pass?
This is going to depend entirely on what your plans are, what properties are nearby to you and what they’d have cost to visit without a pass.
Many properties cost between £10 and £20 for an adult to visit so you might only need to visit 4 in the year to recover your costs of a yearly pass.
If you visit National Trust owned land or free attractions they often have charged car parks where members can park free. Near us it’s often £3 or so for an hour and more for all day – it all adds up!
You can see what’s nearby or where you might plan to go on holiday here.
It’s worth remembering that the pass lasts for a year so even if you pay by Direct Debit, like many people do, you’re tied into that year. When figuring out if you’re going to save money, always work on a years cost.
Does NT membership work for English Heritage sites?
There are a couple of sites in the UK that are jointly owned or managed by both the English Heritage and the National Trust. For example, Stonehenge is owned and run by the English Heritage but as the National Trust also manages the lands around it there is a reciprocal arrangement so you can also visit for free even if you’re not an English Heritage member.
For English Heritage properties that don’t have a connection with the NT your membership will not be able to be used for free entrance.
Does National Trust membership work in Scotland?
The National Trust membership covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland. So what about Scotland?
They have a separate institution in Scotland called the National Trust for Scotland. The good news is that if you have National Trust membership you can get free entrance to National Trust for Scotland sites too.
(I actually didn’t know that until I started writing this article and researched it so I’m extra happy now!)
How much is National Trust membership?
Now feels like a good time to explore the costs of the NT membership (prices correct as at December 2022):
Joint: £127.20 (£10.60 per month)
Individual: £76.80 (£6.40 per month)
Family, 1 adult: £83.40 (£6.95 per month)
Family, 2 adults: £133.80 (£11.15 per month)
There are also cheaper passes for young people (18-25 years) at £38.40 yearly and juniors (0-17 years) for £10 yearly – no direct debit options for these.
Over 60s can get a discounted rate but only if they’ve had a membership for 5 years in the last 10.
You can also choose Lifetime Membership – these are quite a lot of money but may well be worth it if you know that you’ll get the use out of them.
For example a Joint membership is £2305. You’d need to pay for about 18 years to then save money that way, or 14 if you’re aged over 60.
Of course this doesn’t account for membership cost increases year on year which are likely – once you’ve paid for the Lifetime membership that’s not a worry any more, so in reality it will probably take you less years to recoup your costs.
Our National Trust Membership review
We’ve had the NT membership at various stages in our lives over the past 15 years or so, so I feel like we’re in a good place to review it.
The first time I had the pass I was in the ‘Young person’ category and we used it to gain free car parking at the nearest place for some great days out with our kids. It was nice and cheap for us so I definitely felt it was worth it then.
We’ve then had it as a family and now my kids are grown we’ve got the Joint membership.
Honestly we use it for free entrance and the free parking, that’s the point for us and especially so since we have a lot of local areas owned by the NT. Many people might do it for the charity aspect and helping to keep these sites alive but that’s not our priority. I do appreciate that happens but for us it’s a way of prepaying some days out and knowing we have it available for ‘free’ when we want to visit.
It’s super easy to sign up and join and your membership starts straight away so perfect if you’ve left it last minute like I have a tendency to do. You get a temporary card that you can print out and it works for a month while the payments get set up. Again, it was really easy to do.
Is the National Trust membership worth it?
So I guess we should come to the question of whether it’s worth paying for National Trust membership. I’ve had different views based on where we lived and our kids ages over the years.
When we used to live in South Yorkshire we didn’t have that many properties that were close enough by for us to think paying for the pass would be worth it year after year. We had it one year and did make use of it to make it worth it for us, but having so little opportunity near us made it hard and we didn’t keep it every year.
It was made much more worth it in years when we had a lot of UK holidays and if you know you’re going on a British holiday it’s definitely worth considering. It made the cost of a trip much more bearable since we could take advantage of ‘free’ days out.
One year we spent travelling in a camper van round the UK and were on such a budget that having the National Trust membership already paid for was invaluable for us – we always knew we could have a day out and explore somewhere new.
Now that we live in an area of the UK that has a lot of National Trust properties and outdoor areas that have car parks run by the NT (Cornwall) it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. We can go to different places each weekend if we wanted to and not worry about parking costs or any entrance fees. I love having that option!
For those on a budget and especially for families I think it’s a great thing to have. The direct debit is low enough to not be a huge monthly cost but having the option of a free day out is fantastic. With prices rising a lot recently it’s really comforting to know that you can still take the kids out without needing to spend a lot, or anything at all if you take a picnic! I like to think about it as pre-paying our days out.
Finally, and this might be just me, but I actually like having a pass like this to encourage me to explore more. I like to get my moneys worth so I’ll be sure to make sure we get out and see new places. If I have to pay each time I might not bother!
What about Overseas Visitors?
People from overseas wanting to visit National Trust sites have a couple of options. If you only want to visit one site then you might find that it’s cost effective to just pay the entrance fee on the door.
If you want to visit more than one place then a Touring Pass might be worth it – it costs from £33 for 7 days (for an individual) and they have joint and family options too. You can’t buy them at properties, they must be bought at the Online Shop or the Visit Britain site. Do be aware that some properties aren’t included so check before buying.
It’s also worth checking if you’re coming from somewhere where you have your own National Trust scheme that might be affiliated with the National Trust and provide free access too. For example, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have their own schemes that provide reciprocal free entry to their members.