Planning a visit to an aviation museum is a lot like making a cross-country flight. The better your planning is, the better your visit will be.
Start your visit by getting as much information as you can about the exhibits, including when they are open. That way there are no unpleasant surprises, such as finding out that a tour of a favorite airplane is not offered on the day you plan to be there.
Find out about discounts for veterans, active duty servicemen, senior citizens, students and the like, so you can bring any documentation required for the discount.
If you plan on making it a family outing, encourage your youngsters to do some research on the airplanes they will see. They are likely to have a better time if they make an intellectual investment beforehand.
If your visit coincides with a special event, such as a “Meet a WASP Day,” make sure that there is no additional charge or special ticket required for the event.
If someone in your party has special mobility requirements, find out if the museum can accommodate those particular needs.
When you get there
Get a map of the facility. You may have been there before, but museums often move exhibits around.
If there is a particular exhibit that is the most popular, try to visit it as early in the day as you can, when crowds are lighter.
Double-check the times of any movies and presentations you want to see.
Be careful about outdoor exhibits that are weather dependent. If there is a placard that says “stairs slippery when wet,” believe it and be cautious.
Be respectful of placards that warn against touching the exhibits, photographing them, or eating, drinking or smoking near artifacts.
For the kids
Some museums offer child-friendly programs, often involving hands-on activities such as rib building or paper airplane construction. Others have hands-on exhibits, such as those where you can try your hand at flying an airplane via computer simulation.
How much time should you allot?
That depends on the size and scope of the collection. Some museums offer suggestions on their websites, such as “allow four hours to see the whole museum.” If your time is limited, preplanning is particularly helpful. You can pick and chose the exhibits and artifacts you particularly wish to see.
At the end of the visit
This is the time to hit the gift shop. If you really enjoyed your visit you may want to think about becoming a member of the museum (if it offers memberships) or making a donation to it.