7 Tips to Find an Awesome — and Affordable — Summer Camp

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Parents, summer is in sight! Here's how to find that amazing -- yet affordable -- summer camp for your kiddos.

Summer is right around the corner, and soon we will get to send our kids away to summer camp. Yay!

I love summer camp for so many reasons. I have awesome memories of going as a child. And as an adult, I have awesome expectations of a semi-quiet house once my kids head out the door.

But let’s be real here: There is one part of summer camp that’s not so awesome, and that’s the price. Fortunately, you can find a perfect camp at a perfectly good rate if you’re willing to put in a little legwork.

However, you need to start looking now, before spaces fill up and scholarship money disappears. Here are seven tips to help you out:

1. Pick the right camp for your kid

You may have fabulous memories of Camp Crystal Lake, but that doesn’t mean your kids will have the same experience. Rather than force them into what could be a terrifying week, take some time to discuss their expectations of camp. You have plenty of choices:

  • Science camps
  • Sports camps
  • Adventure camps
  • Bible camps
  • Scout camps
  • Art camps

Your child may hate the idea of rock climbing or swimming, but could be geeked about the chance to study robotics on a local college campus. Figure out what makes your children tick, and look for the type of camp that fits their interests and personalities.

2. Decide whether it’ll be a daytime or overnight experience

Along those same lines, decide whether an overnight camp or a day camp will better fit your child and family.

Overnight camps are what typically come to mind when you think about summer camps, but a weeklong excursion with strangers may be too much for some kids. Day camps will require more driving and coordination on your part, but they might provide a more positive experience for kids prone to homesickness.

Working parents might also find that tax incentives tip the scales toward a day camp. Depending on the particulars of your situation, you may be able to use money from a flexible spending account to pay for day camp or claim a Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit based on the tuition. These options aren’t available for overnight camps. Check with a tax professional for more details.

3. Check out community and nonprofit camps

As we’ve said earlier, going to camp isn’t necessarily cheap, with fees often running into the hundreds of dollars. However, you can certainly find a quality camp for less money.

To locate good bargain camps, look to your community and nonprofit organizations. The prices may be as low as free for a half-day vacation Bible school through a church, or as much as a couple of hundred dollars for an overnight camp run by a YMCA or recreation department.

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