How to Find a Summer Camp Your Kid Will Be Crazy About

What's Hot

2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

With the dizzying array of camps and costs, you need some help making the right decision. Here are some questions to ask that will help you uncover an experience your child will remember.

Mock me, if you will, but I still remember the official song of the Girl Scout camp I attended as a young girl many years ago. (“There’s a camp along the dusty road ….”)

Summer camp can be among the most memorable and wonderful experiences of a child’s life. So, picking the right camp is very important.

But it’s not easy. Camps offer an amazing array of activities and experiences to choose from. The camp of my youth (Camp Riamo near Farmington, Pa.) was pretty basic. Many camps these days — both day camps and overnight or sleep-away camps — specialize in a particular sport, or fine or performing art. Of course, the cost range is equally wide.

So, how do you figure out which camp to send your child to? Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers some help in the video below. Check it out, then read on for specific questions you need to address.

First, here are some of the basics you need to cover with a camp you’re interested in:

  • Is your camp accredited? The American Camp Association has a search tool to find camps accredited by the organization. (This valuable search tool also allows you to tailor your search according  to location, cost, activities and other important factors in your selection process.) Accreditation may not be essential but it will help you decide.
  • How long has your camp been in operation?
  • What’s your emphasis, and what types of activities are provided? You want the right match for your child, and you also want a program that provides a valuable experience.
  • What is the ratio of camp counselors to kids? Barbara Rowley wrote in Parenting that one staffer for every 10 campers is a good ratio for kids ages 8 to 14. Also, what type of training is provided to counselors and how are they screened?
  • How much does the camp cost? Is that all-inclusive or are there other fees, particularly for extra activities and field trips?
  • Can I visit the camp and/or talk to the camp director before I decide? I wouldn’t send a child to a camp that doesn’t provide such access.
  • Can you provide references? When you get those names, actually call those parents.
  • What if my child gets sick? Ask for a copy of the policies and procedures. Is medical care readily available?
  • What is your refund policy?
  • What supplies will my child need?
  • Do you allow cellphones? Rowley brings up this point in the Parenting article: If a camp allows a kid to constantly call and text home from overnight camp, that negates the lesson of independence that’s essential to a good camp experience, no?

What type of camp is best for my child?

A major concern is whether your child is mature enough to attend overnight camp. Parenting magazine says 12 is about the right age to transition your child from day camp to overnight stays, while others say 7-year-olds can handle it. But it really depends on the child. What does he or she think?

Once that’s decided, consider what type of experience would be best. Are you looking for a range of activities or a concentration in a particular area your child is interested in? (Note that your child should be a part of this deliberation too.)

Another concern is what the day-to-day experience will be like. The National Camp Association provides some questions you might ask, including:

Will the program encourage the child to try new things or things he or she is not skilled in?

What is the philosophy regarding competition and the level of competitiveness?

How structured is the program? Are there electives (choices the child can make)?

How expensive will this be?

Here’s one of the biggest questions for many families: How much will this cost? The cost can range from less than $100 into the thousands for long stays and specialty camps.

There are ways to keep the cost in check:

  • Camps sponsored by government entities and nonprofits are generally more affordable. For instance, among the many camp offerings of Hillsborough County in Florida is a two-week day camp for $76. Parents can apply to pay less based on their income.
  • Camps may offer scholarships.
  • Camps may provide an early-registration discount or a break if more than one sibling attends.
  • Some day camps are considered child care by the IRS, and qualify for dependent care flexible spending accounts and the child care tax credit.

Do you have a summer camp experience to share? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!


Read Next: 10 Key Facts to Test Your Credit Card IQ

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 2,019 more deals!