5 Tips to Save on Summer Camp

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Summer camp can be expensive, especially with multiple kids - but cost isn't the only factor to consider, and there are more options than you might think. Here's a step-by-step to finding your best camp value.

Only the wealthiest parents are going to shell out $10,500 on summer camps like this one – plus $150 for “laundry service.”

Thankfully, there’s a variety of camps costing less than half that, as well as many that offer camp scholarships (or “camperships”) to parents who can prove financial need.

How do you go about choosing right camp for your kids? The first step is to get your kids involved as early in the process as possible. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson spoke with Ken Evans, who has owned and operated camps for almost 30 years. Watch the short video below to see what he suggests…

As you heard in the video above, the most important thing to do before picking a camp is making sure your kids want to be there. Here’s what to do:

  1. Talk to your kids. Find which activities interest your children. Some summer camps offer a range of activities, while others are more specialized. There are camps for sports, arts, academics, and many special interests. Some are “day camps” (you have to pick the kids up) while others are “stay camps” or resident camps. To get an idea of what’s out there, check out KidsCamps.com or Choose A Camp.
  2. Make a rough list. With a sense of your kids’ interests, search for accredited local camps through the American Camp Association and pick some affordable options. Then call camp directors and ask how they operate, how long they’ve been around, and whether they offer financial aid.
  3. Discuss options. Show your kids the websites of the camps you’re considering. If they’re close enough, take the kids for a visit to make sure your children feel comfortable there.
  4. Ask about discounts. While some camps offer financial aid, many have discounts for early registration, multiple and returning registrations, and for getting others to sign up. But as with many potential money-savers, you won’t know unless you ask. Also find out if there are extra fees or expenses (like uniforms, equipment, or field trips), and how refunds work.
  5. Do the math. If everything but the price sounds perfect, and discounts aren’t working out, consider a shorter stay – maybe four weeks instead of all summer. If it’s still too expensive, there may be other options…

Budget-camp options

If traditional summer camp is out of your reach, being affiliated with certain groups might mean more affordable alternatives:

  • Boy/girl scout camps. If your kids are members of a scout troop or council, this option may be only $100-300 a week. Here’s a database of Boy Scout camps and a Girl Scout council finder. Some camps allow non-scouts to participate.
  • Church camps. Religious communities organize affordable summer camps or youth-oriented mission trips, which may be subsidized by the church or offered at cost. For example, Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Georgia charges about $200 a week for up to 10 weeks.
  • Sports camps. If your kids are on a school or community team, there may be summer training or team-building opportunities. For instance, Mason City High School in Iowa offers weeklong sports camps for under $100.
  • School camps. School may be the last place kids want to go during the summer, but academic and club camps may be organized or promoted through middle and high schools at reasonable rates. Not all are cheap, however:  The AwesomeMath summer program, for example, is close to $2,000 for three weeks.
  • Community camps. Your city’s department of recreation and parks might have summer programs and lessons. In Seattle, there are cheap or free weeklong sports programs; other activities are often available. Parents may also organize or share information online – if you’re in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, check out MommyPoppins.com. If not, use your favorite search engine.

Stacy Johnson

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