7 Steps for Finding a Great, Affordable Kids Summer Camp

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. As an adult, I anticipate a semi-quiet house once my kids head out the door.

But 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.

Following are seven tips to help you out.

1. Consider your kid

Remember, this is not about you. 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 children 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.

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 $200 for an overnight camp run by a YMCA or recreation department.

4. Search online resources

Maybe the perfect camp is one you’ve never heard of before. To find it, you may have to do more than ask for recommendations from Facebook friends.

Instead, head to the internet, where you can search by price, location or camp features. Here are some summer camp websites to try:

Also, check out the websites for your local YMCA, Scouting organizations and area universities for other opportunities.

5. Make sure the camp is awesome

Every summer camp website is bound to tell you it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. As a parent, it’s your job to make sure that’s true.

First, find out more about who oversees the camp. Is it run by a local or national organization? Does that group have a good track record of quality?

Once you feel comfortable with the camp’s parent organization, it’s time to find out more about the specific location you plan to use. If you don’t know anyone personally who has sent a child there, ask for references.

Searches of the web and Facebook can also help you ferret out the inside scoop on a camp. But keep in mind that people are more likely to complain than compliment, so online gripes might not give you the whole story. A better indicator of how the camp is run may be how it responds to those complaints.

6. Ask about fees, scholarships and incidental expenses

The weekly fee or tuition rate is probably front and center in your mind, but it might not be the amount you end up paying.

On the one hand, many camps offer financial assistance to offset fees. A high percentage of camps offer some type of aid, from total to partial scholarships. Some offer this money on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s best to apply early.

On the flip side, you could end up paying more than the advertised price if the camp tacks on a lot of incidental expenses. Activities such as horseback riding and archery may cost extra, or there may be a camp store at which your child can rack up a healthy account balance.

7. See if you can get your money back

Last, but not least, ask about the refund policy. If your child gets sick or there’s a family emergency, can you get your money back? What if Junior decides he hates camp on Day 2? Do you get a partial refund?

In my experience, it’s rare for a camp to offer refunds for sickness or a change of heart. However, it’s good to know upfront what the policy is. Then, if you find a summer camp that is generous with refunds, it might deserve a bump to your short list.

Will your kids be attending summer camp this year? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
9 Forgotten Frugal Strategies — and How to Resurrect Them
9 Forgotten Frugal Strategies — and How to Resurrect Them

These time-tested methods can help us live smarter today.

These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire
These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire

If you expect to have modest retirement income, you may want to avoid spending your golden years here.

These 5 Laptops Have the Best Battery Life
These 5 Laptops Have the Best Battery Life

Need a laptop that runs as long as you do? Check out these models.

17 Surprising Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher
17 Surprising Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher

It’s often easier and faster to put these household items in the dishwasher than to clean them by hand.

5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down
5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down

Here’s how to bring down recurring expenses and save hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars each year.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable
10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.