How to Afford Summer Camps

Krista Anderson-Hill, Senior Summer Camp Correspondent

March 11, 2019 

Summer camp can change a child’s life, but sometimes it can be expensive. Fortunately, lots of camps have total scholarships or offer financial assistance for families that need a boost.

I once read this funny and very true statement about summer camp:  

“Summer camp is like orthodontic care: it is a great idea in theory; it can change a child’s life and it can be very, very expensive.”

That statement pretty much sums it up. Most parents want their children to experience the unique joy of summer camp. Many parents need summer camps to fill the summer childcare gap. And when our wishes and needs meet our pockets, it can be a true shock. Summer day and overnight camps can range from $200 to $2000 per week. Here are a few tips to reduce the cost of summer camp and ease your stress:

Just like colleges, summer camps offer scholarship programs. Lots of camps have total scholarships or offer financial assistance for families that need a boost. If you know of a camp you would like your child to attend, visit their website or call the camp to inquire about scholarships. It is best to start this process early. Scholarships can be limited and may require an application process. A great guide to help parents and caregivers discover camp scholarships can be found here.

Sign Up for Camp Early
This tip is short and sweet. Many camps offer early bird tuition discounts. Most camps begin in June and the earlier you sign up the better.

Check Out Non-Profit Camps
Youth serving non-profit organizations often offer more affordable or free traditional summer camp experiences; think of YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, city and county parks and recreation departments, church groups. These organizations have been in the summer camp business a long time and many are well structured and well staffed.

Some parents can offer skills and resources to a camp in exchange for lower camp tuition. A friend, who is a nurse, serves as a camp nurse, in lieu of her boys camp tuition. Other skills that could be viewed as a valuable resource to a camp include: web design, creating a promotional video, providing CPR training, serving as a camp cook or camp office volunteer.

Ask Grandma and Grandpa
Instead of Grandma and Grandpa gifting toys for holidays and birthdays, ask them to contribute money towards the tuition of a special camp experience. They will love knowing they are giving
the gift of summer childhood memories.

Create Your Own Summer Camp
Find 5 or so other parents with kids close in age to your own, and who can take off a day a week or a whole week off. Each parent can create a day camp experience for the kids. Activities can be dependent upon the parents skills, but some ideas are: art, baking, wood working, learning to code, fishing, swimming, scavenger hunt, berry picking, library programs, museums, lemonade stand, and the list can be as long as your imagination. This idea does involve mom or dad playing camp counselor for five days. But when your camp time is up, you will have weeks where your kids will be busy, happy and outside of your house.

Tax Write Off
Summer camps can be a tax write off if you need your child (under the age of 13) to attend in order for you to work. Save your payment receipts and get the camps tax id number to complete the write off. When you are planning your children’s summer, remember that perfection is not the goal. I know many of us spend lots of time, money and mental energy trying to find and fund the perfect, most magical camps for our children. But one of the most beautiful things about children is that as long as they feel safe and engaged, they can have fun anywhere. So find a camp that meets your budget, have faith that your child will have fun, breath and save your worries for those braces!