Believe it or not, summer is just around the corner. Do you have any idea what you are going to do with your kids for those three long months before school starts again? How about summer camp? Summer camp, especially when you have multiple kids, can be quite expensive. Can you believe there are some camps that cost upwards of $10,000 for the summer—that’s more than in-state college tuition in my state! Fortunately, there are many ways to save on summer camps, and there are affordable summer camp options available.
Ways to Save on Summer Camps:
- Apply for Scholarships and Financial Aid: Many day camps and sleep-away camps offer need-based scholarships (a.k.a. “camperships”) and financial aid packages for campers; however, such programs are not always mentioned in a camp’s informational materials or on its website. Find a camp you’re interested in by searching sites such as KidsCamps.com and the American Camp Association’s list of accredited camps. Then call these camps and inquire about financial aid and scholarships.
- Barter: I’ve known many parents who have worked at their kids’ summer camps (especially sleep-away camps) in exchange for free tuition for their kids. For example, a nurse can work as a camp nurse or a school art teacher can run a camp’s arts and crafts program in exchange for free tuition for her kids. Camps may also be looking for administrative help. Call camps you’re interested in and inquire about such opportunities.
- Junior Counselor/Counselor-in-Training Programs: Older teens can often attend camps (especially sleep-away camps) for a reduced fee if they work as a junior counselor/counselor-in-training (“C.I.T”). However, such programs often require that a junior counselor/C.I.T. attended the camp in the past as a traditional camper.
- Send Your Kids to the Same Camp: If you send more than one of your kids to the same camp, you will often get a sibling discount. According to the director of the National Camp Association, sibling discounts can save you between 5% and 15% off tuition costs.
- Gift Certificates: Some camps offer gift certificates. When friends and family inquire about birthday or holiday gifts for your children, you can point them in the direction of such camp gift certificates.
- Other Deals and Discount Opportunities: Some camps offer discounts for early enrollment, pre-paying for camp tuition, and for children of camp alumni. I’ve also seen great discounts for summer camps on daily deal sites such a Groupon and Living Social. Also, be sure to check out your community newspaper and local parenting magazine for coupons and discount offers for local camps.
Affordable Camp Options:
- Boy Scout/Girl Scout Camps: Local Boy Scout/Girl Scout day camps can run as low as $100/week. Some camps even allow non-Scouts to attend. Check out Scout camps using the Boy Scout Local Council Finder and the Girl Scout Council Finder.
- “Church” Camps: Some churches, temples, and other religious communities provide affordable summer camps or youth mission trips that may be subsidized or offered at cost.
- Community Camps: Check out your local youth center for typically affordable day camp options. Also, be sure to check out summer camps and programs offered by your city’s department of recreation and parks—many have cheap or free programs.
- Sports Camps: Some schools or community youth teams may offer free or low-cost summer-training opportunities or camps for team members.
- Summer School Enrichment Courses: Some public summer school programs (especially at the high school level) offer free summer school for classes besides the core-academic subjects. Look for courses such as art, physical education, computers, drama, and driver’s education.
- Summer Camp Co-ops: Consider forming a summer camp co-op with other families in your neighborhood. With a co-op, parents take turns watching each other’s children. During the summer, five families can form a summer camp co-op where each family is in charge of creating a fun summer experience at their home for all the kids just one day a week. You can organize your own co-op or join an existing co-op in your area using the free tools at Care.com.