The most important thing to do before picking a summer camp is to make sure your kids are ready and willing to go. Once you’ve established that, here are tips on how to give your kids a great summer experience without breaking the bank.
1. Talk to your kids. Determine 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. Choose whether your child will attend day camp or a sleepaway camp–or perhaps a combination. 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 more have discounts for early registration, multiple and returning registrations, as well as 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 traditional summer camp is out of your budget, 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.
Sports camps. If your kids are on a school or community team, there may be summer training or team-building opportunities.
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.
Community camps. Your city or town’s department of recreation and parks might have summer programs and lessons.