While the costs of summer camps vary greatly, few would argue that keeping kids engaged and supervised during the months of June through August can take a sizeable dent out of a parent’s budget. Talk to a Bay Area resident who has sent a child to sleepaway camp, and they may tell you it’s realistic to expect to pay anywhere from $750 to $2,000 per week for enrollment. Thankfully, there are a number of strategies that can help offset the costs of camp, if you know where to look. Consider these tips below for a place to get started:
Don’t overlook discounts: Regardless of whether you’re seeking a specialty camp close to home or want a traditional sleep-away experience at a lakeside setting, many camps offer financial incentives that can grow their enrollment, and save you money. Typically, they provide discounts for multiple children, early registration, referrals to other families, group sign-ups and multiple sessions. You can also find substantial price cuts on daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. With just a quick search of the word “camps” in Groupon, we found nearly 30 percent off of a one-week session at Camp Brainy Bunch and a five-day, basketball half-day camp at a bargain price of $99 from $195.
Explore camperships: Although camps often won’t broadcast this fact, they may offer financial assistance for those that qualify. According to Money Talk News, the ACA reports that 90 percent of camps offer some form of financial aid that covers part or all of the cost of enrollment. Often referred to as “camperships,” these scholarships for camp are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it’s best to apply early. But as The Penny Hoarder points out, don’t assume your income is too high to qualify. Check with the camp director to find out what may be available.
Find out if you can pay in installments: If affording the camp your child has his or her heart set on is more of a matter of managing your cash flow, you may want to ask about payment plans. For instance, Camp Woodward, a popular destination summer camp offering a wide range of activities from parkour and dance to skateboarding and BMX, offers a flex-pay deposit program that enables you to split up the cost into scheduled payments. Through the Woodward Camp Foundation, they also provide tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships in all sports each summer.
Look outside the private realm: Even if you can easily afford to pay a premium for a high-end sleepaway camp, you probably aren’t planning on keeping your kids there the entire summer. For a day camp available close to come, it’s hard to beat the offerings of local parks and recreation departments, school districts and community colleges. They provide a wealth of options at an excellent value, from sports and dance camps to boating and culinary arts programs, and much more. Many also offer excursions to favorite vacation spots, weekend adventures and fun day trips.
Explore nonprofits near you: Local service clubs and nonprofit organizations can also be a valuable resource for affordable summer camp fun. The YMCA’s Y Camps offer an impressive range of programs at competitive prices, including both day camps and a variety of sleep-away options, along with programs for teens and those with special needs. The organization also offers financial assistance on a sliding scale based on income and need. If combining travel and service appeals to your child, look into your local Lion’s Club of America. As the Krazy Coupon Lady points out, their Youth Camp and Exchange Program (YSE) includes lodging and meals, as well as the cost of travel. Churches and faith-based organizations also offer low-cost summer camp programs, and usually don’t require that you be a member to enroll.
Check into local businesses: If you have a favorite community business that your family frequents, you may discover that they offer a unique summer camp experience at a great price. The Wondermom Wannabe blog has some great suggestions of these, just a few of which include local art and pottery stores, martial arts studios, theaters, dance studios, music shops, and farms and orchards.
Looking for more help locating a camp that fits your budget and your kids’ interests? The American Camp Association’s nationwide database streamlines your search process by filtering selections based on price range, length of stay, age range, locations, activities, any disabilities and even affiliation, religion and culture. Find them at http://find.acacamps.org/. As DebtHelper.com tells us, their database contains ACA-Accredited Camps® with fees as low as less than $100 per week for day camps. What’s more, one out of four weekly resident camps listed by the ACA has weekly fees of between $100 and $300. For Bay Area specific camps, Ronnie’s Awesome List has a personally curated, easy-to-use guide.