We’re closing in on summertime, when the camping is easy. Paying for summer camp, however, is quite another matter. America’s summer-camp tradition has been since the early 1900s. For over 100 years s’mores around a campfire have been a fun part of summer. In fact, there presently are more than 12,000 sleep-away and day camps in the United States. Here is how to save money on summer camp for kids this year.
For parents, camp is a great way to keep kids amused and active when school is out. With tight finances, however, many families have removed camps from their “must have” lists, which means a lot more kids will spend the summer watching TV or playing video games. With the latest movement to eradicate childhood obesity, the activities involved in camping are even more important. So before you cross camps off your summer agenda, consider the following 10 tips on how to make summer camp a more affordable experience.
These money saving tips provided by Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized consumer savings expert with appearances on NBC’s Today Show, MSNBC, ABC News NOW, and NBC Nightly News.
10 Tips To Save Money On Summer Camp For Your Child
1. Stick To Day Camps
While day camps mean kids don’t get to enjoy sticking a fellow camper’s hand in water while they’re sleeping, they’re are a great way to slash your spending. Day camps can run around $275 a week, while sleep-aways can cost about $780, according to the American Camp Association. (By the way, the ACA website allows you to search for camps by location).
2. Seek Out Discounts
You may be eligible for a discount if you or the child’s other parent is a teacher, firefighter, police officer or member of the military. Savings will vary depending on the camp’s policy, but even a waived registration fee can help.
Some camps also offer multiple-sibling discounts. Your children will have to attend the same camp — which may not thrill them — but many offer a discount based on the number of children you register. Your savings can be in the hundreds.
3. Select Shorter Sessions
Camps typically offer a menu of programs ranging from two to 10 weeks. Even during a shorter session, your child will still develop social bonds, experience nights away from home, and generally enjoy the same benefits of a lengthy session. As a bonus, they’ll likely have overcome homesickness by the time they’re ready to leave, assuming the typical incubation stage for homesickness is 10 days.
With attendance down, more camps are willing to negotiate. Start with the camp director and ask about scholarships and other forms of financial aid. According to the ACA, camps give away more than $39 million each year in scholarships and 90 percent offer some other form of financial assistance.
5. Set Up A Payment Plan
If a camp won’t negotiate on price, ask if you can arrange a plan that will help you avoid paying an unwieldy lump sum. You may have to start early to pre-pay, which brings us to our next topic.
6. Book Early
It may seem strange to think about summer camp when leaves are falling, but camps often offer discounts to families who sign up early. Enrollment may begin as soon as two weeks after the end of the previous session. Before you book, however, check the financial stability of the camp. The $100 you save through early registration could go down the drain if the camp fails over the winter.
7. Save on Camping Gear
Once you’ve paid for camp, you still have to outfit your child. You may have to provide everything from a sleeping bag to insect repellent. To reduce such hefty expenses, always compare prices and products online. Use coupons and free shipping codes for your favorite sports-supply and camping merchants. Sites such as CouponSherpa.com offer online coupons for stores like REI where you can find summer camp essentials.
8. Check Into Tax Breaks
Summer camps may qualify as a child-care tax break for kids 13 or younger. Talk with your accountant about the tax laws for next year.
9. Research Non-Profit Camps
Contact camps run by local agencies, your county government or a nearby university. A few organizations that subsidize camps include Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire Boys and Girls, the Salvation Army and the Jewish Federation.
Ask about possibly volunteering a day or two of your time during your child’s camp session as a trade-out for a portion of the fees.