7 Tips for Cutting Summer Camp Costs

With summer just around the corner, many parents are thinking about whether they can afford summer camp for their kids. Not just a luxury, summer camp is a great way for working parents who can't take weeks off in the summer to find childcare. However, it can be pricey.

According to the Tom Rosenberg, president and ceo of the American Camp Association (ACA), due to a rise in demand for camp reservations across the US, the average fee is expected to rise 10 to 15 percent compared to 2021. 

So how can you save money on summer camp? Here are some tricks to help you afford summer camp on a budget.

How to save money on summer camp

1. Book early to get discounts

One of the best tips for getting summer camp or any other type of travel cheaper is to book early. Many summer camp programs will offer special discounts if you register months in advance. 

Make a list of all the camps your child is interested in and sort them by the registration deadline. Next, pick the one with the earliest deadline and contact them to see if they offer any early registration discounts. Sometimes enrolling early lets you pay a lower deposit fee or even may even offer a refundable deposit as well.

Another good reason to book early is that camps can also fill up fast, leaving you with fewer options the later you register. Book early to avoid disappointment.

2. Ask about other discounts

Another way to grab a discount on summer camps is to simply ask. Most people don't think to ask, but this is such a simple way to cut costs. For example, Camp Towonga in San Francisco, CA, has a financial assistance program that families can apply for. So, if in doubt, simply ask the camps you have on your list to see if they can offer any cost-saving help. 

For example, some summer camps may offer sibling discounts if you sign up more than one child. Others may offer a discount if your child goes to the same camp for multiple weeks.

3. Look into nonprofit summer camps

Nonprofits such as the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club offer low-cost summer camps and activities for kids across America. These camps or short programs typically cost far less than regular summer camps and can be a great alternative for parents on a budget.

4. Save on supplies

Some summer camps ask parents to buy a big long list of supplies, such as special clothing, stationery, and even musical instruments. This causes many parents to panic. 

However, you typically won't need all of those items. Many summer camps also have a special Facebook group for parents to check whether things like this are essential. So, if in doubt, get a second opinion. 

Alternatively, you might also be able to share items (and expenses) with other families to save money. 

5. Choose a local camp

To save on hefty transportation costs, it might be best to exclusively look at local camps rather than options that require travel. 

Attending a camp in your local area will cost you far less in gas to get there, and you might even be able to carpool with another family that you know is going to the same camp.

6. Volunteer

If you have the time, one way to cut summer camp costs is to volunteer. Some camps offer reduced fees or might even let kids in for free if their parents volunteer at camp. For example, you could volunteer as a camp nurse or a coach.

7. Try to find a camp with an honor system

Some camps have what's known as an “sliding scale.” This is where the camp offers a range of costs or tiered pricing to help people with different income levels to send their kids to summer camp. 

This means that parents can pay what they can comfortably afford while their child gets to enjoy the same camp experience. 

Plan ahead for next year

If summer camp is just out of reach this year, then there's always next year. 

The best thing you can do now is to plan ahead and start saving for next year's summer camp. Just putting a few dollars away each month into a separate savings account can help you make summer camp costs much more manageable. 

If summer camp isn't possible now, spend this time doing your research to work out the average cost for next year. Then, divide that cost by however many months there are until next year's camp. That's your monthly savings goal between now and then. If you can put away money for summer camp, try to put it into a separate account where you're not tempted to touch it. 

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