Summer camp and cheap rarely appear in the same sentence, especially for working parents who need full-day programs that run throughout the summer.
However, if you’re looking for some week-by-week enrichment camps to keep your kids busy, active and socializing with others, with the right research, you could save some serious bucks.
Finding affordable summer camps
First, think about the type of camp experience that you’d like your child to have, what you can afford and which camp can accommodate your needs/schedule. Here are some avenues to explore:
Check with the city, county, public schools and universities in your area for lower-cost programs as compared to private summer camps. Often, such institutions may offer an arts or science focus.
Vacation Bible School (sometimes called VBS) is a good option for those who want to infuse a little religious instruction into their summertime fun. Offered by local church groups, these experiences are usually less expensive.
Zoos, museums, libraries and state parks also sometimes have summer camp programs, as do Boy and Girl Scout troops or councils for kids who enjoy nature and outdoorsy type activities.
If you’re raising athletic kids, sports camps that are associated with leagues/teams they play for could be another summer camp alternative to consider.
Avoid expensive summer camp surprises
Once you narrow down your list of potential camps, you’ll want to ask some questions up front so there are no surprise costs.
Does the schedule suit your needs? In other words, if you’re shelling out money for summer camp because you need child care, will it be cost-effective? How will your child get to and from the camp? Are early drop off and after-hours care available if needed – and do they cost more?
Next, be sure to ask about what is included in the camp price. Are meals and snacks provided? Are there activities that make the cost worth it (such as built-in swimming lessons or field trips), or will such extras cost more out of pocket?
Are there sibling discounts? If you have two or more children attending camp, these savings can help.
Look into possible ways to not have to pay full price, including early bird registration, or if you have some affiliation with the summer camp, whether it’s being a past participant or from being a year-round member (such as in clubs like the YMCA).
Start your summer camp research early
Whether summer camp is a necessity or just a way to break up the long break from school, start your research now to find some options in your area so that you can comparison shop for the one that offers the best value for your family.
The best deals on summer camp often fill up quickly, so the sooner you apply, the more likely your child can get in.
Use the tips above to find an affordable camp, get as much information as possible to determine if this is really the best, cheapest summer camp option (and to avoid expensive surprises!), and once you’ve narrowed down your choices, apply as quickly as you can.
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