Afford Summer Camp on a Budget by Knowing Your Options
When your kids are out of school, there are camps, sports, trips and other adventures in store. All that fun makes it easy to overspend and difficult to afford summer camp. Fortunately, summer camp is not a one-size-fits-all situation. There are lots of different summer camps available, so you can find one that meets the needs of your budget and the wishes of your children.
Summer camps typically fall into one of three categories: day camps, specialty camps or sleep-away camps. Based on your child's interests, maturity level, and summer schedules one of these may work better for you than others.
Day camps are a popular summer option and are available at many different price points. A day camp experience may include both structured activities and free play in a relaxed setting. This is an excellent option for working parents who need to provide care for their children over the summer. In some cases, you can claim a portion of the costs of a day camp as a tax credit.
Your kids may ask about specialty day camps based on their individual interests. Specialty camps focus on one activity for a set period of time, such as academic enrichment, technology, drama or sports. Typically, these camps are set up for a week or two at a time, allowing kids to switch between activities over the summer. According to the American Camp Association, camp discounts can be obtained in a number of ways, including early registration specials or reduced rates when you register more than one child.
Sleep-away camps offer kids the ability to travel away from home and experience a new place. They will gain independence and get to know campers from areas outside their town or school district. However, sleep-away camps are typically the most expensive option. Also, not every child is ready to spend an extended time away from home. If your kid is new to sleep-away camp, consider a short session of a week or two. This ensures that you're not paying for a long stay that your child isn't enjoying.
Supplement With Free Activities
Camp isn't the only way to keep your child busy and happy in the summer. Check into low-cost or free local activities. The library is a great place to go when you're looking for free summer entertainment options. Many libraries run summer reading clubs or organize other fun community activities. Local museums often offer discount prices on certain days during the summer. There may also be recreational sports leagues for children in your area. No matter what, your child will have plenty of fun, even on rainy days.
Planning your kids' camp experience (or other summer activity) is a good budgeting exercise for everyone and can help teach kids to set priorities. Take time to explain to them the costs and benefits of different camps they're interested in. This will teach them important organizational and planning skills which will carry over into the school year and beyond.