5 tips to save on summer camp
Summer camp can be expensive, especially with multiple kids, and there are more options than you might think. Here's a step-by-step to finding your best camp value.
This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.
Only the wealthiest parents are going to shell out $10,500 on summer camps like this one -- plus $150 for "laundry service."
Thankfully, there's a variety of camps costing less than half that, as well as many that offer camp scholarships (or "camperships") to parents who can prove financial need.
How do you go about choosing the right camp for your kids? Stacy Johnson spoke with Ken Evans, who has owned and operated camps for almost 30 years. Watch the short video below to see what he suggests.
As you heard in the video above, the most important thing to do before picking a camp is making sure your kids want to be there. Here's what to do:
- Talk to your kids. Find out which activities interest your children. Some summer camps offer a range of activities, while others are more specialized. There are camps for sports, arts, academics and many special interests. Some are "day camps" (you have to pick the kids up) while others are "stay camps" or resident camps. To get an idea of what's out there, check out KidsCamps.com or Choose A Camp.
- Make a rough list. With a sense of your kids' interests, search for accredited local camps through the American Camp Association and pick some affordable options. Then call camp directors and ask how they operate, how long they've been around, and whether they offer financial aid.
- Discuss options. Show your kids the websites of the camps you're considering. If they're close enough, take the kids for a visit to make sure your children feel comfortable there.
- Ask about discounts. While some camps offer financial aid, many have discounts for early registration, multiple and returning registrations, and for getting others to sign up. But as with many potential money-savers, you won't know unless you ask. Also find out if there are extra fees or expenses (like uniforms, equipment or field trips), and how refunds work.
- Do the math. If everything but the price sounds perfect, and discounts aren't working out, consider a shorter stay. If it's still too expensive, there may be other options.
If traditional summer camp is out of your reach, being affiliated with certain groups might mean more affordable alternatives:
- Boy/Girl Scout camps. If your kids are members of a Scout troop or council, this option may be only $100 to $300 a week. Here's a database of Boy Scout camps and a Girl Scout council finder. Some camps allow non-Scouts to participate.
- Church camps. Religious communities organize affordable summer camps or youth-oriented mission trips, which may be subsidized by the church or offered at cost.
- Sports camps. If your kids are on a school or community team, there may be summer training or team-building opportunities. For instance, Mason City High School in Iowa offers weeklong sports camps for under $100.
- School camps. School may be the last place kids want to go during the summer, but academic and club camps may be organized or promoted through middle and high schools at reasonable rates. Not all are cheap, however: The AwesomeMath summer program, for example, is close to $2,000 for three weeks.
- Community camps. Your city's department of recreation and parks might have summer programs and lessons. In Seattle, there are cheap or free weeklong sports programs; other activities are often available. Parents may also organize or share information online. If you're in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, check out MommyPoppins.com. If not, use your favorite search engine.
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Those shackled with student loan debt are increasingly being targeted by scams and shady companies promising relief.