Tips to Make Summer Camp Affordable

The costs associated with camp may seem daunting to many families, especially in today’s economic downturn. However, especially for parents who work outside the home, camp is not a luxury but an essential part of the summer.

What will your child do this summer if you cannot afford camp? Do you envision your child lying on the couch in front of the TV for days at a time? Do you picture your teen plugged into an iPod or on Facebook for three straight months? Or worse?

Although the costs are real, camp is an important part of a family’s peace of mind, as well as an important part of any child’s education. But don’t dismay, there is a way to find a camp that fits your budget.

Help is readily available to families looking for a residential summer camp that matches their child’s requirements and is within their budget. A handful of companies provide free consulting and advisory services. Families incur no obligation when they request guidance or information.

Camp advisory services have years of experience addressing families’ questions and concerns. Advisors ask families the questions necessary to make sure that the “fit” is right between the program and the child and provide families with lists of questions to ask directors.

If you have a tight budget but know you want to send your child or teen away to camp, here are some suggestions to make it more affordable:

* Be aware of early enrollment discounts. Plan ahead.

*Ask the camp about a discount for multiple children from one family.

*Inquire about shorter sessions to accommodate a tight budget.

*Make summer a part of your educational plan. Choose a shorter specialty program to enhance the student’s profile for college or help develop a new interest or skill.

Private camps are not subsidized, so the camper is paying for all of the costs to run a camp: insurance, staff, equipment and capital improvements. You can expect to pay between $700 and $1,200 a week for a private camp.

If you have a very small budget and need to spend less than $600 per week, try the following:

* Contact camps run by your county government or local agencies like the YMCA, Jewish Federation, the Salvation Army, Campfire Boys and Girls, or the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. These camps offer a summer experience at a reduced cost because the sponsoring agency subsidizes the camp.

* Look into financial aid or a scholarship, which are available at most camps. If you apply early, it is possible to get a 20-percent or even a 50-percent discount based on need.

No matter what your budget, there is a camp to meet your family’s financial and educational needs.

Eve Eifler is co-director of Tips on Trips and Camps, based in Baltimore, Md., which provides free advice and guidance to families. For information, visit

Categories: Camps, Day Camps, Finance, Money, Overnight Camps, Track-out Camps