How To Save Money On Summer Camp For Kids

How to cut costs on expensive summer camps for the kids.

Brisbane Lions AFL Community Camp
Getty Images | Jonathan Wood

Summer is just around the corner. And, that means one thing for millions of parents—no school.

To keep everyone from going nuts from the “I’m bored”s and “there’s nothing to do”s, you may consider sending your child to camp for one or more weeks. If you’re a working parent, summer camp may be a necessity. But, how do you know what camp will be a good fit for your child and your budget?

Check out these steps to make finding the ideal summer camp a bit easier.

1. Make a plan.

With so many camp options out there, it is important to consider what will work best for your family. How many weeks will your child attend camp? What exactly is the summer budget? What type of camp or camps will best suit your needs? Will your child prefer several different week-long day camps or one summer-long overnight camp? Once you have a plan it will be a lot easier to begin and narrow down your search.

To help determine your budget, keep in mind that, in 2015, the American Camp Association (ACA) found that the average day camp costs were $271 a week and the average overnight camp costs were $704 a week.

2. Check your area for a community camp expo.

A camp expo or fair puts a whole slew of camp programs offered in your local area in one spot. One of these fairs is a great place to compare programs, meet with camp employees and ask questions. You can check out this list from ACA, or do a little research in your own area to find one near you. I attended one in Dallas last month and found it super helpful. I even won a raffle for a free week of LEGO camp for my kid.

3. Start at your local university, community center or YMCA.

The programming at these organizations are diverse and often half the price of the competition. Most camp offerings are available online, so check your local sites and find anything from sports to art to STEM camps.

You may even find free programs at your local universities. A quick search in my area revealed a free week-long chemistry camp at the University of Texas at Dallas. According to the website, this one-week summer camp is designed to inspire and excite girls aged 11-14 to explore their passion for science and chemistry.

4. Look at your local church or other religious institution.

I know here in the Big D some of the best, most affordable (and potentially free) summer camps are the Vacation Bible Schools offered at just about every church. So check out your local places of worship and get in on the fun. Not a member of the faithful? That’s ok, church membership is often not required.

5. Take advantage of memberships.

Many zoos, museums and botanical gardens offer camps throughout the summer months, and members can usually take advantage of steep discounts. One of my fondest childhood memories is staying the night at the Cincinnati Zoo as part of their summer program. Pulling back the curtain on some of these field trip destinations can be really exciting and invigorate a kid’s interest in science.

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