Most parents and child development experts agree that going to camp is great for kids. They get to participate in new and challenging activities, learn new skills, make new friends and boost their confidence. But all of these wonderful experiences come at a price. Findid a low cost summer camp option is often hard for parents.
In a poor economy, many parents cannot afford summer camp. No matter how they adjust their budget, they simply cannot find a way to fit summer camp expenses into their budgets. What these parents may not realize is that there are numerous low cost summer camp options available. Even if you can’t scrape up the money to send your child to his top camp choice, you can probably find a suitable alternative that is less expensive and just as fun.
Here are some low cost summer camp options to consider for your child.
- 4-H Camp – Every state in the United States runs an independent 4-H camping program. Since the organization operates as a non-profit, camp fees are generally quite low. The types of 4-H camps offered vary from state to state, but most host a variety of activities that children will enjoy. Some states offer camps for children with special needs as well so if your child has a special need, they too can attend camp. Check with your local 4-H chapter for camp locations, dates and fees.
- YMCA – The YMCA also operates camps throughout the country and at reasonable prices. You will find lots of residential camps that last a week or more on their website, and many local chapters offer day camps as well. YMCA camps include boys’, girls’, co-ed and family programs so there’s something to meet every family’s needs.
- Boys and Girls Clubs of America – Programs offered by the Boys and Girls club vary by location, but they usually include day camps and many other summer activities. Registration fees are low, but additional fees may apply for certain optional activities. Check with your local chapter to see what is available in your area, the dates, fees and locations.
- Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts – Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops usually offer camping opportunities to their members. These camps focus on teaching children new skills and of course, having a great time. The Girl Scout and Boy Scout opportunities may include weekend trips, day camps and residential camps. Membership and registration fees are very reasonable. Check with your local scout troops for details.
- Sports camps – Your child’s school may offer camps for baseball, basketball, soccer and other sports with low registration fees. Some universities also sponsor such sporting programs, and many of these are free to participants. If your child plays sports and they want to enhance their skills, sports camps are a great option for them. Check with your child’s coach or athletic director to find out what sports camps are available in your area.
- Religious camps – Churches often sponsor day and residential summer camp programs for members as well as non-members. These camps are often funded by donations, so registration is cheap or free. Talk to a clergy member or check the local paper to find camps available in your area. These are just a few of the most notable sources for affordable summer camps. Check with your local park service and non-profit organizations in your area for even more options.
While the ideas listed above are good low cost summer camp options options are inexpensive, you may still find yourself short on cash. Here are some more ways you can save money when sending your child to camp.
- Apply for scholarships. They’re not just for college students – scholarships are available to help parents send their children to camp. Some come from the camps themselves, while others are funded by outside organizations. Check online or ask the staff at your camp of choice to find out what’s available.
- Volunteer. Some organizations give discounts to campers whose parents agree to volunteer with them, either during camp or otherwise. Ask if this is an option when considering a camp. You might also ask other parents and even your local education PTA if they know of any volunteer options available.
- Consider a day camp. Fees for day camps are almost always cheaper than those for sleep away camps since they do not include room and board. Meal plans may also be optional – if so, consider sending a bag lunch with your child each day. It’s almost always to cheaper to send a lunch than it is to pay for prepared meals.
- Ask about payment options. Most overnight camps allow parents to pay registration fees in installments for easier budgeting. But if you pay in a lump sum or prior to a deadline, you may be eligible for a discount. Some day camps allow parents to pay by the week or month as long as the balance is paid in full before camp is over. – Ask about discounts for multiple children from the same family. Multi-children discounts can save you a significant amount of money. If this option isn’t offered up front, make sure to inquire about them when you apply to send your children to camp. Some of the most exclusive summer camps cost thousands of dollars per session. Fortunately, there are lots of less expensive options available for families on a tight budget. And since the state of the economy has affected the camps as well, many are willing to work with parents to make camp possible for their children. So before you rule out summer camp this year, take time to look at all of your options.