Dust off the beach bags and break out the swimsuits – even if the weather may not feel like it yet, summer vacation is just around the corner!
If you’re already on the hunt for activities to keep your children busy, then you’re probably also considering summer camps. Camps are a great option because they often expose children to experiences they would not get at home, while simultaneously teaching skills like self-care, teamwork and conflict resolution.
The challenge, however, is selecting camps that fit both the child and your household budget. But with a bit of early research and some savvy saving ideas, you can find a great camp option for your child that won’t break the bank.
Consider a Day Camp
Children can get the same sense of independence from a daytime camp that they can from an overnight one – and Mom and Dad can save quite a bit of money, too.
Look for Early Registration Discounts
Many camps offer discounted savings if you confirm your spot early. This includes camps as varied as those run by local organizations and recreation departments to sleepover camps. Early registration discounts may be due as soon as December or as late as April. Check with your local camp now to see if there is still time.
Inquire about Sibling Discounts
In addition to early registration incentives, many camps offer sibling discounts. These can range anywhere from five to 20 percent or more, depending on the number of children you are signing up. Ask about relative discounts – some camps may offer a discount for cousins, too.
Apply for Summer Camp Scholarships
Many programs will offer scholarships that fund partial or full camp fees. Ask the registration department about the kinds of scholarships available. Some of the scholarships are based on financial need, while others are given based on talent or skills. For example, if your child is a top violinist he/she may qualify for a scholarship at music camp. It never hurts to ask.
Submit your Application Online
Many local camps offer small discounts if you sign-up for the camp online. Even a small discount can add up quickly if you’re planning to do a few week-long camps in your community. And of course, you’re saving precious time by avoiding the hassle of completing paperwork and waiting in line. Check out www.ACTIVEkids.com for a listing of camps in your area where you can sign-up online.
Offer to Volunteer
Many camps need additional adult help. Offer to be an extra set of hands one day a week or supervise a special event or activity. Even something as simple as teaching a craft can help reduce camp costs. Use the skills you have: for instance, if you’re a web designer, offer to freshen up the camp website in exchange for one week of camp for your child. You might be surprised how many camp organizers take you up on the offer.
Ask about Payment Plans
Camp organizers understand the financial challenges that come with summer camps. Many are willing to arrange a monthly payment plan to reserve your child’s spot. Work with the camp in advance to figure out a plan that works for you.
Look into the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account
Many families utilize their employer’s dependent care flexible spending account for childcare. But did you know that some summer programs also qualify? There are rules associated with which programs qualify, so consult with your accountant or the IRS to see if any of the options you are considering are a fit.
Whether you’re in the market for day camps or sleepaway camps, sports camps or the arts, summer camps can be expensive. Plan early, hunt for discounts, and remember: it never hurts to ask!
Sejal Pietrzak is a busy mom of two children who attend various camps throughout the summer and Chief Admin Officer at ACTIVE Network. She knows first hand the value of keeping kids active and engaged. This is why she and the team at ACTIVE launched ACTIVEkids.com, an easy-to-use website for parents to discover and register their kids for activities, classes, and camps.