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Making Camp Affordable

Seven ways to put a summer experience within your child's reach

It's hard to put a price tag on kids' learning and growth, but parents certainly have family budgets to think about when considering camp. The good news is, there's a program to fit nearly every one. With a little research, not only can you find camps within a certain price range - you may also reduce certain costs by asking some key questions.

1. Research camps by cost. At CampParents.org, the American Camp Association's family-dedicated site, the "Find a Camp" database lets you search for camps within your price range. The database also allows searches by location, special needs, special activities, length of session and age - and you can search multiple variables at once.

Parents may be surprised to learn that among ACA-Accredited camps, fees can be as low as less than $100 per week for day camps. Among resident camps, one of every four camps has weekly fees between $100 and $300. If you're looking to estimate costs, it's helpful to know that the median weekly fee for day camps is $182; for resident camps, it's $390.

2. Ask about financial assistance. Ninety percent of camps offer some sort of financial assistance to families, usually in the form of "camperships." These can cover a portion or all enrollment fees. The camp may not offer this option up front, so you do need to inquire. Although camperships are usually awarded based on need, don't automatically assume that your income level doesn't qualify. Ask! Just remember that it's vital to apply early.

3. See if the camp offers special discounts. Many provide discounts for situations such as early registration, full-season enrollment or multiple enrollments from one family. This is another case of making sure to ask. You may find that you're entitled to a reduced rate.

4. Find out the camp's refund policy. These vary greatly from camp to camp. Some will give a total refund prior to a certain date, while others will refund in the case of illness only. Others don't offer refunds, so be certain before enrolling your child and sending money. Most camps ask for a small nonrefundable deposit at the time of application, which may or may not go toward the cost of camp fees.

5. What's included in the enrollment fee? Day camps will typically include transportation. Resident camps may offer limited transportation, such as a van ride from a major local train station. Ask about fees for special programs and trips, special equipment that's required, organization memberships, and amenities such as laundry service and the camp canteen.

6. Day camp can be tax-free. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows an income tax credit of dependent care expenses, which may apply to qualifying day camp expenses as well. The amount of the credit is based on adjusted gross income and applies only to federal taxes. Click here to learn about the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

7. Look into a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account. This allows parents to be reimbursed on a pre-tax basis for childcare or adult-dependent care expenses that are necessary to allow parents to work, look for work or attend school full-time while caring for qualified dependents. In certain circumstances, day camp expenses, including transportation by a care provider, may be considered dependent care services. Click here for FAQs about these accounts.

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Apr 26, 2010 02:56 pm
 Posted by  great mom

Looking for a good camp for my son with special needs who is 9 yrs old. Would like to keep it somewhat close to home. Sterling Heights Mi

Nov 30, 2010 10:43 pm
 Posted by  www.campbluesky.net

Hello "Great Mom"

There is a terrific day camp that finally allows our kids with special needs to be "accepted" into a genuine summer day camp. They work in partnership with YMCA and have received tons of publicity on their approach to empowering kids to truly explore what general population campers have been able to experience without bias for so many years... such as a zip line, canoeing, arts and crafts, horseback riding, nature observations, a giant 100 foot water slide and a chance to play side by side with general population kids and counselors that truly accept and encourage them to be active. Camp Blue Sky is a "camp within a camp" and thus their counselors are high knowledgable and passionate ADULTS with a 1 adult to 5 children ratio (they even bring in extra staff at no extra charge if they feel your son or daughter could benefit more with a smaller ratio. Our kids finally had the summer they deserved last year. They even provide transportation from the Birmingham YMCA! Check them out at www.campbluesky.net they just started registration so the site is viewable but being updated. Their new # is 810-545-8181. Hope this helps! P.S. They are recognized by MORC, Judson Center and Youth Assistance which means you may qualify for financial assistance if needed.

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