How to Make Camp Affordable for Your Kid

Worried you won't be able to find an affordable summer camp? Here are 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 an affordable summer camp to fit nearly every one.

With a little research, not only can you find camps within a your price range, but you may also reduce certain costs by asking some key questions.

Research camps by cost

The American Camp Association’s “Find a Camp” database lets you search for camps within your budget. 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.

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.

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 that isn’t advertised on the camp’s website.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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