by Christina DiMartino
“There is a camp program for every budget, even for those families who don’t have the money to contribute to the cost,” Danielle Shaw, American Camp Association’s Texoma Section executive in Dallas, Texas, told Parent USA City.
“This applies to resident camps as well as day camps. There are a lot of things camps and associations are doing today to help ensure that every child has the opportunity to have a valuable camp experience, regardless of the parents’ financial status.”
Numerous financial avenues
Shaw says many kids summer camps offer tiered pricing, allowing families to contribute to the camp fee based on their income.
Other programs include incentive discounts for parents who register their child by a certain date. Fee reductions are also offered by some camps for multiple enrollments from one family.
“Many camps provide financial assistance, over and above discount programs,” says Shaw. “These camps raise money through public initiatives, or they go to larger entities asking for ‘camperships’—partial or total scholarships and financial assistance. Families should not assume that their income doesn’t qualify. In some special needs communities the fee is subsidized by donations so that kids can go to camp free.”
Camp fees vary widely
Shaw says there are a wide range of camp fees. “A program can cost from $75 to $650 a week for ACA-accredited resident and day camps, depending on many variables,” she says.
Many families have camping traditions where the parents or grandparents have gone to a specific camp, so they choose the same camp for their children, regardless of cost. Many parents today choose a specialty camp that matches their child’s talent or interest, such as tennis or computer camp. Fees are often based on the specialty.
“If a child is already involved in Boy Scouts of America, for example, his parents may choose a camp program offered by the organization,” Shaw adds. “There are camps for kids with every possible special interest, and even ones that reinforce the family’s religious affiliation.”
Details help determine costs
Every camp is different in what it provides for the basic camping program fee, but Shaw says there are typical expectations. Parents can expect the price to include meals, lodging, and the daily program activities. Conventional camps include sports, outdoor adventures, and other activities that help build campers’ social and physical skills and bring them close to nature and the environment.
“Longer programs will likely be more expensive,” says Shaw. “Pricier camps may have longevity records that have afforded them a good reputation, thereby enabling them to charge more. An expensive camp may have accommodations that are more elegant than those that are priced lower. For example, campers may board in Swiss chalet type of housing as opposed to a platform tent or wood bunkhouse.”
Camps that hire experts to teach specialized classes during the camping session sometimes charge a fee to campers who want to participate.
Some camps require that campers wear uniforms, and they make these available to parents at a fee. Most, however, allow campers to wear their own clothing. Camps issue a list to parents advising them of what their child should pack.
“Other additional costs could include camp store expenses,” says Shaw. “Campers can purchase camp-related logo-wear, such as t-shirts and caps, mementos like photos of the camper’s cabin group, or CDs and DVDs about the camp. Many also sell snack foods and toiletries. Parents decide how much money to give their children for these discretionary items.”
Transportation to and from camp is typically the parents’ responsibility. Like all related expenses, Shaw suggests that parents inquire with the camp administrator for specific details.
Finding the right camp for the right price
Shaw says it is most important that parents find the right camp for their child’s interests and desired camping experience.
“Once you have a list of camps that you feel are a good fit for your child, contact the administrators directly about what is available regarding financial assistance through whatever agencies the camp is affiliated,” she advises. “Also inquire about the income criteria for funding assistance so you can determine if you qualify.”
Shaw adds that parents seeking financial aid should also inquire about whether the camp participates in income-eligible subsidy programs, such as those offered through the U.S. government.
For more information including links to helpful websites, check this article on the American Camp Association’s website.
Christina DiMartino has been a freelance and assignment writer since 1985. She is a researcher, interviewer, writer, editor, and manuscript collaborator with a repertoire of clients from around the world.
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