The camp experience offers priceless benefits to the children who participate: instilling in them the kind of interpersonal, social and service skills that lead them to become healthy, well-adjusted adults. But in a time when funds may be tight, finding the means to send your child to camp can seem like a difficult task. You may even feel the camp experience is financially out of reach for you and your child. Fortunately, with a little research and the right resources, you’ll find that the fun of camp can be affordable on any budget.
Many parents have a strong desire to send their children to camp, but immediately write off the possibility due to concerns over cost. These same parents are more than likely unaware of the options they have in finding a camp that is suitable for not only their child, but their budget as well. The American Camp Association (ACA) offers the “Find a Camp” service online at www.find.acacamps.org. This free-to-use service allows parents to search and identify camps by a number of different criteria including location, special needs and activities, and costs. In 2014, the “Find a Camp” service was utilized over one million times to help countless parents find camp activities for their children and families.
In addition to the easy to use “Find a Camp” service that pinpoints camps within a specific price range, parents also have the ability to reduce the cost of camp by asking some key questions. Ninety percent of camps offer varying forms of financial assistance to families. These “camperships” may cover a portion or, in some cases, all of the camp enrollment fees. This option is not always offered to families up front, so parents should always ask if a camp offers additional assistance in paying fees. Camperships are awarded based on need, but don’t assume you won’t qualify. Ask the question! Many camps also offer additional discounts for early registration, full-season enrollment or multiple enrollments, making it possible to save by sending more than one child to camp.
There are other cost related factors to consider when seeking a camp for your child. Be sure to carefully consider camp enrollment fees and what they entail. For example, transportation fees are typically included in the enrollment fee for most day camps, but may be offered in a limited capacity or not at all by residence camps. Other fees to consider include those for special programs, trips, and equipment, as well as memberships and amenities such as laundry services and camp canteens. These fees vary from camp to camp, so it is important that you approach any conversation with a camp professional prepared to ask the right questions.
If a residence camp isn’t what you had in mind for your child, the U.S government offers various forms of assistance in helping send children to day camps. A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account allows parents to be reimbursed on a pre-tax basis for child (or adult dependent) care for qualified dependents. This account allows parents to work, search for work, or attend classes full time while their children receive quality care during the day. In certain circumstances, day care expenses may be considered dependent care services and are paid with pre-tax dollars. Additionally, the IRS allows an income tax credit of up to $6,000 for two or more dependents. For more information on government assistance, visit fsafeds.com and/or irs.gov.
A camp for every budget means a camp for every child. By utilizing these resources and asking the right questions, parents can find camp opportunities for their children that they may not have known about otherwise. The benefits that the camp experience can offer a child are immeasurable, and no child should be deprived of the opportunity to experience camp. Even in the toughest of economic times, many camps are willing to go the extra mile to turn your children into happy campers.
The American Camp Association® (ACA) works to preserve, promote and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-Accredited® camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are over 2,400 ACA-Accredited camps that meet up to 290 health and safety standards. For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org.