1. Look into financial assistance.
Every camp has different eligibility criteria, but many camps offer "camperships" – partial or total scholarships. You should apply even if you think you earn too much. "Although they are
usually awarded based on need, parents shouldn't just assume their income doesn't qualify," says Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association. Applying early for these scholarships gives you a chance, if turned down, to research more options such as other discounts, payment options, or to find a new summer camp altogether.
Attending the Kern County Family Magazine Camp and Adventure Fair on April 17th is a great way to talk with directors from all different types of camps.
Due to limited funds or targeted grants, some financial assistance programs may not be generally advertised. Ask for these types of discounts early before they are doled out to other campers.
2. Check out special discounts
Often camps will offer incentives for early registration, full-season enrollment, and a sibling discount. Smith says to ask for these discounts but to be aware that if they offer more than one discount, you may only be able to take advantage of one. Color Me Mine at the Market-place hosts summer camps with different themes each week for children ages seven and up. Camps include ceramic painting as well as projects in other art mediums – tile mosaic, watercolors, clay hand building projects, and more. Kathy Hunt, owner of Color Me Mine, offers a 10 percent discount for participants who sign up by May 9th, because knowing her registration in advance helps with her planning. "This is a chance for me to get going – start ordering supplies," says Hunt. "Ten percent is a lot, especially if they are coming to more than one camp. It can really add up when they sign up a couple of their kids."
3. Know what's included in the fee
Are meals, materials, transportation, and special trips included in the fee? Check with each camp to find out exactly what you will receive with your tuition check. If you know what money is expected, you won't be hit with an unexpected financial tab later.
Especially at sleep-over camps, Smith suggests asking for information about fees for other amenities such as laundry service, camp canteen, special equipment that is required, and service organization membership. Also, ask the camp director if you should send your child with money for incidentals.
Also, find out if the camp has a refund policy. These vary greatly from camp to camp with some giving a total refund before a certain date and others giving no refund regardless. Make sure to read the fine print.
4. Do Your Research
Ask a lot of questions and know what options you have available to you. Attending the Kern County Family Magazine Camp and Adventure Fair on April 17th is a great way to talk with directors from all different types of camps. The internet also has a wealth of information where you can compare and contrast summer camps.
Another facet of research includes parent referrals and recommendations. What better way to find out about a camp than a first-hand experience? Ask around, parents will usually be honest with you.
5. Camp fees can have a tax benefit
Overnight camps don't qualify, but you might be able to receive a tax benefit from day camps with the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, says local CPA Mike Maggard. "Determine if it makes good economic sense and if it's good for your family," Maggard says. "Make sure you check with your tax professional to find out the exact benefit."
For more information on ways to save money at camp, visit www.acacamps.org.