If you plan to send your child to camp this upcoming summer, the best thing you can do as a parent is plan ahead. Although camp is months away, you can save money (and sanity) by doing your homework and taking advantage of available discounts. Here are some ways to save money on summer camp for your kids.
Early bird discounts
Many camps offer discounts for registering early. It helps them to know how many campers they have and it helps you save money. That’s a win-win.
There are other discounts available depending on the camp. This includes sibling discounts, for having more than one child attend camp. Often, camps will give a referral discount if you get friends to sign up their kids for camp, too.
Another way to save money is to find camps that offer scholarships for campers. Sometimes scholarships are merit-based, such as a music camp looking for skilled musicians; others are based on financial need.
If you have your heart set on a specific camp, try looking for other camps with similar offerings and compare costs. Reach out to the staff of the desired camp to see if they would price match.
Some day camps offer volunteer opportunities to work in exchange for a reduced camp rate. Sign up to help teach campers a skill or offer general help to free up time for the camp staff, so they can work on more important duties.
This only applies to local day camps in households where both parents work. If that describes your family, there is something known as the Child and Dependent Care Credit that allows you to deduct a percentage of day camp costs (maximum of 35 percent) for qualifying children ages 13 and younger. You will need to fill out IRS Form 2441 to apply for the credit (See IRS Publication 503 for detailed information).
For family members looking to buy something other than gift cards and video games for birthdays, putting money toward summer camp is an excellent gift idea.
Expand your camp search
If you are having a hard time finding a good camp within your budget, look for other options. This might include camps at local recreation centers or city programs, churches, museums, zoos or libraries. Several local school systems run summer day camps, as well.
What if you missed out on discounts?
If you missed out on your camp’s early bird discount, reach out to the camp coordinator. I’ve learned that camps might be willing to work with parents if you just ask.