8 Tips for Saving Money at Summer Camp: A Step By Step Guide

How can you save money and still choose a great camp?

    1. Shop early. Virtually all summer camps offer early enrollment discounts. For some of the popular, traditional day and overnight camps in your area, early may mean a full year ahead. That is not a misprint. Many camps have their early enrollment discounts available only during the summer for the next summer season. It makes sense for them to capture the families when they are feeling great about the experience they have just had. It’s no different to cruise lines that give you extra savings when you book your next cruise while you are on board ship. So how can you benefit? Plan ahead. If you have identified a camp and you know it is popular, call them as soon as you know you are interested. Ask them, “How can I get your highest discount of the year for new families?”  Put the date on your calendar and sign up during the discount window. You may have missed it for this year but you’ll be ahead of the game next time around.
    2. Have more kids. Not really, but if you do have more than one child, try and find programs they can all enjoy at the same time. Sibling discounts are another common discount offered by most summer camps. If you have a very wide age range this may be difficult but it’s worth asking.  Maybe the local camp that you want for your 5 year old, has a leadership program that would be great for your teenager. Ask your camp about sibling discounts. The savings can add up.
  1. Do one camp for multiple weeks. It’s tempting to try one or two weeks at all the different camps but then you are an entry level customer for each one and unlikely to be entitled to some of their best discounts. If you find a great camp and do multiple weeks, you can save. And it’s not only money you can save but stress. Getting ready for camp each week can be hard but if you do additional weeks at the same camp, each first day will get easier.
  2. Be a referrer. When you find a good camp, tell your friends. We all appreciate tips on quality programs for our kids. And maybe your camp has a rewards program that offers discounts or camp swag for referrals. It is easy to find out by asking your favorite local camp or doing a web search. But here is an insider’s tip: When you refer someone, call the camp and let them know. Camps spend a lot of time looking at data on how families heard about their program. When they see your name start to pop up as a frequent referrer you will become a VIP at that camp. At some day camps, you can earn a free week of camp by referring 8-10 other campers. As a bonus, some camps offer discounts to both the person doing the referring and the person being referred.
  3. Sliding scale. If you really need financial help, the good news is that camps have amazing programs for those in need. A simple Google search for camps with sliding scale finds a wide array of options. Most camps really see themselves as a service to the community, even if they are expensive and privately run. So they will at least consider helping out when they can. Do not be afraid to ask. Many of America’s finest not for profit agencies have summer camp programs: The YMCA, The Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire Boys and Girls, Boys and Girls Club, most religious denominations, and local municipalities to name a few. Because they can raise money in ways that a small business cannot, they can often subsidize the cost of camp AND offer financial aid.
  4. Offer your work. Maybe you don’t have the money for the camp your kids want but do you have some time? Maybe you can work and get camp credit. Some camps have this information right on their websites but many more are open to the option if you contact them. Be creative in your email to the director. Maybe being at camp in the summer for a full week is not an option for you but you can help in the office a few hours during busy times. If the camp hosts community events, see if they need help in exchange for some camp time for your child.  In making this request, remember that you will probably not be offered the prime weeks at camp because they can sell those at full price. But if you are flexible and willing to work, you can probably make a deal and save some money.
  5. This last tip is actually a “what not to do.” Unlike a lot of organizations, camps are reluctant to fill space with last minute offers. They do not want to educate their families that it is smart to wait for the best deal. Most will operate with unsold capacity rather than put out a discount to the public. So don’t wait for a bargain, it will probably not come along.

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