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5 ways to find a camp you can afford

With a little research it can be easier than you think!

Summer is months away but you're already thinking of how you are going to manage to find safe and affordable activities for your kids. For some families, sending the kids to summer camp sounds like fun but it's just too costly. However, if parents weigh the cost of summertime day care, the price tag of camp is comparable yet kids get all the perks that can only be found in a summer program.


Here are five ways you can find a camp your family can afford.

1. Look into scholarships. Every camp has different eligibility criteria, but it pays to apply even if you think you make too much money. The key is to apply early, so that if you are turned down you can find either ask about discounts or other payment options at the camp or simply find another camp for the summer.

Consider day camp!


Camp College at SUNY Orange has a limited math and science summer camp grant for Newburgh residents that includes transportation. "These programs were originated with the intention to provide fun and exciting academic experiences for students, that will enhance their knowledge and skills as they move from one grade to the next,” says Rosana Reyes-Rosello, director of Educational Partnerships. “At the same time, these students will be exposed to a college environment and college level academic expectations. We believe in creating projects that enhance students' educational transitions and success from one grade level to the next."

Another summer camp program from SUNY Orange that is available to all Hudson Valley residents is the SMART (Sensory Motor Activities & Recreational Transition) Summer Program. It was designed for students from pre- kindergarten through the fifth grade, who receive occupational therapy services during the school year, but are not eligible for those services during the summer. Kids learn to improve skills such as handwriting and sensory-motor integration, as well as enhance socialization. Camp is held at the SUNY Middletown campus and lasts for four weeks. 

Not sure what to pack for camp?

2. Check out discounts such as early registration, sibling discounts, and the cost of day camp versus sleepaway camp. Again, it pays (literally) to register early. Many camps offer a discount if your child signs up before a certain date, often in the spring. That’s why the best time to start investigating camps is during the winter months.


Your camp questions answered


Camp Hillcroft in Billings offers a similar program. “Hillcroft also offers the unique arrangement whereby parents can choose to work as counselors or program instructors and have their children attend at a reduced rate,” says director Greg Buttinger.

You should also weigh the costs of sending your child to day camp versus a residential camp. While some local day camps may be less expensive than an overnight camp, the costs of daily transportation and before and after care need to be taken into consideration if both parents are working.

3. Know what's included in the fee. Are meals, materials, amenities such as laundry, transportation, and special trips and programs included in the price? Camp College at SUNY Orange's grant funded program includes all costs associated with the camp but of course is limited. Other camps may not include transportation, but most try to give you a package deal with all services included. Please check with each camp for the details.


When compared to day care rates, Faith Kids Camp is comparable at about $200 per week, which includes free swimming lessons. But what if both parents are working and can’t pick up their child until after 5pm? Ask if the camp offers before and after care; be aware that there is often a fee attached. Ryan Jones, director of schoolage childcare at Faith Kids Camp, says that for a fee "we offer before and after camp care beginning at 7:30am and the after camp is until 5:30pm for parents who are working."

4. Do your research. Ask lots of questions, get referrals from other parents, and get your child involved in the search process. Going online is an easy and convenient way to find a camp you can afford. You’ll find hundreds of day, sleepaway and specialty camps at the Hudson Valley Parent Virtual Camp Fair held in February.

Tips to help your first time camper!

5. Don't forget that camp can be tax free. Ask your accountant about the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Asking for a discount may not come easy to some parents, but it may get you one. Many local camps are privately owned and do not receive funding, so they may consider giving a discount if enrollment is down. Start your camp search early, just after the current camp season is over and pay in advance if possible.

Some financial assistance programs may not be generally advertised due to limited funds or targeted grants. Ask for this kind of assistance as early as possible before funds run out. Become a repeat customer. Camps may consider your discount request if you have been giving them consistent business.

Looking for a camp? Check out our Camp Guide.