Don't Get Burned by Summer Camp Costs

Learn how you can save money on summer camp this year.

ByABC News via logo
April 13, 2009, 5:28 PM

April 14, 2009 — -- The school year is rapidly approaching its end and next on the horizon for many students is summer camp. But during this time of economic turbulence, more parents are seeking ways to slash the price of summer camp.

In fact, enrollment at private camps is down 15 percent so far, according to the online site Bunk1, which tracks registrations.

For many families, it's a tradition. There's the practical reason: it provides child care for your family when your kids are out of school.

And there's the less tangible reason that is just as important: It helps your kids gain independence. Ninety-six percent of campers say it helps them make new friends and 70 percent of parents say it helps their child be more independent.

Camp also gives parents some much-needed time to themselves at home. If kids can't go to camp because of the economy, and you take that away, it can become a burden on a family.

There a few things you can do to save a lot on summer camp:

Consider a payment plan. This way you won't have to pay a large amount of money all in one lump sum. Spreading out the payments can make sleep-away camp more manageable for many families.

Use your flex spending plan at work. Most people know you can use it for day care, but that also includes day camp. And in many cases, it will pay for a portion of your sleep-away camp -- the eight hours that your kids are there during the day. So, talk to your employer about that and see if it's an option.

Try negotiating a lower price. There's nearly $39 million available in camp scholarships, according to the American Camp Association, and 90 percent of camps offer some form of financial aid.

So, talk to your camp director, especially if you have a long history with the camp. You can also just try to negotiate, period. With the drop in enrollment, many camps would prefer to have a child paying rather than an empty bunk.