Written by Mary Luz Mejia
Friday, March 23rd, 2018
Once you tally up school clothes, shoes, basic supplies, field trips, transportation and lunch money, many parents find themselves scrambling to pay for summer camp too. In this case, the early bird gets the choicest worm. We spoke to parents with school-aged children as well as a camp director to get the 411 on what parents can do to get the most bang out of their summer camp buck.
Early bird specials
Toronto mom Kathy Vey advises parents to act sooner rather than later. "Plenty of good programs fill up quickly with happy repeat customers and their siblings, who often get priority placement," says Vey, who has a 10-year-old son. That means you may need to think about where you'd like your child to camp a year in advance. Camp director Darren Greenspoon suggests parents contact the camps they're interested in the summer before and ask to be put on the mailing list. "This way they will receive all the communications about early bird discounts so they can register early and take advantage of them," Greenspoon said in an email interview. Most non-city-run camps offer a variety of early bird discounts, pricing and savings, says Greenspoon. Some offer a "pay-in-full" option designed to save parents money with a better deal if the amount is paid all at once, while others give parents the option of monthly payments prior to camp, so that budgeting for the expense is a little easier.
Another option to consider is sending your camper to multiple sessions at the same camp, especially if he or she will enjoy several week-long programs (for example, computer camp, swim camp, dance camp). Why? Greenspoon says the longer you send your camper to camp, the less you get charged per week at many camps. Try to find one camp that offers a good variety of choices so you can bulk buy and save on the weekly fee. If you have more than one child at the same camp, you might also benefit from a discount for siblings.
Mary Catherine Anderson, who has two boys aged 7 and 11, suggests you shop around before you commit. Both she and Vey say they both find that municipal programs tend to offer the best value because they're set up to be non-profit. Vey says the best bargain she found last year was an overnight science camp offered by her local school board. "It was $445 for Monday to Friday, all meals included," says Vey. Anderson opts for a YMCA-run day camp and selects several sessions her boys like, from arts to sports. "The swim camp, for example, is $450 for two weeks per child plus $35 per week for late pick up." And that's important to Anderson because she doesn't have her sons in daycare during the summer months.