By Rubina Ahmed-Haq
There is no doubt that camps and programs offer great benefits for children and teens.
However, sometimes parents struggle to find the necessary funds. These 12 tips will help you keep camp and program costs down.
How Much Does Camp Cost?
The cost of an overnight camp starts at $300 a week and runs as high as $1,000 weekly, a figure out of reach for many families. Day camp costs tend to be less, between $35 to $500 a week.
What's Included, and What's Not
Every camp is different, but you can expect the base camp fees to include:
- Access to the camp's facilities
- Medical services
- Supervision from trained staff members
Depending on the camp, there may be extra services, which aren’t included in the base camp fee:
- Optional programs and activities
- Supervision from trained staff members
- Camp merchandise, clothes and snacks, which may be available at tuck shops
Here are 12 tips to keep the cost of summer camp down and give your kids an experience they will cherish for a lifetime.
Twelve Tips to Keep Camp Costs Down
1. Camp Subsidies
A number of camps have a subsidy program for families that qualify. Look for camps that offer this service. Financial applications are due by February. Apply early to make sure you can take advantage of the funds available. You can apply directly to the camp for subsidies or you can submit an application to a list of organizations that offer financial assistance.
2. Choose an Activity Camp
In your tax return, you can claim the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit up to a maximum of $500 per child relating to the cost of putting them into a program of physical activity. Before you sign up, check to see if the camp qualifies. In most cases, a camp that lasts five consecutive days and promotes cardio endurance and muscle strength will meet the criteria. Children with disabilities aged 18 years and under are eligible for an additional credit of $500, for a potential total Fitness Tax Credit claim of up to $1,000 each year.
3. Save the Child Care Benefit
The Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) provides financial assistance to all Canadian families with young children, regardless of where they live, whatever their family circumstances or preferences. Parents receive $100 a month for each child under six. By saving this money all year, it can be used towards a summer camp program for your child.
4. Provincial Government Tax Credits
Many provincial governments, including Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, offer tax breaks similar to the federal fitness credits. Go to your provincial government’s website to find out eligibility requirements.
5. City-Run Day Camps
Your kids can also get a rewarding experience at a day camp, and many local ones are free or have a nominal fee. The municipality covers the cost of these camps. Check out what your city has to offer and which camps are free. These camps fill up early, so check the website often to make sure your child gets a spot.
Many organizations offer money for kids to attend camp. Organizations like Kids in Camp, Girl Guides of Canada, YMCA and the Canadian Diabetes Association offer camperships. Check with your workplace as well to see if they offer any camperships to children of employees.
7. Siblings Discount
If your children are close in age, consider sending them to the same camp. Most offer a discount if two children from the same family are attending. Call ahead and book early to make sure both your children get a spot in the camp. There is an added benefit of knowing your children will feel less homesick because they are away together.
8. Early Bird Discounts
Most camps in Canada offer a discount if you register early. The deadlines for these early bird specials are different, so refer to the individual camp’s website to see how much time you have. Some camps offer a return camper discount. It can save you a lot of money if you plan a year ahead and take advantage of the offer. If you can’t afford the entire cost up front, ask if you can be put on a payment plan.
9. Private Funding
Humber College and Seneca College provide funding to MicroSkills Youth Services. It finds local families who may not be able to afford to send their kids to camp or have teenagers that are between 14 and 16 who can take part in the leader in training (LIT) program. Contact the schools for details.
Consider asking family members to contribute to camp fees instead of providing gifts for birthdays or holidays. Encourage your kids to earn the money themselves by doing errands and chores for friends, families or neighbours.
11. Other Funding Options
There are a number of organizations that offer financial assistance outside of the federal government, including:
- The Children’s Aid Society
- Municipal Parks & Recreation
- Your local municipality
- The Salvation Army
12. Visit the Largest Camp Expo in Canada
Our Kids will be hosting a Camp Expo at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on February 24, 2013. The expo features March break, year-round and summer camps from across Ontario and Quebec. Camps at the expo have many years of experience advising parents how to afford summer camp.
Summer camp is a rewarding experience for any child. It’s a place where lifelong bonds are forged and the memories last forever. It’s often the first time your child is on their own and feeling independent. Finding a way to afford this experience for your child can have benefits that last a lifetime.