The cost of summer camp
A look at camp costs, financial aid, tax breaks, and camp scholarships
No doubt: camps offer great benefits, for children of all ages, from toddler to teen. But it isn't free. We'll look at camp costs in Canada — both overnight and day options — and the ways to keep those costs down. These include getting supplementary funding and breaks from camps, government, and third-party organizations.
How much do camps 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 in the base camp fee?
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
Sources of financial aid and savings
Here are some sources of funds and cost-savings to help give your kids an experience they will cherish for a lifetime.
Financial aid and savings from camps:
- Subsidies and financial aid: A number of camps have a subsidy program for families that qualify. Look for camps that offer this service. Financial applications are usually due by February. Apply early to make sure you can take advantage of the funds available.
- Sibling discounts: 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.
- 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.
Savings from government:
- Federal Children's Fitness Tax Credit (CFTC): 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. 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.
- See the CFTC website for details, and to check if your camp qualifies before signing up.
- Federal Children's Arts Tax Credit (CATC): Families can claim eligible expenses of up to $500 per year for each child (under 16, or under 18 for disabled children) enrolled in an activity with a focus on wilderness and nature, artistic or intellectual development, and/or social and interpersonal development. The activity must be sustained for at least 5 consecutive days to qualify, (there are also other ways to qualify, such as weekly activites sustained for 8 consecutive weeks, etc).
- See the CATC website for details.
- Provincial tax credits: Some provinces offer tax breaks similar to the federal fitness and arts credits:
Don't forget that 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.
Financial aid from third-party organizations:
- "Camperships" and financial aid: There are a number of organizations that offer financial assistance outside of the federal government, including:
- Kids in Camp offers subsidies for children attending various camps under the Ontario Camping Association umbrella.
- The Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund helps send children to a variety of residential and day camps across Ontario.
- Reach For The Rainbow offers support to children and young adults with physical and developmental disabilities to attend integrated residential and day camp programs.
- A range of other non-profit organizations such as the Easter Seal Society, the Ontario March of Dimes, and the YMCA provide financial help to families or camps.
- Religious organizations such as the Salvation Army offers support for low-income families to send their kids to camp.
From family and friends:
- Gifts and loans: 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.