Summer camp cost: Breaking down the price of day, sleep-away and specialty camps
Whether you’re looking for your child to log extra hours practicing soccer or want them to spend time with friends in the great outdoors, camp is a time-honored tradition for many families. And in households where both parents work, it’s often a necessity — one that, unfortunately, isn’t always cheap. While camp prices generally depend on the overall experience offered (as well as the amenities provided), the average cost of summer camp in the United States is around $76 a day, and for sleep-away camp, it’s $172 a day, according to Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association (ACA).
“Overnight camps cost significantly more than day camps since they’re a 24-hour-a-day experience,” Rosenberg notes. “That said, even the prices within sleep-away camps can vary quite a bit.”
Here’s a general breakdown of summer camp prices for 2021.
How much do summer day camps cost?
Cost: Anywhere from less than $25 a day to more than $150 a day, according to Rosenberg.
What you can expect:
Day camps are generally the most popular camp choice for families, and according to Rosenberg, the most affordable and accessible. “In addition to privately run day camps, families can find camps through their local YMCA, Jewish community center (JCC) or parks and recreation,” Rosenberg says, adding that most day camps offer swimming, tons of time outdoors and trips or travel opportunities for older kids. “Day camps are great for parents who want their kids to enjoy a sense of adventure and independence but who still want to eat dinner together as a family,” he says.
Camp prices can vary greatly for day camps — here are a few things that can affect rates:
Whether or not meals are provided.
Whether or not bus service is provided.
If you require before or after care (early or late pickup).
Day trips may be an additional cost.
Research summer camp prices near you to find the perfect fit for your family, or check out these camps for cost references:
Girl Scout camps: Almost every Girl and Boy Scout chapter has summer camp options (both overnight and day). Camp Wai Lani in Palm Harbor, Florida offers two one-week sessions for girls entering grades first through eighth. The sessions, which cost $240 a week, run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and offer swimming, crafts and canoeing, among other traditional camp activities.
School-run camps: While generally not offered through the public sector, some private schools offer day camps during the summer. The Park School of Buffalo in Amherst, New York offers a summer camp for kids aged 3 to 14. The cost is $375 per week and runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day and includes lunch and a snack.
Playground camps: Most towns offer some sort of playground camp, which generally meets for a few hours each day at a local park or community pool. (Not ideal for households where both parents work, but for stay- or work-at-home parents who want their kids to get out for some fresh air and socialization a few hours each day, a great, affordable option.) The Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs in South Orange, New Jersey has a 7-week program that runs from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. for $770 ($110 a day), along with a registration fee.
Also, keep in mind that, for kids who attend after-school care programs, there’s a chance the center may have half- or full-day summer camp options, as well — and typically, families who already are enrolled get first pick at programs. For younger kids especially, the consistency and familiarity will be welcomed.
How much does sleep-away camp cost?
Cost: Anywhere from $50 a day to more than $300 a day.
“Also, keep in mind, sending kids to sleep-away camp for the first time for a week or two is a good option that’s more affordable,” notes Rosenberg. “You don’t have to send kids for four weeks.”
What you can expect:
“Overnight camps are considerably more expensive than day camps,” explains Rosenberg. “You’re paying for an immersive experience that includes all meals, cabin facilities, 24/7 assistance and a robust healthcare center with certified nurses, and in some cases, doctors.”
In addition to camp tuition, parents need to factor in the cost of traveling to and from camp, and some sleep-away camps offer additional activities for extra fees. For instance, at Camp Weequahic, horseback riding isn’t included in the tuition, as it takes place at a nearby facility.
Research sleep-away camp prices to find the perfect fit for your family, or check out these camps for cost references:
Camp Weequahic (Lakewood, PA)
Cost: $6,100 for three weeks or $10,550 for six weeks (no other options)
Activities: “We have over 60 activities across the arts, athletics, adventure and aquatics and give our families the ability to choose their camper’s activities,” explains Cole Kelly, owner and director of Camp Weequahic. “We also offer camp trips, fun evening activities and a community filled with positive role models and mentors.”
West End House Camp (Parsonsfield, ME)
Cost: $2,745 for two weeks; $8,295 for eight weeks (other options available)
Activities: West End House Camp is an all-boys sleep-away camp that generally separates activities into four categories: sports, waterfront, evening activities and special competitions. Campers are divided into junior, intermediate and senior divisions, with each having two hours of scheduled activities in the morning, two in the afternoon and an hour of elective time.
Lake Bryn Mawr Camp (Honesdale, PA)
Cost: $13,250 for 7 weeks (other options available)
Activities: Lake Bryn Mawr Camp is an all-girls sleep-away camp, where campers wear uniforms and abide by the Angel Code (loyalty, beauty, merit and comradeship). In addition to traditional camp activities, such as swimming and gymnastics, Lake Bryn Mawr also has a cooking studio and equestrian center with 40 horses and 40 acres of riding trails.
How much do specialty summer camps cost?
Cost: Starting at around $200 per week
What you can expect:
Specialty camps focus on a specific interest hobby or activity, such as STEM, soccer or art; and typically, they’re offered in one, two or three-week clips. Community organizations, such as the YMCA, often offer weeks specifically tailored to particular areas of interest, but there also are camp options focused on a singular specialty, allowing for a potentially more immersive experience.
All of this said, for younger kids who are still figuring out their personal taste, traditional day camp may be enough to satisfy them, as they’re pretty all-encompassing. “Day camps let kids taste it all,” says Rosenberg. “From art to science to sports, kids will constantly be trying new things and having new experiences.”
For kids who want to hone a specific skill, check out these camp costs for reference or research specialty camp prices near you:
Cost: Tuition starts at $225 a week
Activities: Created by actual inventors, Camp Invention allows kids aged 6 through 12 to create a new “invention” each day. Providing kids with the materials to make anything from games to robots, Camp Invention is run in locations all across the country from about 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“Both of my kids love Camp Invention and have gone a number of summers in a row,” says mom of two Becca Maldonado of New York City. “Though, I will say, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who isn’t really into inventing or STEM-related activities because there is an element of it that feels like being in school.”
Broadway Dance Camp
Cost: $500 for one week of half-day camp; $800 for one week of full-day camp
Activities: Offering options for 3- to 5-year-olds, 6- to 9-year-olds and 10- to 14-year-olds, Broadway Dance Camp in New York City gives kids the opportunity to try out a number of skills (dancing, tumbling, acting) within a specific weekly theme. With half- and full-day options and a variety of age groups, it’s a great way for kids to familiarize themselves with performing arts in an intimate setting.
Sport Camp at IMG Academy
Cost: Starting at $1,549 for one week of soccer day camp
Activities: Choose from a variety of sports, as well as week-long options at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. There are day and boarding options, and kids can choose from Total Athlete packages to the Game Changer option, which promises to “transform their game.”
Additionally, there are camp options for kids who feel misunderstood, have special needs or who are going through a difficult time.
Camp Aranu’tiq ($800 per week)
Camp Aranu’tiq in New Hampshire is a sleep-away camp for transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming kids. Started by Nick Teich, a licensed clinical social worker, Aranu’tiq’s mission is to “build confidence, resilience and community for transgender and nonbinary youth and their families through camp experiences.”
Camp High Hopes ($208 per week)
Camp High Hopes in Sioux City, Iowa is for kids (and adults) with diagnosed disabilities, chronic illnesses and other special needs. It’s a day camp with a 1:3 counselor-to-camper ratio that runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The organization Eluna also offers three different types of camps for grieving or troubled kids — Camp Erin, which focuses on kids who have lost a parent; Camp Mariposa, which focuses on kids whose parents are battling addiction; and Team Jesse, which helps military families who have lost someone they love.
Are there financial aid options for summer camp?
Camp costs add up, but there are ways for families enduring financial hardships to receive help. “In 2018, we polled camps across the country and learned that 94% of them offered some type of financial assistance,” notes Rosenberg. “And in addition to scholarships and financial aid, day camps qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to sign up as soon as you can, as early bird specials and discounts are usually offered.”
For more affordable ideas, check out our roundup of free or cheap summer camp options.
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