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 summer 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 $178.49 a day, and for sleep-away camp, it’s $448.53 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 the summer camp cost for 2022.
How much do summer day camps cost?
According to ACA, the average daily per-person fee for day camp among camps that primarily offer day camp (meaning, it makes up 50% or more of their programming) is $178.49.
Note: This is a pretty big increase from last year’s average, and according to the ACA is due in part to “significant cost inflation in recent months.” Additionally, it’s important to note that there are financial aid options for camp (more on this shortly), as well as discounted, or even free, camps for families in need.
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 variables that can affect rates, according to Arlene Streisand, director of Camp Specialists, a business that helps connect families with the right camp:
- Meal or snack options, if provided.
- Bus service, if provided.
- Before or after care (early or late pickup), if required.
- Day trips may be an additional cost.
- Facilities and amenities. “For instance, if the camp offers top-notch tennis lessons and has a great swimming pool, that will affect the price,” says Streisand.
- Unique or speciality programs. “Some camps offer truly one-of-a-kind experiences, such as circus lessons,” Streisand says. “When a camp has something that unique, it will affect the price, as well.”
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 Oval in South Orange, New Jersey offers five, one-week sessions of basic (non-speciality) camp for girls entering kindergarten through fifth. The sessions, which cost $380 a week, run from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. (not including transportation, which is included via bus) and offer hiking, field games, science activities, arts and crafts, campfire and s’mores and more.
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 $425 per week and runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day and includes lunch and a snack. A $100 discount is offered for families who register for the whole summer.
Playground camps: Most towns offer some sort of playground or “park” 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 Wheaton Park District in Wheaton, Illinois offers a “Super Tots” camp for preschoolers that meets from 9:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. a few days a week from June 6 to July 27. The fee starts at $270.
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?
“The average daily per-person fee for overnight camp among camps that primarily offer overnight camp is $448.53,” according to Rosenberg. And again, this average is higher than it’s been in the past.
“The last two years have seen increases due to meet the costs of COVID-related supplies, as well as to cover the increased cost of living,” Rosenberg explains. “Other factors that may contribute to fee changes include inflation and competitive rates to help with staff shortages. These increases are reflected in tuition increases and has resulted in additional fundraising for financial aid.”
Also, for parents who are considering sleep-away camp, keep in mind, there’s rarely a one-week option (unless it’s a speciality camp, such as horseback riding camp). “Two-week sessions for sleep-away camp are a very popular option — especially if the child hasn’t gone before,” Streisand notes. “That said, not every overnight camp offers that option. Some higher-end camps may offer a minimum of four weeks, but only for the first summer. After that, there’s only a whole-summer option.”
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 in Lakewood, Pennsylvania, 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: $6,325 for three weeks or $10,950 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: $3,195 for two weeks; $9,395 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: $13,650 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?
Starting at around $270 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 $270 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: $525-585 a week for one to three weeks of half-day camp; $825-895 a week for one to three weeks 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 $2,179 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.
Cost: Starting at $1,195 per week or a subsidized rate of $825 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
Cost: Starting at $513 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. “Almost all camps offer financial assistance and scholarships for families and campers in need, including 93% of ACA-accredited camps,” notes Rosenberg. “Parents interested in receiving support for their child will need to apply directly to the camp, as early as possible. Typically, camps identify funding for partial or total scholarships and financial assistance and make decisions about which campers they need to fund prior to the camp season.”
Additionally, camps usually offer special discounts in the form of early registration, full-season, multiple enrollments from one family, and/or late registration to fill an empty spot. “For families who enroll early, many camps also offer a structured payment plan throughout the year,” Rosenberg continues. “Assistance is also offered from the government through the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Parents should find the camps that suit their child’s needs and ask the director what sort of summer camp scholarship options are available.”
For more affordable ideas, check out our roundup of free or cheap summer camp options.