Written by Spotloan
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It’s that time of year again - schools are out, and excited kids across the country are sprinting home to play. But just because the kids are finally getting a break doesn’t mean that mom and dad are, too.

Unfortunately, most of us grownups don’t get the summers off. And there are only so many fun and budget-friendly activities you can do with kids at home. That’s where day and weekend summer camps come in.

With over 12,000 day and resident camps to choose from each year, more than 11 million children and adults attend camp in the U.S. But with all those options on the table, how do we choose? Like all important decisions, we take it one step at a time.

Popular Summer Camp Organizations

YMCA camp is one of the most popular options when it comes to kid-friendly summer camps. You can use the YMCA search tool to find the camp closest to you. Their basic camp programs are generally considered affordable, with their specialized camp options costing a bit more.

But most YMCA locations offer the option to adjust fees based on income, making them even more appealing. Local parks and rec departments usually offer affordable camp options and activities, too. Plus, many will offer discounts based on income or enrolling multiple children.

You may also have some luck finding affordable weekend and day camp opportunities with your local:

  • Churches
  • Local school districts
  • Private schools
  • Girl Scout groups
  • Boy Scout groups
  • Council for the Arts
  • Museums
  • STEM programs

What Does Your Day or Weekend Camp Offer?

The American Camp Association makes it easy to find accredited summer camps in your area. You can also perform a quick Google search for summer camps in your city or state. Wherever you start your search, put together a list of all the camps within a reasonable distance.  

Once you have your list, you can begin checking their individual websites or placing phone calls to determine what’s offered. A few things you may want to ask about include:

  • Age groups
  • Activities
  • Hours
  • Meals or snacks

This information will help you determine whether this particular camp aligns with what you and your child are looking for.

All-Inclusive vs. Tiered Pricing

Some of the most popular day and weekend camp activities include swimming and other aquatic activities, arts and crafts, ropes courses or zip lines, and archery. But before you get excited about a long list of activities, you’ll want to determine the camp’s cost structure.

Some camps operate at an all-inclusive rate. In this type of setting, all activities and any provided meals or snacks are included in the price. But some camps charge an additional rate for options like food and activities.

For example, a day camp may include lake swimming in their price but charge extra for kayaking or canoeing. Others may include snacks and water or juice in their price but charge extra for full meals. Extra costs can add up quickly, but knowing what they are ahead of time can help you stay on top of it.

Breaking Down the Per-Day Cost

One helpful hint for finding affordable weekend and day camp opportunities is to determine how much you are willing to pay per day. After all, it may become problematic if a day at summer camp eats up everything you made at work that day.

Many summer camps offer a monthly or weekly rate rather than daily. If this is the case for camps you’re looking into, be sure to do the math and determine the per-day cost. This way, before you book, you can be sure that it matches up with what you’ve budgeted for.

Do Your Due Diligence Before Booking

If you’re booking with a summer camp that isn’t American Camp Association certified or part of a larger organization, you may want to do some additional research. Look into the organization’s history by searching through reviews and articles that mention them.

Chances are good that nothing concerning or scandalous will pop up, but it’s always better to be safe. You may also be able to confirm through their website or a brief phone call whether their employees are screened or given background checks. Having this information ahead of time will provide you peace of mind when the day comes for camp to start.