By Daniela Baker :
According to the National Camp Association, the average cost of one week at a private sleepaway specialty camp is between $500 and $2,000, while a full seasonal sleepaway camp that lasts seven to nine weeks ranges in cost from $3,500 to $11,000. While nonprofit organizations like the Y and Federation run less expensive camps – particularly day camps – even these can be out of the price range of some families.
If you’re looking for something fun for your kids to do this summer but can’t afford summer camps in your area, below are five affordable alternatives.
1. College Based Programs
Many local, state, and private colleges put on summer camp-like programs. Some are sleepaway programs, and others are day camp type programs. Oftentimes, these programs are very affordable or maybe even free, as they’re often learning opportunities for college students who teach their skills to students who visit the program. These programs can last anywhere from a couple of days to the entire summer, and, while they are typically for middle and high school aged kids, they can work with a range of age groups. Often, these programs are focused in specific areas, such as speech, drama, engineering, science, film, photography, or other areas of interest.
2. Team-up with Friends
If you’re a stay-at-home parent or even stay home part of the time, consider forming a summer camp co-op with friends who have kids. Choose one day each week where one parent will host all the children for fun summer camp-like activities, such as baking, crafting, exploring nature, or visiting the local zoo. You can do one day a week throughout the summer, or create an entire week-long summer camp where each parent hosts one day of the week.
A summer camp co-op is great because it’s incredibly affordable (just pay for supplies for the snacks and activities you plan) and your kids get to play with others they already know.
3. Plan a Stay-cation
If you’re looking for a way to build fun memories for your kids and to save money this summer, a stay-cation can be a good idea. Stay-cations, more popular these days as families are trying to save money, involve finding fun things to do near your own home. You can stay at home during your vacation week, or you can stay in an affordable hotel near your home for part of the week, especially if you want access to a pool facility. Hotel credit card offers can help you save even more on the hotel price, but if you really want to save money, you probably will want to stay in your own home for at least part of your stay-cation. Then, use your time to discover new restaurants, parks, and free or affordable attractions around your hometown.
4. Check Out Local Park Offerings
Very often, local parks will offer day camps or classes that last for a few hours at a time. These can be very affordable, and sometimes even free. Park systems in various areas might run nature walks for young children, yoga classes for high-school kids, or even day-long camp experiences in the outdoors. Be sure to check out your local park website for information on what might be available in your area.
5. Consider an Au Pair
An au pair is traditionally a foreign college-aged student who is looking for a way to experience new cultures. An au pair will usually help with childcare and light housework in exchange for room and board (and maybe a little pay on top of that). If summer camp is normally your summertime childcare when school is out, an au pair may be an affordable way for your kids to meet someone new and to learn about new cultures while giving you a way to keep working throughout the summer.
Even if summer camp is out of your price range this summer, you can still build great memories for your kids or find daytime childcare for part or all of the summer with these options. Just be creative and look at various options in your area to figure out your best bet for summer care alternatives this summer.
Daniela Baker is a mother of two and a personal finance blogger at http://www.creditdonkey.com/