Planning for kids' summer plans

May 15, 2008 5:49:12 PM PDT
With summer vacations quickly approaching, more families are starting to make plans for their kids. But with gas prices so high, and more people struggling to make ends meet, parents are looking for some new options when it comes to summer camps.

The playground is silent, the boats out of the lake. But as its promotional video shows, the Summer Trails Day Camp will soon come to life with dozens of activities for hundreds of kids.

"When you're choosing a camp, you want to choose the best value for your child," camp director Jamie Sirkin said. "You want to choose a place where they are going to learn those life skills."

Private camps cost thousands of dollars, which is a burden for many parents in tough economic times. Elizabeth Russell will be sending her two kids to Summer Trails this year, but for fewer weeks, and she took a part-time consulting job to help cover the cost.

"It just was very important to me, and if that means making sacrifices in my life, then that's what I'll do," she said.

Experts say there are questions parents should ask. Is financial aid available? Does the camp offer a payment plan option? Many do, but don't advertise it. Are there discounts for having more than one child attend? And ask about meal and transportation costs to see if you could save by covering those yourself.

For many working parents, camp is not a luxury, but a day care necessity. Non-profits like the YMCA have been swamped for assistance.

"This year, they just haven't stopped," the YMCA's Darnell Benjamin said. "We still have parents coming in now trying to get scholarships for the summer coming up."

The Y receives no government funding, but does its best to avoid turning kids away in the quest to make it a happy summer for kids and parents.