Affordable summer camp options

May 3, 2009 8:23:31 PM PDT
The recession has many families considering alternate ways to enjoy the summertime, but things may not have to change all that much. There are affordable summer camps and programs for kids that will allow parents to give their children a fun and active break. Bunk beds at sleepaway camps may go empty this summer, as families' budgets shrink and the cost of camps have stayed the same or gone up. The National Director for the American Camp Association, Adam Weinstein, says the dip in enrollment so far this year will even out as parents map out comparisons such as keeping their kids close to home.

At the picturesque New York YMCA camps about 80 miles north of New York City, two weeks of campfires, cookouts, and hiking and canoeing cost about $900 last summer, for a lifetime of memories.

This year, the YMCA has created an option for families to pay the same rate as in 2008, or they can pay more if they can afford it.

"In response to this economy, for two weeks, it's $978, $1,178 or $1,378. It's your choice," YMCA Camp Director Chris Rasmussen said.

The fee schedule is an honor-based system and requires no paperwork. Therefore, no one knows who is paying what for the same experience at the 1,000-acre oasis.

Parents who have to cut sleepaway camp out of their budgets this summer altogether should consider day camps. The YMCA alone offers 40 programs throughout New York City, and all of them offer financial assistance.

If you aren't interested in sending your child away, day camps are a great option. At Mount Thom in New Rochelle, kids can enjoy similar activities to those they would experience by going away, and parents save on the cost of shipping them off.

Still, if money is an issue, there's almost $40 million available in camp scholarships nationwide.

To make sure money doesn't hold your kid back from attending camp this year, apply early to take advantage of scholarships and reduced rates. Remember to negotiate and ask for a lower price right of the bat. Check and see if the camp offers sibling discounts. You can also barter by using volunteer time to pay camp fees. Finally, you can request shorter sessions. Fewer hours or less days may help you slash costs without taking away from the entire camp experience.

With enrollment low, many camps are willing to prorate prices and offer flexible hours and weeks, making everyone a happy camper!

For more information on the American Camp Association, visit ACA-NY.org.

For more on the YMCA camp offerings, visit YMCANYC.org.

For more on programs offered by the New York City Parks Department, visit NYCgovParks.org.

WEB PRODUCED BY: Nika C. Beamon

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