5 cost-saving tips: Why you should plan your kids summer camp activities now

Connecting with nature, building confidence and making life-long friends—summer camps are so beneficial for kids but can often be demanding for parents to plan and budget for.

According to a 2018 survey conducted for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), nearly 40 per cent of respondents said they found it stressful to pay for their expenses during the summer months, with 22 per cent of those surveyed saying they planned to spend more on activities for their children than in previous years.

While T-shirt weather may still be a long way away, planning summer camp activities now can help reduce the burden of these expenses that many parents experience.

Here are 5 other tips to help with affordability:

Book early (and probably sooner than you think)

Many camps will offer an early-bird special for those who register well ahead of time. Deadlines will vary, so set some time aside to make a list of individual camp websites to check for any early booking deals. If you need a reminder, join the camp's program or organization e-newsletter for a heads-ups before the spots and savings are gone.

Compare overnight, half, full-day or municipally-run camps

Whether it's half-day, full-day or overnight camps, the type of camp you choose will make a big difference on price.

For instance, according to Our Kids, an online guide and directory comparing schools, programs and camp options in Canada—the average cost of an overnight camp can run between $300 to $1,000 weekly. Meanwhile, full or half-day programs can provide a taste of camp life without the same financial burden. On average these will cost between $35 to $500 a week. 

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While most base camp fees may include access to facilities, accommodation and supervision from trained staff, services such as meals, transportation, camp merchandise, supplies and optional programs and services may be an added cost.

Municipally run summer activities through community centres or the parks and recreation department of the city you live in will also often offer lower cost programming when compared with more traditional summer camps.

Ask about discounts for repeat visits and payment options

Some camps offer a return discount for those who come back to the camp and book in advance. Others may offer a sibling or family discount which could help parents with more than one child in addition to subsidy programs, scholarships and grants to help offset costs.

And while most camps ask for a large lump sum in advance or payment all at once, asking to pay in installments or to negotiate a payment plan may not be obviously available but an option to enquire about.

Get a return

According to the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) listing on the most common deductions and credits that can be claimed, day camps could be tax deductible if the primary goal of the camp is to care for children.  If your child attends an overnight camp, however, you may not be eligible to claim the entire expense.

Remember to check if your camp qualifies before signing up, or speak with your tax advisor to determine if you are eligible for any credits or benefits.

Share the costs

Instead of providing gifts for holidays and birthdays, consider asking relatives to contribute to camp costs and supplies. This is a great way for family members to feel they are donating to something meaningful and memorable.

Want to teach your children the value of money? Encouraging your kids to donate a small portion of their allowance can be a great lesson in how to save early and spend wisely for their own activities.