With the economy in the gutter, unemployment at record heights
and your 401k reading more a like horror novel, the kids' summer
camp might seem in jeopardy this year. But with proper planning and
prudence, parents should be able to avoid any worst-case scenarios
and find a way to preserve this childhood experience.
Jeff Solomon certainly thinks so. "Parents are going to find a
way to make it happen. But they're going to be more cost-conscious
and look for more reasonably priced camps," says Solomon.
Solomon is the executive director of the National Camp
Association, one of several free services specializing in helping
families find affordable camps that fit a child's interests.
Another similar group is Tips on Trips and Camps, which
specifically advises parents of kids 8-18 on selecting a summer
overnight camp. Eve Eifler, a co-owner of the organization,
stresses that the summer-camp experience fosters independence and
confidence in children.
"It's one of the few things you can do for your child that you
can't accomplish by doing it with them. The only way is to let them
go," says Eifler.
National Camp Association
Trips and Camps,
Families might not have to sacrifice as much as it seems. There
are many ways to keep summer camp within the family budget, says
Tips on Trips and Camps Chicago representative Faith Rosenstein.
Some camps give discounts for early registrants or first-time
campers; others are partially sponsored by umbrella
Rosenstein and Solomon both emphasize the value that their free
services can provide to parents-not only in financial thriftiness,
but also in appealing to a child's specific wants and needs. "If
you send them to the wrong camp, they're not going to have fun,"
Rosenstein says. "And you've wasted a lot of money."
The program is working for Lynne Karmin, a Highland Park mother
who used the Tips on Trips and Camps program for her 14-year-old
daughter and 12-year-old son.
For her son, she sought a local camp besides the one most
popular among his peers and friends, as well as one that
de-emphasized competitiveness. Karmin says the program has been a
fantastic boon. "They specialize in camps and they know all the
different camps," she says. "It saves me a tremendous amount of
time and gives me a wider spectrum of knowledge."
Camps recommended by these organizations cost an average of
about $1,000 per week. Some go as low as $500 a week or as high as
$1,500 a week.
And although Solomon warns against choosing a camp based purely
on a bargain price, he also says there's a silver lining to the
poor economy: many camps are desperate for participants, which
could mean cheaper fees.
"The good news is there are a lot more openings now than there
would be in a particularly good economy," Solomon says. "It's to
the benefit of the consumer because the choices are still out
Mabel's Labels Inc. can help keep your camper keep track of his
stuff. Mabel's Camp Pack, above, includes 15 sticky labels, eight
shoe labels, 50 clothing labels and two bag tags. $34. www.mabelslabels.com
Arm your child with info
Hope Paige Designs, www.hopepaige.com/
products/child-safety-bracelets.html, has introduced cute Camper
Alert bracelets, right. These personalized rubber bracelets provide
instant access to emergency information, such as parents' cell
phone numbers. $19.95
Make camp cheaper this year
A few ways to cut down that summer camp price tag:
Darren McRoy is a Chicago Parent intern and junior at
Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
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