Summer Fun on a Budget

Summer is a wonderful opportunity for adventure, but in this economy it can be tough to find activities that fit a tight budget. When a typical summer camp can run anywhere between $450 and $1000 a week, the cost can quickly become prohibitive. However, there are ways to offer your kids quality activities at a fraction of the cost. You just have to know where to look!

The first place I would recommend is your local church. Whether you are a regular attendee or not, many churches around the country open their doors every summer to offer free day camps for elementary and middle school children. Most churches offer things like crafts, sports, puppet shows, or opportunities to participate in a musical or play that is preformed at the end of camp. My local church offers their summer camp from 4 to 9pm and serves dinner to the kids as well. There hope is to support the whole family, not just by entertaining and feeding the kids, but to allow parents some quality time after work hours. If you have teenagers, try a church youth group. This weekly group will typically meet during the school year and then offer special trips and outings over the summer. The summer trips will cost you but they are often much cheaper than other camps. 

The next place to look would be not-for profit organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or a 4H program. These types of organizations often invest in purchasing their own properties and resources in order to reduce costs to future generations of group members. In my area, my son is an active member of a Sea Scouts crew. Because they are a branch of the Boy Scouts of America, they are able to gain access to Boy Scout camps and resources around the country for free or at a reduced cost. As a result, his crew was able to spend 7 days in Cape Cod Massachusetts for $150 per person. The price was reduced even further (or eliminated completely) for crew members that participated in the fundraising event. Lodging was free because they stayed at a scout owned cabin, and a 15 passenger van was donated for the trip as well. This meant that the total cost of the trip was spent entirely on food, gas and activities while in Cape Cod. The kids went whale watching, toured multiple museums, took the subway into Boston, walked the Freedom Trail, had a cookout with their host crew, and explored the many incredible restaurants around Cape Cod. If you compare this trip with a typical week long summer camp, the savings are huge!

If you have a teen that is reluctant about going to college, I would look into a summer camp hosted by a private college or university. Each college is different, and some are more expensive than others but there are some really great deals out there. My daughter will be spending a week at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA with her church youth group. Up until this trip, Cayti never liked the idea of going to college; and often complained that she just wanted to work after high school. Now that the youth group has planned this trip (it cost me $125 for the week) Cayti and her friends are talking about attending Liberty together after they graduate from high school! College has instantly moved from a “scary” solitary experience to an “adventure” with friends.

If you’re just not ready to send your child off to camp for a week, try some of you local entertainment outlets for special summer deals. Movie theaters (i.e. Cinemark and Regal) will offer children’s movies for free or for minimal cost ($1 per person) over the summer months. Though they are not typically first run movies, they do provide a nice treat for younger children. Bowling alleys (i.e. AMF Bowling) offer free bowling for children during the summer as well (shoe rental is not included).

The opportunities are always changing, but knowing where to look makes a big difference.

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