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3 ways to choose the perfect affordable summer camp for your kids

Day camp or residential camp? Recreational camp or specialty camp? These are just some of the many decisions parents face when selecting a summer camp for their children. Most summer camps begin registering students as early as January or February, so if you have not yet selected a program for your student, you may feel panicked or stressed. Luckily, some summer camps are still accepting participants, and your child can certainly still enjoy her experience if the fit between program and student is a great one. How can you ensure this correctness of fit?

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1. Tailor your initial search to your child’s interests

Even a cursory Google search can unearth a staggering number of summer camps. The breadth of these options can be overwhelming, which is why it can be helpful to frame your search not by location, but by your student’s interests. For example, is your child comfortable with the idea of sleeping, learning and playing away from home for an extended period of time? If she is, an overnight (or residential) camp may appeal to her.

Many overnight camps offer programming that is subject-specific, such as horseback riding or marine biology. Residential camps with varied programming also exist. If your student would rather remain close to home, her academic and extracurricular interests can still — and, in fact, should — form the basis of your initial summer camp research.

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2. Hone your short list of summer camps with budget in mind

Several factors influence the cost of summer camp. Overnight camps, for instance, are typically more expensive than day camps because they include food and lodging. Themed programs that require specialized equipment, such as laboratory equipment for a chemistry day camp, are also generally costly.

When determining the price of each summer camp that you and your child are interested in, be sure to include all hidden and optional costs, such as admissions fees on field trips, camp T-shirts, and extended-day care in the mornings or afternoons. While some programs may offer care from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., only 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. may be reflected in the base cost. Finally, disregard any summer camps that are no longer appealing or that are outside your budgeted allowance.

3. Investigate summer camp specifics to make your final choice

Once you have narrowed your options to three or four programs, it may be helpful to focus on the smaller details when making your final decision. For instance, if you are weighing several academic summer camps, you might ask about the qualifications of the instructors. Are they professors or school teachers? Are they graduate students or current college students who are majoring in the subject? Similarly, if your student has a severe food allergy, what preventative and emergency measures are in place? Like the other parts of this process, what you deem to be most important will drive your investigation, and no two searches will look exactly the same — even if the two searches are for two siblings. Good luck!

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