Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99
Lifestyle Maryland Family

Keeping camp affordable

When Candice Buckner began her summer camp search for 9-year-old daughters Janasia and Larasia Sims, she found everything from half-day sports camps to full-day academic and activity camps that fit with the family’s schedule.

But finding weekly camps that fit with the family’s budget wasn’t as easy.

“Some full-day camps cost almost $300,” the Columbia resident says.

Multiply that by two, and the costs quickly escalate. Summer camps can be pricey, especially when parents are lining up multiple weeks for multiple children.

According to the American Camp Association (ACA), a nonprofit organization for camp professionals, fees range from $75 to more than $800 a week for accredited ACA camps.

The higher the camp price, the more specialized the instruction tends to be, says Laura Wetherald, bureau chief of recreation and administrative services for Howard County’s Department of Recreation and Parks.

Still, there are plenty of affordable and even free camps throughout Maryland, camp officials say.

After weeks of research, Buckner found what she says was the perfect fit -- a full-day camp in Howard County where her daughters could participate in activities ranging from arts and crafts to nature walks and science experiments. And it cost less than $200 per child.

“For me, (the cost) per child per week was excellent,” she says. “The price was what I was looking for, and it gave them a variety of things to pick from.”

To keep camp fees down this year, check out the following tips:

Start planning now

“A lot of parents don’t think about summer camp until the end of the school year,” says Nancy Canter, executive director of the American Camp Association’s Chesapeake field office. “By then, it’s too late.”

Camps can fill quickly -- especially the more affordable ones, she says. Most camps have their summer schedules and fees established by the fall, with registration beginning as early as October. Look at the costs for the camps your children are interested in and then plan accordingly, Canter says.

Attend a camp fair

Camp fairs, typically held on weekends between November and May, give campers and parents a chance to learn about camp options as well as talk with camp representatives. Some camp fairs even offer participants a discount on camp fees just for attending the fair, Canter says. “They want to get people while they’re there,” she says. “It’s a win-win.”

Watch for discounts

Some camps offer early registration discounts. In Howard County, families receive a 10 percent discount on certain Department of Recreation and Parks camps when registering before March 1. Other organizations may reduce camp fees if two or more siblings are enrolled. “When you have multiple children, it becomes very expensive,” says Barry Williams, director of Recreation and Parks for Baltimore County. If a discount is not noted, it’s worth calling the camp director or registration office to inquire, he says. “Most people are willing to work with you,” Williams says. Some organizations also offer reduced fees for children with parents in the military or return camper discounts, Canter says.

Ask about financial assistance

Many camps offer “camperships,” partial or total scholarships and financial assistance, based on a family’s need, Canter says. In Howard County, qualifying families can receive between a 25 percent and 75 percent discount on fees, Wetherald says. Parents can also set up payment plans when registering a child, she says. In addition, Canter recommends checking with area social and philanthropic organizations, which often raise money for local campers in need or camps. “Finding the creative connection there is all you need,” Canter says.


By volunteering with your child’s camp, you could have your child’s camp fees waived or reduced, Williams says. Time commitments vary depending on the camp, and not all camps allow parent volunteers. Check with the camp registration office or camp director to see if volunteering is an option, he says.

Affordable camps

Trying to get the most for your money this summer? Here are a few local camps that cost less than $200 a week.

Police Athletic League (PAL)
Beahta Davis, Chief of Recreation Services
410-887-7414, baltimorecountymd.gov
This Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks camp is held in nine locations across the county: Lansdowne, Winfield, Woodmoor, Scotts Branch, Cockeysville, Hillendale, Shady Spring, Mars Estates and Dundalk. The all-day camp is for children ages 8 to 17 and runs weekdays from June through August between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Camp activities include life skills like cooking, athletics, gardening and field trips to area museums. Campers must be residents of Baltimore County. Cost: Free.

Kidz Pick
Holly Harden, Teen Program Manager
410-313-4625, howardcountymd.gov/rap
This Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks camp is held for six weeks in June and July at Clarksville Middle School in Clarksville. Campers ages 6 to 13 arrive between 7:45 and 9 a.m., and the day ends at 3:15 p.m. Each day is divided into four sessions, with session activities chosen ahead of time by campers. Session activities include arts, crafts, cooking, baking, sports, science experiments and nature exploration. Cost: $150 to $189 a week. Aftercare is available until 6 p.m. for an additional $69 a week.

SuperKids Camp
Jackie Carrera, president and CEO
410-448-5663, parksandpeople.org
Founded in 1997 by the Parks & People Foundation, a nonprofit organization that creates and supports educational, recreational and environmental programs in Baltimore City, SuperKids Camp is an all-day camp designed to maintain and improve academic skills for campers entering second, third and fourth grades in Baltimore City public schools. Activities include sailing, science, music, swimming and performing arts. The camp is offered at more than 10 locations throughout the city, including Roland Park Country School, The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, The Bryn Mawr School and the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center. Camp days run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Meals and transportation to and from camp are provided. Cost: $80 for six weeks.

Y of Central Maryland Journeys
443-322-9622, ymaryland.org
The Y of Central Maryland offers several Journeys camps for all ages throughout Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, as well as Baltimore City. For children entering kindergarten through sixth grade, the organization offers Great Outdoors, The Lodge and Activity Central camps. Great Outdoors includes nature hikes, outdoor camping skills, archery and fishing. The Lodge includes weeklong projects like murals and giant puzzles, as well as indoor sports and journaling. Activity Central includes outdoor activities such as crafts, songs and games, as well as science projects and journaling. Camp day runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost: Fees range depending on location. For Y members, rates are as low as $148 a week.

Note: Contact camps for details and to confirm 2014 rates. Many of the camps above offer financial aid for families in need.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Counselors in Training
    Counselors in Training

    For a junior camp counselor at the Howard County Recreation and Parks’ Summer Sensations Camp, the to-do list is varied. There are tables to wipe down, campers to corral, snacks to prepare. But at the moment, the job is: dance.

  • 10 tips for picking sports camps
    10 tips for picking sports camps

    For many parents, sending their children to sports camp is a big step. Whether the child is 6 or 16, there are a number of ways kids can spend the summer: basic sports camps, multi-sports camps, specialty sports camps, training camps and more.

  • Raising kids in the world of texting, tweeting and tagging
    Raising kids in the world of texting, tweeting and tagging

    Meredith Long's twin daughters were 11 years old when they started to use Snapchat, then moved on to Kik Messenger and ooVoo. When they turned 12 and got their first cellphones in December, they expanded to Instagram.

  • The positive side of kids and technology
    The positive side of kids and technology

    When Alison Brennan was in college, she had a telephone in her dorm room — but she rarely used it to call home. “I called my parents after 11 on Sunday nights, when the rates went down,” the Towson resident says with a laugh, recalling the not-so-distant past, when...

  • Training young athletes in the offseason
    Training young athletes in the offseason

    Maybe basketball just ended and the kids don’t have another activity until the pool opens this summer. Maybe your daughter is excited about her first season of soccer — which doesn’t start until September. Or maybe your son just gave up on baseball, leaving a void of...

  • Shaving cream pie fight
    Shaving cream pie fight

    The Center Ring Circus School attempts to break the record for the largest shaving cream pie fight.