Updated: December 19th, 2022
Summer camps help campers developer important life skills and form lifelong memories they cherish for the rest of their lives. Similarly, they also help working parents with child care by watching kids for specific hours or in other cases, for weeks at a time after and before the school year ends or starts.
While many parents enjoy this convenient and educational form of child care, it’s not low-cost by any means. Our team analyzed the cost of various summer camps across the United States that offer day camp programs and overnight programs.
We came up with this data-oriented answer in regards to how much summer camp costs and average range of prices you can expect to pay for your child to attend camp each day.
How Much Does Summer Camp Cost In 2023?
After analyzing the costs of 40 summer camps in all four regions of the U.S - northeast, midwest, south, west — we averaged out the costs and came up with ranges based on low and high prices. Based on the data, day camps cost anywhere between $70-$120 per day. Overnight summer camps cost between $170-$325 per day.
Of course, these prices vary per location, specific camp programs, dates and times, and types of activities offered by the camps, including for specialty summer camps. These are only average costs.
Day Camp Vs. Overnight Camps Cost
Day camps tend to offer typical 8 am to 5 pm programs where they watch over kids and entertain and educate them with fun activities until the day ends. Sometimes they'll also take campers on day trips to places. Lunch is usually covered in the costs, but some day programs, specifically government summer programs (which tend to be the most budget-friendly option), might require campers to bring their own lunch.
Since summer day camps only take care of children during specific hours, they’re less expensive than overnight camps. They don’t need to provide overnight housing facilities, the campsites are smaller, and they also often pay less in insurance costs, which translates into the lower price.
Overnight camps, also known as sleepaway camps, provide campers with full housing that often includes three meals per day. The activities offered at these camps are typically more on the high-end, like horseback riding, sailing programs, high rope courses, rock climbing facilities, and much more. Since children are being taken care of 24/7, the costs are much higher.
Due to the difference in structure between day camp programs and sleepaway camp programs, the costs difference is quite significant. Still, there are some day camps out there that cost more than some overnight programs. This is often due to these day camps offering the same level of high-quality activities but at a slightly lower cost than sleepaway camp with equivalent activities due to the fewer hours of child care.
Also, keep in mind that summer programs are often flexible in their camp session lengths. You can find three week, two-week, or even one week camp sessions sessions. This is undoubtedly more affordable than sending a child away for an entire summer, typically 6-7 weeks in length. If you’re a single working parent or two working parents, day camps offer a convenient form of child care if the other child care options are too expensive.
Another thing you need to factor in for overnight summer camps is the cost for supplies. What you need to pack for your child for their time at camp, might add another hundred or two hundred dollars to your total cost. What you need to carry the supplies in like a duffel bag or a camp trunk alone can cost you a hundred dollars or more.
Why The High Prices?
It’s no secret that summer camp prices have risen over the years. The thing about a summer programs is that they carry a lot of risks and often have high barriers to entry in terms of startup costs. Not only do you need to pay for the land, equipment, and facilities, but owners also need to pay for employee hiring & training, insurance, permits, and a whole bunch of other expenses.
Liability insurance isn’t cheap. Programs take on huge risks when they watch over several kids, and although a lot of camps go to extraordinary means to ensure the safety of children, the risks are always there.
If a camp has a specific focus like horseback riding or sailing, that adds more to the running costs as they have to account for those added expenses plus the expenses for offering the traditional summer camp programs.
Taxes and cost of living are another huge part of the cost. Camps in popular cities like New York City or Los Angeles, will often be much more expensive than say those in cities like Chicago or Raleigh.
For parents who want to desperately send their kids to camp but can't afford high prices, college programs or local government summer programs are your best bet. These types might not offer the same amount of camp activities, but they're quite close and are a great option for all families of any income level.
How Parents Can Afford Summer Camp
While the price for summer camps certainly isn’t the most budget-friendly, there are several things you can do to make it more affordable. For starters, many camps offer financial aid options in the form of scholarships to campers. These often tend to be need-based, so you might need to provide proof of financial hardship to qualify for the financial assistance.
If you register for camp early enough between the months of February or March, you might qualify for an early bird discount. Early bird specials can often be anywhere between a hundred to a couple of hundreds of dollars less than the usual price. You might also not need to pay a registration fee if you register early enough. If you're enrolling two kids or more in the same camp, you might also get a better deal.
The barter system is also quite popular in the summer camp world. By offering your own services, such as attending as a camp counselor or even nurse, your child might be able to attend at no cost.
We wrote a complete guide on how to afford summer camps with more strategies, so be sure to read it here. Similarly, camps offered by non-profit organizations like government programs, Girl Scouts or the YMC will be much more cheaper. You don't always have to pay for camps either. There are some online camps that are free for kids.
Summer camps offer youth development opportunities that are hard to find anywhere else. Camp experiences are often something that kids tend to remember even as they grow older, and some even meet lifelong friends at camp. While prices certainly aren't low, there are opportunities out there for kids from all walks of life to attend a summer camp, and it's well worth it.