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American Camp Association

Six Ways to Make Summer Camp Affordable

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Be sure to find out the camp's refund policy.  Refund policies vary greatly from camp to camp. Some will give a total refund prior to a certain date, while others will refund in the case of illness only. Other camps do not offer refunds, so parents should be certain of their chosen camp's policy before they enroll their child and send money. Most camps will ask for a small nonrefundable deposit at the time of application, which may go toward the cost of camp fees.

When planning a budget for camp, determine what's included in the enrollment fee.  Day camps will typically include transportation as part of their fees. Resident camps may offer limited transportation, such as a van ride from a major local train station. Other fees to ask about are ones for special programs and trips, special equipment that is required, organization memberships and amenities such as laundry service and the camp canteen.

Day camp can be tax-free.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows an income tax credit for dependent care expenses, which may apply to qualifying day camp expenses as well. The amount of the credit is based on adjusted gross income and applies only to federal taxes. Parents can visit the IRS's Web site for more information about the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account allows parents to be reimbursed on a pretax basis for child care or adult dependent care expenses that are necessary to allow parents to work, look for work or attend school full-time while they are caring for qualified dependents. In certain circumstances, day camp expenses, including transportation by a care provider, may be considered dependent care services. See the FSAFEDS Web site for more information.

With so many options to choose from, and with careful planning, a camp experience for virtually every child is possible, no matter what a family's budget may be.

© 2005 American Camp Association Inc. Founded in 1910, the American Camp Association is a national community of camp professionals and is dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults through the camp experience.

Comments from readers

"this was very helpful"
"I really appreciate this. I am looking into summer camp right now - I did not know that these options were available - i will certainly tell my sisters who are parents as well."