Tricks to save money on day camps

April 30, 2012 3:01:32 PM PDT
School is almost out for summer! And for parents who are signing up for day camps, you know there are plenty of options. But before you sign your kids up, we found some ways to get the best deal.

There are a couple of camps in Houston that cost as much as $700 a week! Who can afford that? So to get a better deal, we learned you have to ask the right questions.

There is no doubt Grady Jones has big plans this summer!

"Being out of school and getting to stay up after midnight every night," Grady Jones said.

But mom has some plans of her own.

"We are doing the Rice writing camp for three weeks," Grady's mother, Shana Jones, said.

Jones says she planned early.

"Otherwise, you are going to be out of luck and there's not going to be a space available," Jones said.

So whether you are planning a short-term camp or one that lasts all summer, Sarah Gish, author of The Summer Book 2012 - a Guide to Houston Day Camps, says there is something for everyone and there are plenty of affordable options.

"There are tons of camps in Houston," she said.

First, look for camps that offer scholarships. Gish included those camps in her guide but you can also do your homework.

"Also, you can just call the camps or look on their website," she said.

All area YMCA offer scholarships to students who qualify. Over at the MD Anderson family YMCA, parents can pay as little as $84 a week.

"We do offer financial assistance so if the parent still says 'We can't afford to pay this,' we sit down with the director --whoever is the director -- and we talk about how else we can help the parent," said Magali Carbajal with the MD Anderson Family YMCA.

Next, try to negotiate by offering your best bottom line.

"Tell the camp what you could pay bottom line and just see if they will work with you because so many camps are trying to fill up their seats and have enough campers to keep doing what they are doing," Gish said.

So if trying to qualify for a scholarship didn't work and negotiating didn't seem to work either, you can always try to barter.

"Let's says you can do bookkeeping, you can offer to do bookkeeping for the camp, or you can drive the van around or you can simply volunteer; there are so many ways you can barter and it's just creativity," Gish said.

Finally Gish says check on discounts now! Some camps offer discounts for early registration and discounts on siblings and group referrals.

And finally, another option Gish says is to get together with your neighbors and create your own camps in your neighborhood.

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