Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beware of Hidden Costs at Summer Camps!

Even though we're in the midst of the summer camping season, we realize parents are still looking for the best camping opportunities for their children. Some are still planning for this year, while others may be planning already for 2010.

If we could give one piece of advice to cost-conscious parents about selecting a summer camp, it would be to make sure they understand all the expenses involved in sending their child off to camp. The fee to send a child to camp can literally, be just the tip of the iceberg. At Anokijig, the current rate for our Resident Camp Program is $510 per week.

The hidden costs parents may encounter with resident camp fees at some camps include mandatory multi-week commitments. Some camps require that campers attend a minimum of anywhere from three to eight weeks (Anokijig has no multi-week requirements). That's a big commitment for a parent to make, especially if their child has never been to an overnight camp before, which brings us to the next potential hidden expense for parents.

What if your son or daughter gets very homesick and decides they want to leave? What if a family's schedule has changed and sending a child to camp is no longer possible? How much of your deposit is refundable, especially if you've committed thousands of dollars to a multi-week camp? That's an important question to ask before making such a huge commitment, because any number of situations could arise, which would prevent a child from staying at camp (or even getting there in the first place). Anokijig's $100/week deposit is non-refundable and non-transferable, but the balance of the fees are fully-refundable.

Whether you are taking your child to camp or sending them on a bus, make sure you factor in travel expenses in your decision. Travel expenses alone can often result in hundreds of dollars worth of savings (or added expense). How far away is the camp from your home? If you're trying to save a few dollars and one camp's fees are $40 cheaper than another's, will you really be saving that much if you have to drive an extra 100 miles each way to drop your child off and pick them up?

If you choose to send you child to camp on a bus, how much will it cost? Camp Anokijig's bus service runs to ten different locations in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. We offer one-way service for prices varying from $26-$47 and roundtrip service from $52-$94, based on location. Last year, Anokijig hosted campers from 23 different states. Some of those families have found the total cost of flying their child to Wisconsin and sending them to Anokijig is actually less, than sending them to a camp in their home state!

What activity fees are not included? At Anokijig, the only resident camp programs that have additional fees are some of our Arts & Crafts projects (typically 50 cents up to $3) and our Ranch program, which offers trail rides for anywhere from $10-$12. Our trading post sells some snack items and keepsakes, so most families will send an extra $25-$50 per week for their children, depending on how much horseback riding they plan on doing.

Are there any costs incurred before arriving at camp? For health and safety reasons, Anokijig requires that all campers coming to camp must have a recent physical exam. All ACA-accredited camps have this requirement, but the time and expense involved in getting the exam done before coming to camp needs to be considered.

Finally, will your child be required to purchase special clothing for their trip to camp? While Anokijig maintains a modest and appropriate dress code for our campers and staff, we do not require special uniforms for attending our camp.

We hope these tips have been helpful in your search to find the best camp for your child!

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