7 ways to make summer camp affordable

Minnesota has hundreds of summer camps to offer families. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to send their kids to camp.

However, there are many options available to help families to reduce costs and make camp a reality for their children.

Financial assistance
Financial assistance is available at numerous Minnesota camps, you just have to apply. If you’re going to take this route, however, start your camp search early and be sure to apply for financial assistance early, too, to guarantee your kid a spot. Also, many local churches have camp scholarships set aside for children who want to attend summer activities such as camp.

Special discounts
Many camps offer early bird registration discounts as well as discount for families sending more than one child to the same camp. If you plan to stay at camp for an extended amount of time, you could possiblyreceive a discount for that as well.

Volunteer your time
Volunteering to help make the camp run smoothly during the time your child is at camp is another way to reduce costs. If your child is old enough to be on camp work crew, you might be able to send him or her to camp for free in exchange for labor.

Having your camper take a camp bus may be an extra cost you can avoid. Asking other parents who are sending their child to the same camp if they would be interested in carpooling with your family can help you save money.

Plan ahead
If you foresee sending your child to camp months ahead of registration, you can ask family members to gift funds towards camp for birthdays and holiday presents.

Day camp
Instead of sending kids to camp for overnight stays, consider a day camp in your area. These camps are filled with a wide range of sports, crafts, games and more. Colleges are known for running themed day camps throughout the summer, too. Day-camp costs might be eligible for a tax deduction.

Nonprofit camps
There are many nonprofit camps in Minnesota. Some request campers to contribute as much or as little as the family can afford. Here are some of the top affordable summer camp options in the state:

Storybook Lodge Christian Camp
This camp — located in Gilbert, about an hour north of Duluth — is based on familiar childhood storybooks and is a unique camp for all ages. Campers find themselves lodging in cabins unlike any other camp. There’s a barn cabin, a real caboose, a pumpkin cabin and, among others, a boot cabin in honor of There Was an Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe. Adjacent to Cedar Island Lake, this camp is offered on a pay-as-you-can basis. See storybooklodge.org.

Minnesota National Guard Youth & Teen Camp
Children of active and retired National Guard service members are invited to register for this free camp in Little Falls, about two hours north of the Twin Cities. Nieces, nephews, siblings and grandchildren of volunteers may also attend. There are a variety of camps like this one for service children. Find more here. See mngyc.org for more information.

YMCA Day Camp
The YMCA raises money and works with outside organizations to sponsor kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend camp because of financial reasons, said Becca Fink, the community program director at YMCA’s Camp St. Croix and DayCroix in Hudson, Wis. In 2014, 150 campers attended Camp St. Croix on full scholarships made possible by grants, Fink said: “We want every kid to be able to come to camp.”

The YMCA provides full and partial financial assistance to certain campers based on income as well as other special circumstances. Registration begins in January and it’s wise to sign up as soon as possible. Also, offered are overnight camps which include a vast array of activities such as horseback riding, swimming, ropes, kayaking, canoeing, backpacking and rock climbing. Learn more by calling 612-230-9622 or going to ymcatwincities.org/camps.


Camp Cherith
Located in Frazee — one hour east of Fargo — this camp offers campers special discounts and options to make camp available for all financial levels. Throughout the day, campers choose from a selection of small-group activities such as music, crafts, drama club, sports, games, horsemanship and swimming programs. They also participate in a large group to learn about God in an interdenominational setting. See camp-cherith.com.

Kelly Cunningham and her husband, Ryan, live in Maple Grove with their five children. Follow their adventures at LifeInMinnesota.com and BeyondTheTent.com.