How to Plan Ahead for Camp

We sent our kids to camp this summer. It wasn’t planned, but in lieu of a vacation we couldn’t take due to medical reasons, it made good sense for everyone to have a break. So, while we didn’t necessarily plan for it, we did have the funds to make it happen.

Next year we want a vacation AND a couple of weeks without the kids. I mean, we love them and all, but there is something to be said for an adult staycation.

How to Plan Ahead for Camp

I’ve been contemplating how to make that happen financially, and I thought I’d share some tips for you if you are contemplating sending your kids to camp at any point in the next year.

Oh – and in true Lemon Blessings’ spirit, grab my Plan for Camp Worksheet while you are at it! You can find it HERE.


It’s hard to plan ahead for camp if you aren’t sure of the details. Most importantly, you need to know WHEN you will send your child to camp. Are you going to ship them off in their snow gear for a mid-winter break “vacation”? Or will you wait until the height of the summer when YOU need a break from the endless chatter or the “I’m bored…what should I do” comments?

Whatever you choose, make sure to take into account school breaks, as those are prime opportunities for camp excursions.


Once you know the general timeframe, the next step is to determine where you will send your child for camp. If this is your first experience, you might need to do some research into camps in (or around) your area.

Is there one associated with your church or another organization you are involved with? You might even consider asking friends and family members which camps they send their kids to, or even for recommendations of camps they’ve attended. Our youngest daughter attended a camp recommended to us by someone our age: he’d loved it as a kid and – guess what – so did she!

Note: if you do ask someone for a camp recommendation, be prepared for a barrage of stories about good (and bad) camp experiences. Trust me, people either LOVE camp or they hate it.

How Long

How much time your child spends at camp may be dictated by a few things including:

  • Camp location
  • School schedule
  • Age of your child
  • Expense

…among other things.

Our oldest could’ve stayed for multiple weeks at the camp she attended if we’d been willing to let her. At the time, money was an issue but if we plan ahead for next year, she might just get her wish. Of course, that all comes down to planning ahead – which is why we are going through this process in the first place, right?

Cost and Add-Ons

Once you know which camp you are sending your child to, when and for how long, it’ll be easier to determine the total cost. Sure, you might see the weekly cost of $500, but you and I can both agree that won’t be the only cost involved, right? After all, there’s the additional cost for horseback riding lessons, a camp t-shirt, and the snack shop.

In addition to expenses you pay directly to the camp, consider the items your child will need to take with them. Do they need “dress blues” for dinner each night? A shirt for that optional tie-dye activity? A swimsuit? It’s a good idea to check for a “pack for camp” list on the website of the camp they’ll attend and then note the out-of-pocket costs associated with each item.

Remember that even $20 to $30 worth of items can add up, especially if you have multiple kids attending camp.

Note – use my worksheet to help you consider all of the costs that may be involved.

Split Monthly

Were you able to note those costs? If so, it’s time for the fun part.

When is that camp payment due? A lot of camps require half of the payment upfront when you register, but if you are starting this process many months in advance, you probably have a little time to put that money together.

Once you know the due date, you can create your budget. Start by counting (use your fingers if you need to) how many months you have until that date. If you get paid more than once monthly, you might want to calculate based on the number of pay periods you have until then.

Divide the total estimated expense for camp by the number you came up with — either pay periods or months.

With that, you know exactly how much money you need to set aside each month in order to make your camp plans (and your adult staycation) a reality.

Incentives and “Scholarships”

Now it’s time for the fun part. Aside from saving a portion of each monthly check-in anticipation of that camp experience your child will have, you can also create some incentives around the whole thing. Perhaps, you allow your child to do a few extra chores here and there to earn money toward the snack shack. Or, they might be able to stay that extra week if they are able to maintain a certain GPA through the Spring semester.

Psst. You might mention to your kids that asking for camp “donations” around Christmas or birthdays in lieu of presents could be an option. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even family friends might love to contribute to the camp experience.

Note: If your family is dealing with true financial hardship, but you’d still like to send your child to camp, make sure to call your camp of choice and ask them about partial or full scholarships. You may have to provide financial information, but most places offer some sort of assistance (although it might be limited).

Plan Ahead Today, Enjoy the Benefits Tomorrow

There’s something to be said for having a solid plan in place to achieve your goal, even if that goal is sending your child to camp for a few days. Remember, a goal is only as good as the steps you put into place to meet it. Take the time to rework your budget, if necessary, and place a reminder somewhere conspicuous so you aren’t tempted to spend those “camp funds” on something unrelated.

Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.