Every working parent has to deal with this: the school year is about to end, which means it's time to look at summer camps.
2022 marks a return to camping for many families who kept their kids home for two years during the pandemic.
But many camps closed for good during the COVID shutdown, and others were forced to raise prices to keep operating, as mother-of-three Jenny Miele recently discovered.
"Especially after the pandemic, it's just so much harder to find," she said. "Camps that are available or open or have the before and aftercare."
She and her husband also work full-time jobs.
"That means every kid needs to have a camp or some kind of activity that they could do basically every week so that they're not sitting at home watching TV," she said.
Prices are higher than ever
Miele and her husband have spent plenty of time researching the internet and checking references to find a good fit and something that's within their budget.
And prices are much higher than in pre-pandemic times, she learned.
"On average, you're talking up to $500 or $600 a week," Miele said. "And then when you have three kids, that gets really expensive."
Sarah Wetzel of the Better Business Bureau says they've had plenty of complaints about summer camps, particularly about refunds.
"The biggest complaint is really about their refund policy, them not being clear or the consumer not understanding," Wetzel said. "In some cases, they paid a large sum of money upfront, and their child only goes to camp for maybe a day, maybe the camp wasn't a good fit for the child, or the child becomes ill, and they don't stay the duration of the camp."
What to ask before sending money
When it comes to filling your summer with camps, the BBB offers this advice:
- If possible, visit the camp before submitting a deposit.
- Find out if that deposit is refundable.
- Check out all of the emergency and safety features.
- Ask about extra fees and payment deadlines.
- Find out if meals and transportation are offered. What about after-care?
- And what is the return rate for both campers and staff?
Whetzel says you should also check the ACA for reviews.
"Another great thing is the American Camp Association. It's a great resource," she said. "All those accredited camps meet 300 nationally recognized standards. So you can always look there for camps as well if you're looking for one. "
Jenny Miele says choosing a camp for your loved ones is not easy.
"I mean, it is so stressful for us parents. Summer is supposed to be fun, and it's sometimes hard to think about sometimes," she said.
But it doesn't have to be hard if you take your time and follow these tips, so you don't waste your money.
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