Summer camps are understandably yet absurdly expensive. In fact, sending your child to a four-week summer camp session costs the same as buying your child an airline ticket for a trip around the world, between $1,500 to $2,000 per vacationing soul.
Before rushing to call our travel agents, let's zoom in on this comparison a bit closer. While many summer camps require kids to bring their own lunch (to avoid dealing with obscure dietary preferences), the around-the-world option includes plenty of meals tailored to any diet: vegetarian, low-sodium, diabetic, Kosher, Hindu, Muslim and even offers a kids’ menu. Occasionally, you can get seconds by charming a flight attendant, or by gathering all your chutzpah to ask the person in the next seat whether she is planning on eating her dessert. But don't even dream of snapping up your fellow camper's food; sharing is prohibited.
Summer camps mean sunburns, tick panic, mosquito bites, and lice checks. Airplane travel is free of these dangers. With the occasional outbreaks of flu followed by a mandatory 7-day quarantine, many kids have to miss entire weeks of camp without refunds. But consider this, if your child gets sick on the around-the-world trip, not only the child, but all passengers and crew will be rushed to the nearest hospital for extensive checkups, and all will happily continue the journey when recovered.
Another advantage of the around-the-world deal is a clear guarantee that your child will not return in the evening to tell you that he does not like it. True, there are camps that follow this model: sleep-away camps. Your child is provided lodging, food and is not allowed to call and complain. Only snail mail is permitted and by the time you get it, the camp session is almost over. But for such an all-inclusive package, you have to pay the equivalent of a business class around-the-world ticket.
The airline option sounds like a better deal overall. You just need to choose a route. This depends on what you want your child to learn during summer vacation. When sending kids to camp, we like to think that they acquire real life survival skills like canoeing, swimming, archery, knitting. However, studies show that, in the summer, kids' brains take a reverse evolutionary zip and the real survival skills of the 21st century, such as math and reading, significantly deteriorate.
Perhaps, airlines can offer a special around-the-world package that would combine all of these learning needs. Start the flight with two-hour mandatory reading sessions, and follow with some math to show why what took 80 days in the time of Jules Verne could be accomplished in four weeks now. Then a flight attendant can demonstrate how to use gimp to decorate your headphones. Next on the list is a Captain's special: a short meteorology quiz. Then it’s time for lunch: a selection of mac-and-cheese or mac-without-cheese. Rest time could include a movie in the language of the country over which the plane is flying. Sport selectives would have to be yoga, aisle minigolf or the Endless current pool. The latter could also serve for timeless timeouts. Finally, a daily treat of milk and cookies for snack.
To promote hygiene and insure that kids change clothes daily, enforce a different-color-for-each-day-of-the-week camp uniform.
At the end of the trip, award each passenger an “I made it around the world” certificate, upon release to his or her family. Parents will be thrilled with the accompanying list of things taught along the journey, complete with strategies to reinforce this new knowledge throughout the coming school year. Surprisingly, this whole package would not cost so much. Prices run as low as four weeks of summer camp!
Image courtesy of FunKa-Lerele, distributed under the Creative Commons license
P.S. Humor always helps to forget about financial difficulties but if you are interested in a real money-saving advice on your summer camp spendings, here are a few tips:
- Town-run summer camps are significantly cheaper than private camps. In my town they are $130 per week, at least 4 times cheaper than private camps. They obviously do not have the facilities and resources that a private camp could afford, but if you convince you kid's friends to come along, they all will have a blast.
- When considering sleep-away camps, take into account that you are buying yourself a few weeks of freedom. No need to pay for babysitters or run early from work to pick someone up at 4pm from a day camp. You are free to work, exercise, shop and go out as much as you like and when you like. Plus, your are getting back a more mature and independent kid than the one you sent.
- Summer is about freedom and playing with the friends. Babysitter sharing or mom cooperative where each one supervises all the kids once a week are good money-saving alternatives to summer camps for a limited time intervals.
- Many of the camps offer financial assistance. It never hurts to ask.
- Children of the camp staff often get significant camp discounts. If you do not have any work obligation for next summer, perhaps you could consider helping at the camp.
Feel free to add your camp cost saving advice in the comments of this story on TheMathMom's website.