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A summer spent rocking out with tween dreams like the Jonas Brothers on Disney’s (DIS) ratings hit Camp Rock might be a kid’s ultimate summer fantasy. But, the reality is that specialty camps are pricey. Most parents can’t pick up the $11,400 tab for skiing camp in the Swiss Alps with Leman Switzerland, or $12,600 for 12 weeks of equestrian camp at the International Riding Camp in Greenfield Park, N.Y.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to such expensive summers that will still give your campers plenty to write home about. Sure, for $5,599, your little slugger will visit 12 Major League ballparks traveling with Westcoast Connections Teen Tours’ Fantasy Baseball Camp.
And, maybe dancing with the Philly Phanatic mascot, cheering on the Detroit Tigers and visiting Fenway Park's Green Monster all sound like a young baseball lovers dream, but for a lot less dough he can perfect his pitch and get some baseball experience the old fashioned way -- by playing baseball. For as little as $450 a week, Nike (NKE) baseball overnight camps offer university level coaches to work on strength training, strategy and the opportunity to become a better athlete. So, why just watch America’s favorite pastime when your kid can jump into the middle of the action?
There is a camp to fit almost every budget. And, never assume an income is too high to qualify for some sort of discount. According to Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, 90% of camps offer some kind of financial assistance , including for early registration, signing up for the full-season, or enrolling multiple kids from one family.
And, that’s all before the cash-saving options offered by the government. Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts reimburse parents on a pre-tax basis for costs associated with child care that enable parents to work, go to school, or look for work. Check out the FSA website for more information.
Parents whose kids attend day camp should consider the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. The IRS allows an income tax credit of up to $3,000 per dependent (max of two dependents) to subsidize your child’s care while you work or look for employment. The amount of credit is based on your adjusted gross income, and you must pay more than 50% of the household maintenance costs for a qualifying dependent. Click here for more information on qualifications.
Whether you choose a camp that’s $500 or $5,000, make sure it’s accredited by the American Camp Association. ACA accreditation is voluntary, and requires a camp to meet 300 standards evaluating areas such as emergency management plans, staff qualifications, transportation safety and health care. Consult the ACA for a list of accredited camps nationwide.