Marketplace purchase data shows that families paid an average of $95.89 a day for a week of day camp in 2023, an increase of 12.4% over last year.
When you go to a store or shop on Amazon, you’ll usually find a wide price for seemingly similar items. A pair of jeans could be $35 or $250. But you, the shopper, get to choose which pair you want to buy, and maybe you’ll select a pair of jeans that costs $65.
The summer camp industry also has a fair bit of variance in price, as reported by recent articles by Bloomberg Businessweek, citing sleepaway camps prices at the high end at “$10,500 for four weeks in Maine to…$6,970 for three weeks of Caribbean sailing, not including travel.”
And typically camp prices have modest annual increases to account for rising costs. Reports of skyrocketing prices began to circulate in 2022 and 2023 after the American Camp Association (ACA) published results of their annual CampCounts research survey in March 2022 which reported that the average day camp fee was $178 per day in 2021. Reporters from Yahoo Finance and other media outlets began to say “the average cost of day camp has more than doubled to $178 per day in 2022, compared to just $76 in 2021…and sleepaway camp prices have nearly tripled to $449 per day.”
At these prices, a one week day camp would cost $890. This made us wonder how does the average price listed compare to the price that families actually pay for day camp? And is the average price of a day camp really $178 a day? As the largest marketplace for day camps and classes, ActivityHero.com is able to compare list prices and the actual price paid for thousands of camps in the US to answer these questions.
Comparing summer camp prices from 2021 to 2023
ActivityHero’s data shows that the average list price of a day camp in 2021 was $72.39 per day, 60% lower than the average fee from ACA’s survey data. The list price is the full price of the session, excluding extended care and before any discounts are applied. ActivityHero’s dataset is heavily concentrated in Western states and includes high price markets such as San Francisco and Los Angeles and a wide range of specialty camps such as art, soccer and coding.
ActivityHero’s data shows that the average price paid for a day camp was $80 per day in 2021. There were fewer camps operating in 2021 due to covid disruptions and staffing shortages, so families couldn’t do too much price shopping that year. But in 2022 and 2023, the average price paid for camp is actually lower than the list price. With more camps to choose from, families can compare prices and find more discounts available. While day camp prices increased by 22.6% between 2021 and 2022, the average price paid increased by only 6.6%.
In 2023, the average list price of a day camp and the average price paid increased by 11.9.2% and 12.4% respectively, as of July 16, 2023.
Showing the data as weekly prices, we see that the average price paid for a summer day camp was $479 a week in 2023, $19 less than the average list price.
So why have we been hearing that the price of a single day of day camp is $178 or $180 in the news? We contacted the ACA and they told us “The American Camp Association would like to discourage journalists from using the CampCounts 2021 Report to cover the average price of camp. The 2021 data is based on a sample of less than 300 respondents and that sample doesn’t represent the full breadth of camp pricing across the field in our country. Average day camp prices range from completely free to $200+ per day and overnight camp prices range from free to $500+ per day.”
The ACA CampCounts 2022 Survey data says that the average price for a day camp was $87.23 per day in 2022. This is very close to ActivityHero’s list price of $88.80 per day. It’s worth noting that ActivityHero’s dataset over 2021-2023 consists of over 67,000 summer camp sessions offered by for-profit and independent nonprofits and does not include a representative sample of municipal programs such as camps offered by city parks and recreation departments.
How summer camp cost compares to pre-pandemic
“Camps are facing rapidly rising costs,” notes Matt Noble, Galileo Learning’s CEO. “Wages, rent, and materials costs have all been increasing at the most dramatic pace we’ve seen in more than two decades of operation.”
As camp operators faced these rising costs, the average list price for a summer day camp increased by 51% between 2019 and 2023. But savvy shoppers on ActivityHero have been choosing the lower priced camps and getting camp discounts, paying an average of $479 for a week of day camp, an increase of 18% vs 2019.
Making summer camps affordable
Galileo Learning, a STEAM and innovation camp based in Oakland, California, has kept the average list price of their camp below $480 for the past three years and increased prices by only 2.9% in 2023. CEO Matt Noble explains “it’s important to our mission that we keep camp affordable and accessible to families, which we’ve done by putting hard caps on price increases, expanding our financial aid program, and offering families incentives for enrolling early and for multiple weeks.”
The hourly price of summer day camps is still cost effective compared with other forms of childcare. The average price paid per hour of camp is $16.64 in 2023, compared to $24 – 27 per hour for a babysitter or nanny in the SF Bay Area.
Summer camps are still far from being inexpensive, but families who use a marketplace like ActivityHero to see a wide range of camps can find options that fit their family’s budget. Single day camps or half day programs are less expensive ways to schedule some out-of-the-house activities.
To help defray costs, ActivityHero has 2500 scholarships available to families with financial need. This program is made possible by generous contributions from activity providers and families. Camps can offer discounted prices for families who have financial needs and be matched with families who apply through the ActivityHero scholarship application.
The summer camp experience
The ability to be with other kids and develop social emotional skills after the long period of social isolation during the pandemic is a unique aspect of summer camp. Camps offer a mix of fun, learning and social experiences that is hard to put a price on.
Maria, a parent from Seattle, shared “Camp gave my daughter a great amount of joy and a sense of confidence to try new challenges! She loved all the different activities and making friends in the process.”
Data sources: ActivityHero marketplace data on summer day camp prices and registrations from 2019-2023. Overnight camp prices from Bloomberg Businessweek. ACA camp fees from Yahoo Finance interview and ACA CampCounts 2021. Average cost of a babysitter is from Care.com, Urbansitter.com, Sittercity.com surveys.