How much should Summer Camp Cost?

The cost of a summer programs can vary substantially.  Day camps can charge from $100 to $1300 per week. Overnight camps can range from around $300 to over $2,500 per week.

With variations this large and so many options to choose from, it leads to some obvious questions:

“How much should a summer program cost? Why is a summer program so expensive? Why are some summer programs so much more expensive than others?”

There are two general classes of summer programs:

  • Basic Summer Camps – Offer children the chance to be exposed to a handful of activities using basic and simple equipment
  • Premium Summer Programs – offer a myriad of activities, an impressive installation with pools, ropes courses, slides, and more specialized equipment.

The premium programs are more expensive for three primary reasons:

  • Facilities
  • Activities
  • Personnel

Within the Premium Summer programs there are specialties these programs offer children, not just the summer camping experience most think about, but specialize in one or a group of related activities. Examples of these might be; Archery Camp, Horseback Riding Camp, Fishing Camp, Exploration, Orienteering, or Survival Camp and even less “campy” programs like Gymnastics or Computer Programming Camp.

American Seafarers, although not a “camp” at all, is a specialty overnight and expedition summer program focused on developing life skills using the sailing ship as the platform used to develop teamwork, leadership, critical thinking and self-esteem as well as the means by which we explore the Coast of New England to provide your kids not just the life-skill building experiences that a premium summer program can offer, but also the best extended cruising summer vacations of their lives. A vacation experience that they helped make happen. What better experience is there for a kid to have an amazing vacation and being a huge part of why the vacation was successful?


Facilities and Activities


The most obvious difference between premium summer programs and other programs is the quality of facilities.  Some programs are simple and basic, offering a handful of activities with simple equipment and essentially offer the chance for children to be exposed to some variety. Premium programs offer a myriad of activities (often over 40) and an impressive physical plant with pools, ropes courses, slides, ski boats, horses, and specialized equipment all placed on a beautiful site. This gives the programs an opportunity for some campers to focus on their favorite activities with better than just basic equipment. For instance, instead of $25 kids archery bows and bales of hay, a premium program might invest in higher quality equipment like true competition quality bows, and professional quality targets.

Additional activities and impressive facilities are expensive.  Some programs are especially costly to offer.  Horseback riding, waterskiing, ropes courses and climbing walls all require substantial investments in equipment and instructors.  Premium programs typically provide superior equipment, facilities and variety to their more affordable cousins.

American Seafarers facilities are Sailing Ships that have been designed right from the bolts and timbers to be crewed by one or two licensed captains and a small handful of young crew. These ships are designed to facilitate learning activities such as Classroom Study of the sailing program, charting and navigation, and perform ocean and shoreline based citizen science. Our ships are designed to real tough and durable working boat standards with the Safety of your children being the first consideration in all design choices.


While physical differences are certainly the most obvious, the single most important difference between premium programs and less expensive campss is personnel.  Premium programs generally have:

  1. Better ratios of campers to counselors
  2. Better training
  3. More full time staff
  4. Superior professional development

Each of these areas adds substantial value to the campers and their families, but they also increase the cost of the program.

Camper to Counselor Ratios

Some camps hire the minimum number of counselors needed to provide the activities safely.  While this makes activities possible, it rarely provides the counselor with enough time to connect with individual campers.  Instead, he or she is in “crowd control” mode when dealing with multiple campers.

As a result, a premium overnight program might have one counselor for every 5 or 6 campers while a more budget-friendly camp might hire one for every 8-12 campers. The relevant comparison is the number of individuals working directly with the children (and acting as role models to them).

American Seafarers maintains a ratio of 1 or 2 licensed captains for every 6 young seafarers.


Camp professionals often struggle with two important goals.  On the one hand, they believe that every child (regardless of financial situation) should have the opportunity to attend summer camp.  I often say that the worst camp is better than the best mall or video game.

On the other hand, they strive to create the best possible experience possible for the campers in their care.  This desire for excellence leads to improving all the physical and personnel aspects of the camp.  Doing so, however, drives up the costs of the camp, especially as all of the camp’s costs must be covered during 7-10 weeks of the summer.

American Seafarers bridges this challenge through scholarship programs that provide reduced priced (or even free) summer program sessions to families with lower financial capability. In addition to continually striving to improve our program, we spend the rest of the year raising scholarship funds so that every kid has a chance to attend regardless of financial ability. Doing so enables us to avoid compromising its desire for excellence while also serving the full spectrum of families.

Premium camps hire far more counselors than are needed to staff activities because they know that camp is ultimately about relationships: relationships between campers and relationships between counselors and campers.  Children will have role models and the critical question for parents is “who will be my child’s role models”?  With this in mind, excellence in counselors and their relationships with their campers is critical to providing an excellent camp experience. This is another reason why American Seafarers will always have 1 or 2 adults for every 6 young seafarers.