It’s that time! Day camp registration season. Many camps opened registration on January 1, or even in December, but February is when the big push begins.
Choosing your children’s camps is a big project. But once you decide to register, it’s not as easy as pressing a button to sign up. You need to have all of your information ready.
Documents, Forms, and Waivers
Each camp provider has its own registration process with different requirements. Some applications rival the FAFSA and some seem to leave out pertinent information. There is also a slew of registration software, and the industry doesn’t seem to have settled on a consistent platform. Many organizations use Active or Camp In Touch, but just as many use their own systems. Smaller organizations may simply add a Google form to their website, and others might provide a PDF form that you have to mail in. Pre-schools may require you to register over the phone or in person.
Registration software often requires you to set up an account and enter your children’s names and birthdates before you can actually view the list of camp availability; nor do they tell you how much information is required.
You therefore need to be prepared for all contingencies. Here’s a list of what you should have on hand:
Health insurance number
Doctor’s office number and address
Emergency contacts (make sure they are in town that week!)
Additional people who are authorized to pick up your child
Immunization record or doctor form (if this is needed you can usually provide before camp begins)
You may be asked to complete a medical questionnaire about your child, including particulars on medication. For an overnight camp application, I had to notate the dates of each immunization shot.
A best practice is to keep a copy of all of this information in one file (electronic or paper). This prevents you from having to “save and finish later,” and worry that your data was actually not saved and you’ll lose your spot.
Do you have to pay in full, or is there just a deposit? Is the deposit nonrefundable? What is the cancellation policy? Is there an additional registration fee?
Early Bird Discounts
You may not be ready to commit. But what if the camp fills up? Does it make sense to take advantage of early registration discounts if there’s a chance you might need to cancel?
If you want to dust off your options pricing model from business school, you’ll come up with something better. Otherwise, here’s a template you can use if you want numbers to support your decision.
Many camps offer financial assistance. To find them, simply check the scholarship box in your search criteria. It’s best to apply early. Sometimes you need to register for the camp, pay a deposit, and then submit a separate scholarship application. The deposit would be refunded if you don’t receive aid.
Be sure to thoroughly read and follow the requirements for each camp.
Parks & Rec
Camps run by tax-payer funded organizations are a bit unique. Websites are often clunky and hard to navigate. Finding registration information can be difficult. However, due to the fact that they tend to be very affordable, they fill up quickly. Some even require you to show up at the Rec Center with forms in hand to register, and line up like it’s Black Friday at Best Buy.
Do your research and be ready on opening day. The money you save could be even more than your Black Friday deal.