Free or Affordable Summer Camps for Low-Income Families

The information in this article is current as of February 10, 2022.

What if you could give your child a magical summer without breaking the bank?

Summer camp is always a fantastic experience for children. However, many low-income families believe they cannot send their children to summer camp because of the cost.

Fortunately, there are plenty of summer camps for low-income families. Most of them are very affordable, and some are entirely free, which is excellent for families already using one or more special benefit programs.

What are these camps, though, and how can you get started? Keep reading to get answers!

Police Athletic League

If you’re looking for summer camps for low-income families, one of the best organizations is the Police Athletic League. PAL offers completely free summer camps for children 5-13. And PAL has locations in over a dozen states, so there may be one conveniently located near you.

What do these camps have to offer? Activities like crafts, sports, field trips, physical fitness, and more are available for kids.

If you like PAL, the organization offers other activities beyond summer camps. Kids can enjoy afterschool activities, art programs, fitness programs, and other things to help children strengthen their minds and body. 


Everybody is familiar with the YMCA, but most think of it as an affordable place to work out. However, far too many are unaware of the summer camp opportunities that come courtesy of this organization.

While these summer camps are not free, they are very affordable. And there are different kinds of camp opportunities, including Camp Lawrence for the boys and Camp Nokomis for the girls; both are located in New Hampshire. Other locations include other camps, including Ohio serving as Home to three different Countryside YMCA locations.

The different camps have different price points, making finding a cheap summer camp that is still fun and fulfilling. And if they enjoy camping, then your children may enjoy taking advantage of other YMCA services offered throughout the year.

The Salvation Army

Like the YMCA, most people are familiar with the Salvation Army. Still, many are unaware of the full range of services the Salvation Army offers to local communities. And this includes some unforgettable summer camp experiences for children!

The summer camps offered by the Salvation Army are designed for children between the ages of 5 and 14. The camps are not free, but each one costs no more than $50 a week per child. Should you send multiple children, some discounts reduce the cost to $40 for your second child and $30 for your third child.

Once the children get a little older, they may enjoy checking out the youth camp designed for teens up to 17 years old. And like the YMCA, the Salvation Army offers a range of helpful services, including counseling, financial assistance, character-building programs, and so much more.

Castle Rock Avid4 Adventure

If you live in or near Boulder, Colorado, you should consider sending your kids to the Castle Rock Avid4 Adventure. This summer camp is designed for children attending preschool to those attending seventh grade.

What makes this particular summer camp affordable is the scholarships the organization hands out. Each year, Castle Rock hands out 300 scholarships so that children from low-income families can enjoy 11 weeks of awesome summer adventures. The exact amount of financial assistance depends on a family’s income. It is possible to attend Castle Rock as a completely free summer camp.

There are different adventures due to the variety of camps. Younger children, for example, typically enjoy the adventure camp because it is filled with activities like hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking. Older children may enjoy the camps focusing on teamwork and leadership, mainly because they help prepare them for high school and beyond.

The Fresh Air Fund

These summer camp opportunities have been around a bit longer than others. As an example, the Fresh Air Fund has been around since 1877.

This camp is designed for children residing within New York’s five boroughs. So long as you meet the camp’s financial qualifications, it’s possible to send your children to upstate New York for an unforgettable camping experience.

What is the camping experience all about? In short, the Fresh Air Fund is all about giving children outdoor adventures. Yes, this may be beneficial for all children. However, kids that may be cooped up all winter might long for a change of scenery could genuinely enjoy this long-running sleepaway camp.

Boy Scout/Girl Scout Camps

Most of the summer camp experiences in our guide don’t require any previous membership. However, there is one notable exception. And that is the camp experience offered by both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.

Membership in these organizations usually costs between $40 and $60 per year. Suppose you’re already paying for a membership. In that case, your child may have access to some of the affordable summer camp options, such as sleepaway camps. And the organization will price these summer camps based on your income level.

What if your child is not a Scouts member, or you don’t want to send them away that long? In that case, you should explore the different day camp options these organizations offer. These options provide a smaller version of the entire camp away experience to Scouts and non-Scouts alike. The costs are still very affordable.

Microsoft’s YouthSpark Summer Camp

The chances are that you imagine a lot of time outdoors when you think about the term “summer camp.” But at its core, a good camp is about more than the setting. It’s about helping your child have fun while learning some efficient skills.

And that’s the concept at the heart of Microsoft’s annual YouthSpark Summer Camp. Before COVID-19, these camps were designed so that your child could attend sessions at physical Microsoft stores. Instead, these camps are entirely online, but they still offer valuable skills to children.

What is this camp all about? First, your child will learn digital skills like coding, moviemaking, and how to use technology to help those in your local area. To help with this, Microsoft provides access to free workshops online.

In addition to being fun, this camp can help children learn the fundamentals of valuable skills like coding. This will help children enter middle school and high school and may eventually help them find jobs that require their growing technical expertise. 

Youth Haven

There is a special sleepaway camp in Michigan and Arizona known as Youth Haven. Youth Haven provides scholarships to low-income families to attend the camp for free.

Youth Haven helps to teach and foster fun skills like swimming and archery. But at the heart of this camp are concepts such as friendship and teamwork. Because your child will complete most tasks alongside their fellow campers, they will form friendships that may last a lifetime.

The result is a child with more friends and has developed socialization skills around other children. This camp serves children ages 8-13 and will require one week to complete.

Home Depot Maker Classes

Some children are visual or auditory learners, which means they are usually good at sitting back and absorbing lessons based on what they see or hear. However, other children are hands-on learners who primarily learn a new skill by practicing it. And if that sounds like your own child, we recommend you explore the Maker classes offered by Home Depot each year.

Unlike most other camps, this particular camp requires that your child have a parent or other adult with them at all times. These programs usually have different sessions that start at times ranging from early in the morning to the early evening, generally taking place on one weekend per month. And each session focuses on one basic idea: helping your child build something extraordinary!

As part of the camp, your kid will get a free project kit to work on. They’ll also receive a Home Depot-style orange vest and, once they are done, a special certificate for completing the camp.

Best of all, this camp focuses on hands-on, practical skills like building birdhouses. Your child will be able to use these skills quite a bit, especially when they get older. In addition, you’ll get the benefit of a child who now knows how to help out around the house with their newfound skills.

Summer Camps for Low-Income Families: Your Next Move

Now you know about the different summer camps for low-income families. But do you know how you can save a bit more money each month to help support your loved ones?

To make things easier for your family, we have assembled a list of recommended resources for saving money each month. With these resources, you can begin saving money almost right away!

Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service

If you qualify for federal benefits, you may also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that allows low-income consumers to receive free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.