Starting a business

Types of summer camps | Pros and cons for business owners

The first step of starting a camp for kids is deciding what type of kids camp you want to run. A lot of your decisions will be based on available capital, location, estimated enrollment numbers, and more factors. You need to think about the location (in-person, online, or both), when you will run your camp (over the summer, during school breaks, or both), the age of your campers, and the types of activities (focused on one topic theme like STEM or more general).

Considering these questions will help you determine the type of summer camp you want to run. At Sawyer, our goal is to help children’s activity providers start and run their businesses with ease. In this article, we will outline the pros and cons of each type of summer camp, how to decide which is right for your business’ goals, and include summer camp activities for each type. Looking for more support to jumpstart your camp? Check out our ultimate guide to starting and running a kids camp.

Types of summer camps: Pros and cons

There are 3 main types of camps that you can choose to run: day camps, sleepaway (or residential) camps, and virtual camps. Learn more about each type of camp, including the pros and cons of that specific style, to see which is right for your business.

Day camps

Day camps can range from 1 hour to a full day. The main factor that differentiates day camps from other types of camps is that children do not sleep at the camp overnight (some children might nap there, depending on age and length of the day). 

Pros of day camp 

  • Day camps are more accessible for younger children because they offer shorter days.
  • Overhead costs for the camp are lower than sleepaway camps.
  • Day camps can offer more flexibility for families, which can increase booking numbers.
  • Camps need less space for day camps than sleepaway camps, making it easier to rent or buy a facility.

Cons of day camp

  • Older children might grow out of day camps and want to attend a sleepaway camp.
  • Day camps are generally priced lower than overnight camps.
Photo of types of camps

Sleepaway (residential) camps

At sleepaway camps, the campers spend the night away from home, on the grounds of the camp with the staff. Sleepaway camps can take place in nature, on college campuses, or in another type of space that has room to house the campers and staff. There are often specific regulations based on state, city, and county that must be followed when campers are staying overnight on the grounds. The American Camp Association (ACA) has compiled a list of these rules.

Pros of sleepaway camp

  • Sleepaway camps provide opportunities for children to grow and develop independence away from their families.
  • Camps can charge more money because sleepaway camps also include room, board, and meals. Use our guide to determine pricing for your camp.
  • There are more opportunities for camper bonding, which can increase retention year over year.

Cons of sleepaway camp

  • There is usually an age minimum for sleepaway camps since children will be away from their families, which makes it less accessible to younger children.
  • There can be more safety concerns with sleepaway camps than with day camps.
  • Sleepaway camps are typically priced higher, which could exclude families.
  • Overhead costs for camps are higher.
Photo of virtual camps for kids

Virtual camps

Virtual camps take place online. They can be as short as 1 hour and as long as a full day. However, virtual camp owners need to be mindful of the attention spans of their campers as well as parent viewpoints on screen time. 

Pros of virtual camps

  • Virtual camps are accessible for children of all ages and abilities.
  • There are far fewer safety concerns than in-person camps.
  • With virtual camps, you can enroll campers from across the country, not just your local community.
  • Overhead for virtual camps is less expensive than in-person camps.

Cons of virtual camps

  • Families might not want their child to spend time online during the summer and school breaks.
  • The amount of time spent at virtual camps is generally limited due to the child’s attention span.
  • Virtual camps are priced far lower than in-person camps.
Photo of summer camps for kids

How to choose the right type of summer camp for your business

Now that you know the different types of summer camps, you can start to determine the right one for your business. If you have a lot of capital and the right facility, you can jump into a sleepaway camp from the beginning. If you are looking to raise money or reduce costs from the beginning, we recommend a virtual or day camp. You can further save money by narrowing down the ages for your campers and/or the types of activities offered. Once you have some success, you can accept a more broad range of ages or open up your camp to more activities.

No matter what you choose, the team and tools at Sawyer are here to help! We have the best camp registration and management software, which helps hundreds of camps across the country save time on admin so they can spend more time changing the lives of their campers. 

With our suite of tools, like signup forms to record allergies and t-shirt sizes, various payment options like gift cards and installment plans, and seamless registration on any device, Sawyer saves camp owners 28 hours per month. Learn how Sawyer can help with a free trial or demo.

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