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How Much Does It Cost to Start a Summer Camp? A Cost Breakdown

If you are thinking of starting a summer camp, you have come to the right place.

But before embarking on this journey, understanding the financial aspects is paramount, so that you can start your business well-prepared and avoid potential cost-related hiccups.

Giving children a place to socialize, play, and learn something new during school breaks is a wonderful initiative, but it also comes with its share of expenses.

That’s why we’ve meticulously compiled a list of every expense you’ll encounter along the way. 

From necessary licenses and permit fees to insurance, staffing, equipment, food costs, and even marketing and advertising expenditures, we’ve got you covered.

It’s important to note that the final costs will naturally depend on the location, size, and the type of activities your camp will offer, and all the fees and expenses mentioned here are just estimates. 

Still, this guide will give you the essential insights to help you turn your dream of running a summer camp into a well-planned reality.

Let’s dive in.

License and Permit Fees

The first crucial step when starting a summer camp is to obtain the necessary licenses and permits to ensure the legality of your business.

The legal documents you will need will depend on the location and nature of your camp.

The American Camp Association offers a helpful resource linking to individual state camp regulations and sheds light on license and permit fees.

State health departments often oversee camps, but some may have varying fees based on county or city jurisdiction.

Many states also adhere to ACA accreditation standards for camp care.

For instance, recreational and educational camps in Wisconsin incur a fixed annual fee and a one-time pre-inspection fee.

Type of Facility Annual License Fee One-Time Pre-inspection Fee
Rec-ed camp ​$505 ​$1,200

Meanwhile, Colorado charges license fees ranging from $77 to $528, contingent on the number of children served.

Source: ACA

Apart from these licenses and permits, you will probably require additional certifications such as first aid and CPR, each with its respective fees.

Overall, the costs for licenses and permits can vary widely from tens of dollars to over a thousand, depending on the state, camp size, and type.

However, this is the first and essential cost you will have to cover in order to start your summer camp.

Insurance Fees

If you envision a vibrant summer camp that sparks joy and unforgettable memories, you must also think about your campers’ safety.

One crucial aspect of this is insurance, a vital shield guarding your campers’ safety and your financial well-being.

Insurance policy for summer camps typically includes:

General Liability Insurance Protects your camp from potential lawsuits and financial burdens that may arise from injuries or property damage during camp activities.
Property Insurance Safeguards your camp’s assets from damage due to theft, vandalism, fire, or natural disasters.
Medical Insurance Covers medical expenses for campers or staff who sustain injuries while participating in camp activities, even if the camp is not legally liable for the injury.

According to, the average cost of a standard insurance policy for small to midsize camps ranges from $37 to $59 monthly, ensuring you’re prepared for the unexpected. 

However, the price depends on what you want to include in the policy, how many campers and staff you have, what kind of activities you offer, where your camp is located, and more. 

So, you should contact insurance companies directly to get quotes and find a perfect insurance plan for your camp.

In conclusion, adequate insurance will make your summer camp journey a safe, successful, and unforgettable experience for all.

Facility Rental Fees

When budgeting for your summer camp, finding the perfect space is a significant consideration.

Whether you choose to rent or buy, the size of your camp and the activities you plan to offer will be crucial in determining the price.

For instance, sports camps demand ample playgrounds, courts, and fields, while horseback riding camps require specialized utilities. All this, consequently, leads to higher rental costs.

When you are just starting your camp, one viable option is to explore already established camps that offer their spaces for rent.

Take, for instance, Camp Cayuga in the Pocono Mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania, which offers its facilities at an approximate daily rate of $40 per person.

Source: Camp Cayuga

Not only does this offer practical solutions for you due to their excellent facilities, but it also provides valuable insights into running a successful camp.

The experience of renting such space for your camp activities can be a driving force to consider investing in your own camp location in the future.

So, to make the best decision, conduct thorough research on potential locations, compare rental rates, and assess essential factors like accessibility and amenities.

Choosing a well-suited space will ensure a seamless and delightful camp experience, but remember that the ultimate cost will depend on the type of summer camp you plan to manage.

Utility Fees

Summer camps incur substantial utility expenses, mainly electricity, water, and cooling during the hot months.

The camp’s size, facilities, equipment usage, and location significantly influence electricity costs, with lighting, air conditioning, and appliances contributing to the expenses.

The national average electricity rate in the U.S. as of February 2023 stands at 23 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Water fees are equally critical, especially for camps with swimming pools or water-intensive activities.

The average U.S. family of four pays $73 monthly for water, which is $18,25 per person.

For 20 campers, for example, this amounts to $365. Water expenses, naturally, rise if you have a pool or offer water games and activities.

While we cannot provide exact costs due to camp size and location variations, these average electricity and water rates can serve as valuable benchmarks to estimate utility expenses.

Moreover, you can consider investing in energy-efficient projects like solar panels to lower utility bills and increase the return on investment.

In summary, being mindful of utility expenses is crucial to create an unforgettable camp experience while ensuring financial prudence.

So, assess your needs and utility usage patterns to budget accordingly.

Staff Expenses

Staffing forms a significant expense for summer camps, which require hiring for roles like counselors, activity leaders, and cooks, as running a camp alone is not feasible, no matter how good you are at it.

The required staff count will depend on your camp size and camper age, and some states, such as Wisconsin, strictly specify staff-to-camper ratios, as you can see in the table below.


But just finding your staff is not enough—you will have to train them.

Training staff is crucial but comes with considerable costs, especially when, in addition to camp orientation, you need certifications like first aid, CPR, and water safety.

Other staff-related expenses include salaries, taxes, and health insurance for all your team members. Moreover, recruiting expenses are unavoidable, too.

Overall, staffing expenses can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.

However, your staff plays a pivotal role in the success of your summer camp, making it essential to devote a significant portion of your finances to assemble a capable and qualified team for an enriching and, above all, safe camp experience.

Software Expenses

Ensuring smooth registration is a crucial aspect of running a successful summer camp.

So, even if you create an epic camp experience, the lack of seamless registration can hinder campers from participating.

To overcome this hurdle, allocating a portion of your budget to reliable online registration software is essential.

This software will enable campers and their parents to effortlessly register and pay for the camp experience.

Our online registration software, Regpack, is the perfect solution for summer camps.

Regpack’s pricing plans start from $125 monthly, providing unlimited features necessary for seamless registrations.

Source: Regpack

The software ensures an automated and tailored registration process, simplifying the form-filling experience for parents and catering to individual camper needs.

Regpack’s flexibility extends to payment options, allowing parents to choose suitable payment plans, making it more accessible to all parents.

Source: Regpack

Moreover, the software benefits your staff by automating communication with parents while maintaining a personalized touch.

This frees up your staff time, redirecting it towards more productive tasks.

In 2023, online registration software is indispensable for your camp’s success, with its benefits far outweighing the cost.

So, consider this investment to ensure hassle-free registration.

Equipment and Supply Costs

Equipment and supplies play a crucial role in the success of a summer camp, ranging from sports gear to art materials and camping essentials.

Even simple activities like making bracelets with beads require an investment in supplies.

According to Nick Cotter, the co-founder and CEO of newfoundrz, the company that helps entrepreneurs start successful businesses, managing such supplies may cost around $10,000.

While this expense might seem significant, it is essential to provide campers with the best experience possible.

And proper equipment does that.

Moreover, some equipment ensures safety for your campers, so it’s even more crucial.

For instance, saddles and helmets are necessary in a horse-riding camp to prevent accidents and injuries.

So, despite the costs, the appropriate equipment is vital to deliver the best summer experience.

If you provide it, happy campers are more likely to return, yielding greater rewards than the initial investment.

In the end, the benefits outweigh the expenses once again, making it a worthy investment for a thriving and memorable summer camp.

Food and Beverage Costs

As camp owners, you need to consider the high cost of food and beverages for your summer camp.

These expenses will vary depending on your camp type, campers’ duration of stay, and the number of attendees.

Additionally, the type of food and drinks you serve will impact prices—choosing between snakish options or whole meals and homemade organic versus pre-made processed items.

While the latter may be cheaper, it may not be as healthy for your campers.

Camp Cayuga, for example, which we mentioned before, offers their campers three nutritious meals daily: meat or fish and fruit and vegetables.

Source: Camp Cayuga

Moreover, adhering to food regulations is crucial and also influences the cost. 

For instance, Wisconsin’s Licensing rules for day camps require providing food based on how long children are present, ensuring no camper goes without nourishment for more than 3 hours.


That means precisely calculating the number of meals and costs for each.

The rising average food prices in the United States, with a 5.7% increase in the past year, have affected summer camp expenses, too.

That’s why balancing the pricing of the menu items is vital to align with food costs without overcharging. 

As described by Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., it’s usually taken as a good rule of thumb to triple the cost of food items, so that you can offer a well-balanced menu that provides nourishing meals, while managing costs effectively.

In conclusion, the cost of food will depend on the type of food you serve and the charges for campers. 

Striking a balance between expenses and charges will ensure fair cost distribution for you and your campers.

Transportation Expenses

Transportation expenses are another significant factor in the overall budget of your summer camp.

Depending on your camp’s offerings and location, you may need to arrange transportation for campers.

This could include daily pick-up and drop-off services or off-site trips to nearby attractions and excursions.

Renting a bus and hiring a driver are common options for providing transportation to and from the camp or for off-site trips.

According to, the cost of renting a bus and a driver can vary based on the day, season, and city, typically ranging from $500 to $600 for a four-hour minimum, with additional hours costing between $81 to $115.


However, to lower transportation costs at least a bit, you should explore your options for partnerships with local organizations like schools or community centers.

Such collaborations may offer access to vehicles and drivers at discounted rates, benefiting both parties and fostering a sense of community involvement.

In conclusion, as you plan your summer camp, carefully consider how campers will commute and whether off-site excursions are part of your program.

Make transportation arrangements accordingly to optimize your costs.

Marketing and Advertising Expenses

Marketing and advertising expenses are crucial to get the word out about your summer camp.

Costs may include advertising, creating a website, and printing brochures and flyers for distribution, which can add up.

Setting up a website and getting a domain name is an initial expense of up to $200. Still, it is a valuable platform for advertising, showcasing your offerings, and even taking registrations!

According to IronMark, comprehensive brochures that thoroughly present your camp in more pages, professionally made by writers and designers, may cost $900-$3,000. 

However, a bit more affordable alternative is leveraging social media to promote your camp.

Source: Camp Laurel on Instagram

You can post photos, share camper experiences, and tease exciting upcoming events to generate interest in campers and their parents, the way Camp Laurel from Maine does.

Moreover, you should include offers with special early-bird registration rates and discounts for siblings to encourage sign-ups and post them on social media.

Finally, don’t forget to allocate a budget for sponsored posts or ads on social media to target potential customers in your area.

In conclusion, though marketing costs can accumulate, investing in them is essential to boost registrations, making it a worthwhile expenditure for the success of your summer camp.


In this comprehensive guide, we have explored ten essential costs to consider when embarking on your summer camp business venture.

To begin your camp operation, you must factor in expenses such as license and permit fees, insurance costs, rental fees, utilities, registration software, and staff expenses.

These are fundamental elements to get your camp up and running smoothly.

Moreover, adequate budgeting for food and beverage, transportation, equipment and supplies, and effective advertising and marketing strategies are all crucial to ensure the success of your camp.

By carefully allocating resources for these aspects, you will lay a strong foundation for your camp business, increasing the likelihood of achieving your goals and providing an enriching experience for your campers.

So, plan thoughtfully, budget wisely, and watch your camp thrive in the summer sun!

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