How many times a day should you check your email?

No clue. But on Monday I will be checking it like an addict.

Why? 2 words–summer camp.

My girls (and there are 4 of them, by the way) spend 1 week every summer at sleep-away camp. One week where I’m not their chauffeur, short-order cook, laundress, entertainment director, and in times of pandemic, teacher. One week where I can plan my schedule without taking 4 other little people’s schedules into account.

In short, a week where I’m Siobhán and not mom.

But thanks to COVID-19, that week is in serious jeopardy.

Monday is THE DAY the camp will be updating the parents on their plans for reopening the camp for the summer.

So many unknowns. Will the camp open? If so, what safety measures will be in place to minimize risk to the campers? Will the measures be adequate? Will they ruin the camp experience?

You know what’s not unknown? They already have my money. 

So Monday I wait. Thinking about that 1 glorious week, anticipated for so long, now up in the air. And my money potentially gone forever. Like my sanity this summer if the kids never leave. Just joking. Maybe. A little.

Why summer camps don’t want to give you your money back

So why don’t summer camps just keep their families happy and refund the money?

Because they’ve already spent it.

Roughly half of the average camp’s total revenue (and that includes deposits) are used to pay its annual fixed costs. These are year-round costs like facility renovations, year-round staff, and planning the summer program.

Does the camp figure cancellations and refund requests into their budget? Sure, for maybe 5 or so families. But not their entire summer roster thanks to a global pandemic.

Do summer camps have to give you your money back

If summer camps aren’t going to be open, don’t they have to give you your money back?

Not all of it.

I’m going to get a little legal here.

The camp is free from refunding money that it has already spent getting ready for the summer (see above re fixed costs) under the doctrine of impossibility. Since an unforeseen event (global pandemic) is preventing them from opening camp, they are relieved of their obligation to refund money they have already spent.

So what does that work out to? At least half, probably more, of what you have already paid.

Devil’s in the details: the contract

Don’t forget to carefully review the camp contract.

Most contracts specifically state deposits are not refundable, and refunds are prohibited after a certain date.

How to get your money back from summer camp

All is not lost folks. You may be able to get some (or all) of your money back.

How? Ask and be persistent.

Camps would not exist without their relationships with families. They want you to come back. They need to you to come back.

In short, you have leverage.

If a number of families have decided to consider their prepaid camp fees as a donation (and some will, see below), the camp may be in a position to refund money.

What would also make refunds possible? If the camp applied for and received a low interest disaster relief loan from the Small Business Administration or the Payroll Protection Plan under the CARES Act.

To be honest, assuming they are eligible, if your camp management isn’t organized and sophisticated enough to avail themselves of these federal programs, they probably shouldn’t be taking care of your kids.

If the camp balks at refunding your money, negotiate. Credit for next year? Less than all of your money? Remember, they want (and need) you to come back next summer.

Write off camp fees as a donation

If you are able and willing, you can also consider writing off your camp fees as a donation to the camp. But before you write it off your taxes, be sure to discuss it with your accountant (as well as the camp’s accountant).

What’s going to happen this summer? Wish I knew. Heck, I’d even settle for knowing what’s going to happen in the next week or two. 

For now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get my week this summer.

Has your kids camp been cancelled? Leave a comment or send me an email.

Please read the Disclaimer.