School’s out for summer


Summer in Canada – cottage edition

If anyone has learned a lesson this year from school, it’s me. Specifically, I have learned to SAVE FOR SUMMER CAMPS (or make arrangements). Historically I have been home during the summer – having spent the past 5 years working only fall/winter/spring & then taking the summers off with the kids. Before that I was a stay-at-home-parent who had transitioned out of owning a business. So I am sure it comes to NOBODY’s surprise that the sticker shock of summer camp almost killed me.

Let us rewind though, to the shortest – yet perhaps the coldest – month of the year: February.

While I am enjoying the fireplace and a nice glass of Chianti, I happen to notice a kerfuffle on Facebook. Camp kerfuffle. Apparently, for some of the most popular camps in the region one must stay glued to the computer and start the registration process as soon as the camps open. Museum and Gallery camps fill up in the first hour usually and parents who don’t double-down their efforts will find themselves shut out of the most interesting camps in the city.

Who. Freaking. Knew?

Not this newbie.

Of course, while I am sure these camps are incredibly enriching and interesting (and always inconveniently located outside public transportation or in the opposite direction of work) they are also out of my price range. I am also more in favour of a laid-back kind of summer, one where kids do crafts and swim in the river or a neighbourhood pool, one where you laze about with friends. If it makes me a monster that I am not sending my kid to robot-making camp at the tune of $400 a week, so be it. They will have to find enrichment in other ways, like the library or their imaginations, or something.

(I jest, I am just jealous they wouldn’t take *me* at robot camp)

…Money’s out for EVAH

Still, I did need summer childcare and even though historically we have sent them to a bunch of church camps because their friends were going, it’s usually only a part of the day and they are only held a couple of weeks a summer. Luckily for us though, our local YMCA runs summer camps in our area. They have neighbourhood camps that are run out of a local school across the street from an amazing park with a pool. The kids know a lot of the people who go to the camp and it is biking distance from our house. A week of camp is $163 a kid from 9-4, with another $17 a week for extended care from 4-5:30. Since it is exactly on my bus/bike route, it’s also incredibly convenient.

The YMCA also has an outdoor camp outside the city that is more like a traditional sleepover camp, except it is a day camp. Here kids go hiking, learn kayaking, explore nature, can do horseback riding and generally do all the outdoorsy things we associate with summer. The kids are bussed back and forth every day from a location in our neighbourhood, and although it is a little more expensive I felt it would be a good experience for the kids to be out in nature all day. I even copped for ½ day horseback riding and water sports for the eldest because I felt she would enjoy the new experiences. Cost: $189 (most weeks) – $247 (horseback riding week etc.).

The city has an excellent wading pool program

The above prices are also lower than usual because we are members of the YMCA. If we weren’t, the weekly costs for neighbourhood camps would be $180 with $17 for extended care and the outdoor camp would be $210 to $342 (depending on the program). Luckily for us though, we get a reduced rate for a membership because my current workplace has a corporate deal with them, and Mr. Tucker’s work pays $40 a month towards a gym membership for all their staff. So essentially, we pay $66 (taxes etc included) for the fancy family monthly membership to our local YMCA, which includes all our classes from swim lessons & specialty classes for the kids and all the classes the adults want to take (and towel service, ooo!). Add the fact that we are saving $26 to $95 a week on camp, per kid, and it’s a darn good deal. We make the money back in camp savings alone but since we also take advantage of the swim classes & the gym, it’s a worthwhile expenditure for us.

Of course, no comparison would be complete without pointing out that the cheapest camps in our area are city camps. Those camps are further out from our area, which would require driving, and they run about $165 a week, from 8-5pm. So while still a deal, it would probably cost us enough in gas to negate any savings. Also, it would be a huge time hassle for us to spend more time on the road. If one was closer to us, we would definitely consider it.

No more pencils, no more books

Hanging out with friends & the lifeguards from the neighbourhood pool

All the wee details aside, I remember asking fellow working parents on social media how they manage the output of thousands of dollars months before summer even started. Two comments stood out to me though. “Look at it this way, then you are off the hook with dealing with paying for childcare all summer!” and “It hurts, but it’s something you just have to do.” So naturally Mr. Tucker and I held our noses and outlaid almost $3000 dollars on summer camps during the coldest and darkest months of the year.

Obviously, we hadn’t planned this out very well when I accepted to work this summer, so it was a painful outlay. Since Mr. Tucker works from home & the kids get on the bus in the morning with him and get off the bus in the afternoons with him, we also pay no childcare during the school year, which almost makes it more painful to pay for full time care!

The ‘hood splashpad

But pay we did, and now that I hope to stay employed for the foreseeable future, I am in full planning mode for next year!

We might not go back at all!

So now that I know better, I have a game plan for following years. I can either:

a> Save extra money a month to ensure we can cover camps in the summer.
b> Mr. Tucker and I can stagger our vacation so that we cover at least six-or-seven weeks of the summer, the rest being camps.
c> We can stagger vacation & get relatives to cover some extra weeks.
d> A little bit of all-of-the-above.

Since the summer is generally 9-10 weeks, we can probably manage with a combination of strategies, especially since it would be nice to take a week or so together as a family.

Summer is for beaches

This year is a super travel year for our family and our kids are in camps because Mr. Tucker and I had planned a two-week 10-year anniversary to Italy and a Disney trip for the kids in the fall. That pretty much ate up my three weeks of vacation. Since we also thought I would be home, we booked a cottage trip with two other families in July. Mr. Tucker will be all by on his lonesome with the kids that week, as I will be working. This happened because technically Mr. Tucker’s fancy job allows him “unlimited” vacation (but we all know that’s because they don’t want you to take too much). In fact, I think this year is the year he is taking the most he has taken in 7 years at the company.

Get this man a vacation!

So given all the travel we are doing in 2016, 2017 is going to be a more low-key year for us, hopefully. My game plan is to save for camps but to also plan to stagger our vacation so that the kids will be able to stay home. I know that this summer I will miss packing a picnic every day and then hitting the park, the splashpad, or the beach with the kids. I will miss watching them run around with their friends inventing games and making crafts. I’ll miss the neighbourhood camaraderie and the lazy days of summer. It will be a tough adjustment for all of us, I think.

Still, we have huge financial goals over the next couple of years and those goals will be met with the salary I am bringing in. I also love my job and enjoy working where I work, so the tradeoff is not something I regret at this point. Still, I do know I will be smarter about arranging childcare next year!

& on that note, enjoy your long weekend!

Keeping warm walking back from the park