4 No-Cost Ways to Fill Your Summer Camp

ActivityHero partners with Jumbula

With a little advance planning, you can fill your camps this summer. ActivityHero shares best practices from day camps that fill up and even have a wait list.

By Peggy Chang

Camp owner outside with kids

Families spend a lot of money on camps each year – in fact, according to the American Camp Association, camps are a $18 billion industry. How did your camp do last summer? At ActivityHero, we’re able to analyze thousands of registrations to share these enrollment-boosting strategies, all of which require little more than rethinking your approach to scheduling.

1. Attract the Early-Birds

You know that some parents plan earlier than others — but what may surprise you is just how early they start planning. It’s likely even earlier than you think. Some families even start signing up for summer camp before Thanksgiving!

It shouldn’t cost you anything more to post your summer camp schedule earlier, so why not aim to get it out 2-4 weeks earlier than last year? For the 2023 season, a popular day camp opened summer camp registrations in early December instead of early January and had a 77% increase in revenue by March 1. 

On average, ActivityHero summer camp providers have 8 percent of their summer registrations done in January, 45 percent by March, and 74 percent by May.

Chart showing camp registration by month

One more thing to note about early bird planners? They’re influencers who not only register their kids, but also tell their friends about their camp plans. In fact, 44 percent of campers attend with a friend or sibling. These are the customers that matter most to your bottom line.

Bottom line: Aim to get your schedule posted by January 1st at the latest.

2. Offer Payment Plans

When families are signing up for camp months in advance, being able to pay in installments can increase your early registrations. It’s very common to see “buy now, pay later” promos on Amazon and other e-commerce sites, and some camps have been letting families make a deposit for decades. You might make the deposit non-refundable to discourage unnecessary cancelations. 

For one day camp, 30-45% of families opted to pay the deposit instead of full payment, so if your experience is similar, you’ll still get a good amount of cash coming in during the early months. 

3. Offer More Camps When Demand Is High

Why are some weeks full and other weeks less so? There’s no easy answer, as it depends on a lot of factors. But there are some trends you should know about. Here, the top weeks of summer camp in terms of enrollment and the longest wait list:

First week of summer vacation
We usually see the most enrollments — and the first waitlist — during the first week of summer break. To find out when school ends, check out the school calendars of districts near you.

The week after July 4th
You already know that registrations for the 4th of July week can be very unpredictable and depend on what day of the week is the 4th of July. But what may surprise you is the size of the demand for the week following the holiday. We see strong demand for the week after Independence Day.

First week of August
We saw the longest wait lists for sessions held the first week of August. Why? Summer camp demand holds steady in August, but competition drops: There are half as many camps available in August as there are in June or July. Many camp providers lose staff as counselors go back to college, and others lose space as schools start prepping for the school year. So if you’re able to keep offering camps in August, you’re likely to see strong attendance.

Bottom line: Pay extra attention to the weeks at the start and end of summer, plus the week after July 4. These can be good times to offer extra sessions. 

4. Create a Sense of Urgency

Most parents are afraid of missing out on a great opportunity — which means you can encourage them to act a little bit faster by showing session availability. You don’t have to show an exact number of spots left, but we found that an indicator of “spots available” or “few spots left” gets the key information across. And the bonus for you is that showing session availability on your website reduces the number of emails and phone calls asking, “Is Week 2 still available?” (Tip: ActivityHero offers a free schedule tool that you can add to your website to show updated session availability without having to edit your website.)

Bottom line: Communicate how many spaces you have to spur parents to action.

Take Your Business to the Next Level …

For more valuable tools and services to help you run and grow your business, talk to ActivityHero! Learn how to rank higher on ActivityHero.com search results, accept online payments, and more — with a MarketingHero or SuperHero plan.

Unless otherwise noted, all data in this article has been provided by ActivityHero.

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