What does summer camp on Long Island cost?

Campers in their cabin "Damselflies" play games before they go to bed at Peconic Dunes Sleepaway camp in Southold in 2015. Credit: Jessica Earnshaw

Summer means freedom for kids across Long Island, but that freedom is not always free. For parents who send their children to summer day or overnight sleepaway camp, the fun comes with a price tag.

“Everyone hears 'camp' and is frightened,” says Sabrina Navaretta, 42, of East Norwich, who sends three daughters to LuHi Summer Programs in Glen Head. But camps offer a variety of price points, depending on whether the programing includes door-to-door bus transportation, off-premise travel and trips, and luxuries such as pool towel laundering services.

“It's important to compare what you're getting for the tuition that you're paying,” says Ross Coleman, president of the 30-member Long Island Camps and Private School Association.

Six families shared what they pay for summer programming for their children, what they get for their money and why they choose the camps they do.

The camp 

LuHi Summer Programs in Glen Head

The cost

$14,560 total for eight weeks

The parents

Sabrina and Anthony Navaretta, of East Norwich

The campers

Anastasia, 5, Josie, 9 and Brooklyn, 10

The Navarettas choose LuHi Summer Programs for their three daughters in part because it is five minutes from their house, and because all three girls can attend the same camp and each choose programs that suit their personalities, Sabrina says.

Brooklyn likes art projects. Josie wants something more active. “She needs to be jumping and moving every moment,” Sabrina says. And Anastasia attends the Tykes and Tots program. Campers choose two-week sessions that might focus on basketball or fishing or dance or arts and crafts.

The Navarettas’ cost includes full-day camp, lunch and before and after camp care. The family takes advantage of discounts by registering the summer before and committing to multiple weeks. They also save by driving and picking up the girls themselves instead of using the camp’s optional bus transportation.

“My husband and I both work and have very demanding schedules,” Sabrina says. Anthony, 40, is a first responder and Sabrina, 42, runs her own business. She says they love the flexibility LuHi offers. And another thing, she adds: “My kids love it.”

The Navaretta sisters of East Norwich, from left, Brooklyn, 10,...

The Navaretta sisters of East Norwich, from left, Brooklyn, 10, Anastasia, 5, and Josie, 9, on the first day of camp in 2023 at LuHi Summer Programs in Glen Head. Credit: Sabrina Navaretta

The camp

Smithtown Recreation

The cost 

Approximately $2,500 for five weeks

The parent

Veronica Colwin, of Smithtown

The camper

Hunter, 15

Colwin, 43, a therapist, likes that she can send her son for as many weeks as she'd like of the eight weeks camp is offered. She also likes that each week is structured the same way; for instance on Mondays the campers do arts and crafts, on Wednesdays they do swim.

“For my son, who has autism, that kind of structure is really good for him to anticipate what his week is going to look like,” she says. She also likes that camp includes educational components such as STEM activities. 

Camp offers flexible before and after care by the day for $10 to $15, so she can decide if she needs it if she's running late one day. Camp also includes lunch and a snack, but parents must drop off and pick up their children; there is no bus transportation option.

Colwin took advantage of early bird and multiweeks discounts; the regular price of camp is $569 per week. Parents interested in a town camp option local to them should check with their own towns for possibilities.

Jake Bell, 11, of Syosset, and his sister Sami, 13,...

Jake Bell, 11, of Syosset, and his sister Sami, 13, are the third generation of their family to attend sleepaway camp. Credit: Iroquois Springs

The camp

Iroquois Springs sleepaway camp in Rock Hill, New York

The cost

$26,900 total for six weeks

The parents

Stacey and Mitch Bell, of Syosset

The campers

Jake, 11, and Sami, 13

“My kids are all third-generation campers,” Stacey says. “My father actually started sleepaway camp at the age of 4.” She attended Iroquois Springs, as did her sister, who met her husband there. She says it was a “no-brainer” to continue the family tradition with Sami and Jake. “To me, it’s what you did,” she says. “It’s an experience of a lifetime. If your child loves it, your child talks about nothing else.”

Stacey, 46, a fourth-grade teacher, says she believes sleepaway camp makes children more independent, more mature. She also likes that they are off cellphones and screens round the clock. “Camp sets them up for a lot of things developmentally besides the amount of fun they have. It’s just a blast.” Sleepaway camp memories, she says, are “priceless.”

Stacey and Mitch, 47, who works in advertising, pay for camp incrementally, putting down a deposit for each child and then making monthly payments beginning in September. Families can take advantage of early bird and loyalty discounts, she says. In addition to the camp tuition, the family also spends another couple of thousand each year on camp supplies, including clothing and flashlights and stationery and linens and towels.

Iroquois Springs offers a million-dollar theater for stage productions, an air-conditioned indoor turf sports arena, a private lake with water-skiing and boating, three heated pools with waterslide, a cooking studio and more.

The camp

Great South Bay YMCA Summer Day Camp

The cost

 Approximately $3,000 (plus about $24 a week for lunches) for six weeks, plus $720 if they opt for both before and after care for all six weeks

The parents

Keywanda and Fred Robinson, of Bay Shore

The camper

Mason, 10

Mason attends after school care at the Great South Bay YMCA during the academic year, so it was an easy decision to keep him in their summer programming as well, says Keywanda, 45, a supervising office assistant.

Mason’s preteen summer camp is held at the ACLD facility in Bay Shore. The preteens also travel off campus twice a week to Top Golf or movies or a Mets game or other activities. “They always go to Adventureland. So, I know if we don’t make it to Adventureland, he’ll still get to go before summer is over,” Keywanda says. Trips are all included in the fee. The Robinsons got a discount for signing Mason up by the end of December.

The Robinsons — Mason’s father, Fred, 48, is a director of I.T. — pay extra for a lunch program. The Y partners with different local restaurants and parents choose from a menu and lunch is delivered to camp. “I’m paying for the convenience. I don’t have time to figure out how to make the food and keep it cold or keep it warm,” Keywanda says. She also gives Mason cash to buy ice cream or chips at the camp’s snack shack, which he loves, she says.

Keywanda says she really likes the YMCA staff: “They’re all great, they’re hands on, you can tell they’re having a good time,” she says. And she says it’s a perk that she doesn’t have to get out of the car at drop off or pick up. “The counselor will escort him to the car, even open the door for him. I love that,” she says.

Typically, Mason would attend for the full eight-weeks of summer, but this coming year he’ll spend two weeks at his paternal grandparents’ home in Florida. The Robinsons also have a daughter, Laila, 14, but she is planning to get a job this summer. Not having to send two children to camp is “very nice,” Keywanda says.

The YMCA of Long Island also offers day camp locations in Huntington, Glen Cove, Patchogue and East Hampton.

Mason Robinson, 10, of Bay Shore, on a Great South...

Mason Robinson, 10, of Bay Shore, on a Great South Bay YMCA Summer Day Camp field trip. Credit: Great South Bay YMCA Summer Day Camp

The camp

Peconic Dunes Camp in Southold

The cost

$4,250 for five weeks of sleepaway for Nate, $2,600 for three weeks of sleepaway for Ellie, for a total of $6,850

The parents

David and Cindy Wolf, of Manhattan and East Marion

The campers

Nate, 13, and Ellie, 15

“My wife and I live in the city and have a weekend place on the North Fork 10 to 15 minutes from Peconic Dunes,” says David, 45, an attorney. The couple first sent their two children to day camp there for a week if they were on an extended stay at their vacation home. But when the children were old enough for an overnight experience, they enrolled in sleepaway at the same location.

Peconic Dunes does not require a multiweek commitment; children can sign up for a week at a time. In fact, if parents choose multiple consecutive weeks, they must pick up their children on Saturday and bring them back on Sunday.

“We weren’t really ready to say goodbye and send them off for the whole summer. We really liked that Peconic Dunes offered a week-by-week overnight option,” David says. The family can choose plan around other summer events such as a family vacation, he says. “We also get to see them on Saturdays and spend a little time with them.”

Ellie has aged out of the regular program, but this summer is attending as a counselor in training for three weeks, which still involves a fee but includes training in Red Cross CPR and workshops in conflict resolution and team building with the goal of having them return as counselors. Nate is attending camp for weeks 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7.

Peconic Dunes is a rustic camp with cabins set in the woods. The camp recently added a multiuse activity center and dining hall. “It’s a great camp,” David says. “There aren’t a lot of frills, but the kids absolutely love it.”

Ellie Wolf, 15, and her brother, Nate, 13, both attend...

Ellie Wolf, 15, and her brother, Nate, 13, both attend overnight camp at Peconic Dunes Camp in Southold. Credit: Wolf family

The camps

Driftwood Day Camp in Melville for Jordyn, Tyler Hill Sleepaway Camp in Tyler Hill, Penn., for Logan

The cost

$6,800 for eight weeks at Driftwood (they are an exception to the regular rate of $8,500 because they stayed loyal to the camp for many years including through the pandemic) and $16,500 for seven weeks at Tyler Hill, for a total of $23,300

The parents

Rachel and Michael Barrer, of Melville

The campers 

Jordyn, 6, and Logan, 9

Rachel, 38, is a reading teacher, and she says she pulls children from different grade levels for lessons. “I see a difference since the Covid era,” she says, in how kids communicate, behave and problem solve. “They were at home for so long.”

She says camp is a place where kids can catch up on their interpersonal social and emotional connections. She was happy to be able to send her children to Driftwood, and later send Logan to Tyler Hill, even though she is home for the summer herself and could keep them out of camp.

“When I got a tour of Driftwood, I was blown away. First of all, the facilities were outrageous,” she says. They have a ropes course, pools, tennis courts, jumping pads, arts and crafts facilities. This year they are adding bumper cars, she says. Every day she gets an email about what her child was doing that day. “Every Friday the group leader calls you,” she says. “Every single day when my kids came home they were so happy. They just wanted to go back. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”

As for Tyler Hill, it offers two private lakes with water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking and canoeing, a nine-hole golf course and athletic and arts facilities. 

“That is what my husband and I always put first — we have to save for camp,” Rachel says. “It’s not easy, and it’s a large sum of money you’re paying.” But, she says “There’s nothing that could replace a camp experience.”

Logan Barrer, 9, of Melville, attends overnight camp at Tyler...

Logan Barrer, 9, of Melville, attends overnight camp at Tyler Hill in Pennsylvania. Credit: Tyler Hill