Winter Camp on a Single Mom’s Budget

Many of you who follow this blog already know I’m a single mom. How, you wonder, did I afford to do this? I’m certainly not rolling in money at the moment.

I thought I should do a post about this in case you’re in the same situation and would love to expose your child to this experience.

First of all, the camp isn’t expensive — about $250 for a full week — Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon. If you enroll your child for a full day, it goes up to around $400. I know there were parents who had children in the full-day camp, but my observation was that they were Clearwater residents and were using this as part of summer day care while they went to work. My feeling was that Neil had enough of the experience if he attended morning sessions. In the afternoons, we went to the beach, played a round of putt-putt golf, went to an indoor wave surfing attraction and sometimes just cocooned with a good Disney DVD and popcorn. At Clearwater Beach, you’ll enjoy Pier 60, which has family-friendly attractions and a wonderful cafe (great Grouper sandwiches!). And, Clearwater has a wonderful trolley service. For $5 per person, you can ride the “Jolly Trolley” all day and choose your area of the beach for relaxation. Next to the Clearwater public library on the beach is a public pool ($5 admission), and Neil and I spent the afternoon of July 4 there. It was a great break from the sand and surf, and hardly anyone was there!

For Dolphin Camp, there is an extra $50 cost for a back pack filled with snorkeling gear, a beach towel, an underwater camera and sunscreen. You don’t have to buy it, but let me tell you — it’s really worth it, and it’s great to have a back pack and towel as a souvenir (plus, the snorkeling gear is nothing like what you’d find outside of Florida).

As for lodging …I have a lovely uncle who is a New York snowbird. He spends half of the year in Clearwater, and he graciously gave us his home for the week for free, because he was going to be in New York for the summer. That said, if you’re on a tight budget, you might call around to Realtors in Clearwater who handle rental beach properties or even home owners’ associations where snowbirds live, to see if any rent out their homes when they go North.

Because we stayed at my uncle’s home, I was able to save further on meals. This allowed me to have extra cash on hand for souvenir shopping and anything touristy that we wanted to do.

There are plenty of things to do in and around Clearwater as well, but as I’m on such a tight budget right now, I convinced Neil to stick with beach time. The day after our last day of Winter Camp, we drove across Florida to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where for $80, both of us had admission to two days’ worth of out-of-this-world fun.

Rather than fly down, I also chose to take a two day road trip. My AAA membership helped save with lodging. All told, I just spent money for two nights in budget hotels during our 14-hour drive, one night at Kennedy Space Center, gasoline and meals … and the Dolphin Camp admission.

I planned this trip about eight months in advance (starting in October 2011) and saved up a little each month so that I could just pay it without a credit card.

Great fun!

If you want budget saving tips for your trip, let me know.

If I as a single mom can do it, I promise that you can, too!