Can You Put a Price Tag on Summer Fun? Try $16.6 Billion


So much for the lazy days of summer. Keeping kids busy during the summer months is a big business.

Americans are expected to spend more than $600 per child, on average, to keep their kids entertained this summer, according to the results of the latest American Express Spending and Savings tracker.

Affluent families, which the survey defines as those having a household income of more than $100,000, will spend nearly double that amount at more than $1,115 per child.

This spending includes activities such as summer camps, day trips to theme parks and pool club memberships, among other things, and includes child care.

Taken together, the cost of keeping kids occupied when school’s out amounts to about $16.6 billion, according to this research. To complete the survey, American Express polled a random sample of 1,500 adults online from June 5-8 on what they expected to spend.

Of course, expenses vary by region, with those in the Northeast tending to spend more than in other regions.

It is also worth noting that costs this year are expected to be either similar with last year, or higher than a year ago, according to reports from those in the poll. This was the first time the spending tracker asked about spending on children's summer activities.

"American kids seem to be much more scheduled than in the past," said Melanie Backs, an American Express spokeswoman, explaining why the questions were added to the survey.

Although results from the company's monthly surveys of consumer spending continue to show Americans are spending cautiously, spending on these summer activities does show that consumers are not just sticking to necessities.

In fact the bulk of the spending, some 63 percent, is being allocated to day trips to theme parks and other locations, an expense that is most likely discretionary.

Backs said consumers are looking to get value out of their spending and are looking to have "deeper, richer" experiences when they travel.

That also may explain the rise in specialty camps targeted to children as well.

TheAmerican Camp Associationhas seen spending on camps rising over the past few years, despite the weak economy. The ACA said revenue at day camps grew 23 percent between 2008 and last year, and by 7 percent at sleep-away camps during the same period. The ACA collects this information from the 2,400 organized camps it accredits.

According to the group, there has been a rise in specialty camps that offer a wide array of activities ranging from high-wire walking to marine biologyto etiquette lessons rather than the traditional camp activities such as swimming, camping, canoeing and roasting marshmallows.

The Cost of Keeping Busy

Summer Activity
Avg. Cost Per Child (General Population)
Avg. Cost Per Child (Affluents)
1 Day Trips (i.e. Theme Parks, etc.) $208 $341
2 Sports Participation $180 $262
3 Educational Activities $139 $204
4 Pool and Club Memberships $121 $246
5 Day Camps $219 $433
Source: American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

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