Free or Discounted Summer Camps

Updated: November 4, 2022
In this Article

    Find summer camps for military kids and dependents that are free or reduced in price for the military community. There are camps and programs for youth across all service branches, including Reserve, Guard plus retired military, medically discharged, surviving dependents, and DoD employees.

    Air Force Youth Camps & Programs

    Several residential, specialty, and summit camp opportunities are available for dependents of active-duty military living on an Air Force/Joint Base installation, Air Force retired military, Air Force civilian employees, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. Air Force Child and Youth Programs work with many partner organizations to provide various camping experiences.

    American Wanderer Summer Camp

    American Wanderer Summer Camps offers two-week sessions exploring America’s National Parks. Campers ages 11-17 can travel in “cabins on wheels” to different sites throughout the country. Children of active duty, Reserve, National Guard, and retired and former service members are all eligible to apply for their scholarships. Call for availability and pricing.

    Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA)

    The Armed Services YMCA, through its Operation Outdoor program, offers junior enlisted families the chance to participate in family, youth, and teen camps year-round at our branches and affiliate locations. Camps encourage healthy living as part of our core mission of strengthening our military family. Contact your local ASYMCA location for more details on dates and locations.

    Blue Star Museums & Theatres

    While not a camp, Blue Star Families offers free admission to military families at participating museums and theatres from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.

    Camp Corral

    Camp Corral is a free, one-of-a-kind summer camp experience for children of wounded, ill, injured, or fallen military service members. Although any child of a military service member or veteran is eligible, registration priority is given to mission-status children, those children of wounded, ill, injured, or fallen military service members.

    Kids ages 8-15 can be far away from the day-to-day challenges they face as children of military service members and veterans. Camp Corral has non-stop fun with canoeing, swimming, fishing, arts and crafts, ropes course challenges, horseback riding, and more. Campers have the priceless opportunity to connect with other kids who understand the unique challenges of military life.

    Camp CRISTA Operation Xtreme

    CRISTA Camps provide children of active-duty, reserve, and retired military members from all branches a week or weekend of camp at Island Lake or Miracle Ranch, Washington, to experience paintball, dirt bikes, horses, new friends, and more. All branches of the military are recognized and honored at each camp. Discounted fees Fees for Operation Xtreme camps vary based on the rank of the military family member. Gold Star Families can register at no cost.

    Camp Yellow Ribbon

    Camp Yellow Ribbon offers a week of summer fun in August for youth with parents who have been or will be deployed. Children ages 7-15 are welcome.

    Department of Defense Camps

    The Department of Defense offers camps worldwide both on base and through coordination through local organizations.

    • Deployment Support Camps
    • DOD Starbase
    • Teen Adventure Camps – Spend time whitewater rafting, hiking, rock climbing, winter camping, backpacking, exploring the environment, running ropes courses, or practicing wilderness skills. For Military teens (14-18 years old of active duty, Guard, Reserve, and Retired personnel)
    • 4-H Military Partnerships

    Military Installation Camps

    To find a camp or summer activity on your installation, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and select Youth Programs/Centers from the drop-down menu. There are many summer camps for military dependents on base.

    Microsoft Virtual Summer Camps

    Not specifically for the military community, but these free virtual camps offered by Microsoft will take children on new adventures and help build new skills with themed camps for community betterment, museum exploration, world travel, gaming, STEM, coding, and creating with digital tools.

    National Guard Child & Youth Services (CYS)

    CYS is available to school-age dependents, ages 6-18 years, of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, regardless of deployment status (including traditional drilling Guardsmen), Survivors, and Active Component Soldiers and Airmen geographically separated from installation-based program support. Contact a Child & Youth Program Coordinator (or the State Family Program Director) near you to check out the program offerings and activities.

    Operation Purple Camp

    Operation Purple camps offer a free week of summer fun. Operation Purple Camp (OPC) provides an environment with fully trained counselors and camp staff experienced in helping children adapt and overcome the stressors of military life.

    OPC is open to military–connected children from all service branches, including National Guard and Reserve, Coast Guard, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, and the United States Public Health Services Commission Corps; however, priority is given to those children who have a parent that has been wounded, ill or injured (medically retired, medically discharged, active duty and reserve); or will have a parent or guardian deployed during a 15-month deployment window (includes pre-, during and post-deployment phases).

    Semper Fi Fund Kids Camp

    The Semper Fi Kids Camp pairs children of injured marines with Outdoor Odyssey youth mentors on a one-week camping experience to help them gain confidence, build skills to increase resiliency, and forge meaningful relationships with peers in similar circumstances. Camps are located throughout the US.

    Space Camp

    The US Space and Rocket Center hosts Air Force Services Activity Child and Youth Programs Space Camp. While at camp, youth will have an opportunity to experience one of the following:

    • Space Academy (ages 12-14)
    • Robotics Academy (ages 12-14)
    • Aviation Challenge Mach II (ages 12-14)
    • Aviation Challenge (Pilot Track) (ages 15-18)
    • SCUBA Diving (Mission Specialist Track) (ages 15-18)

    Cost: Lodging, meals, and activity fees are centrally funded upon arrival at Space Camp. Airfare or POV travel costs and spending money are the attendee’s responsibility.

    STARBASE Summer Camp

    Fourth, fifth, and sixth-graders learn exciting science, technology, engineering, and math applications that will help them launch a rocket, and, hopefully, ideas for their future. The program is available in 30 states and Puerto Rico, with at least 60 locations across the U.S. The programs are on active duty, National Guard and Air Force Reserve bases, Army National Guard bases, and a Marine Corps base.

    VFW Camp Trotter

    Camp Trotter is a Children’s Camp primarily for children of veterans. The camp includes summer activities on site, including swimming, boating, hiking, biking, arts and crafts, archery, softball, volleyball, and campfire activities. There are five summer sessions for children 7 to 12 years of age.

    Ask for a Military Discount at Local Summer Camps

    If your child isn’t attending one of these military child-specific summer camps, there are other options. Reach out to programs where you live and ask about military discounts. Some programs might not advertise their military deals or may offer them on a by-request basis.

    Are Summer Day Camps FSA-Eligible?

    Typically yes, as long as the child is younger than 13 years old, and the camp is a day camp, the expense will qualify as a work expense. Overnight camps do not qualify as an eligible expense. Unfortunately, overnight camps, summer school, school tuition, and meals do not qualify.

    Written by Veteran.com Team

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