One of the biggest challenges for parents in relation to summer vacation when the kids are out of school for 12 weeks is what to do about childcare. Most people in the US only get two weeks of vacation. If there is no full-time stay-at-home parent in the household, you’re going to have to make arrangements for childcare, but hopefully without spending a fortune. Here are some suggestions.
Grandparents or Other Relatives
If family members live locally and have time on their hands, this could be the perfect solution. Your kids will be with people you trust and if they are being cared for in your home, they should have most of what they need to keep them occupied. You might not have to pay your parents or sibling, but do find nice ways to show how much you appreciate them.
Some of your neighbors might be full-time stay-at-home parents, and be happy to look after your child. If they are already going over there regularly for play dates, it could be ideal. Offer them some money, and/or barter, such as promising to take their child when they want to go out at night or the weekends.
Some parents form a co-operative which uses points or tickets as a means of keeping track of who has been doing the childcare, and who has been using the service. You can take turns at the weekends and in the evenings as needed.
Summer camp is a good solution for most working parents. The camps usually only run for eight weeks of the summer, but they do offer child supervision, and fun activities and sports. Camps are a good chance for children to make new friends and learn new skills too.
There are some scholarships available at camps, and counselor in training (CIT) programs for teens who have attended camp before. Both of these can keep the cost of camp down to an affordable level for most families. CIT training for sleep away camps would include room and board and a small stipend, so if your teen is old enough to have a job, this might be a great way for them to spend the summer and gain some independence.
Look for Non-Profits
There are non-profits who help offer affordable childcare. Check Child Care Aware for local providers. http://www.childcareaware.org/
Ask If You Can Telecommute a Couple of Times a Week
Some jobs allow flexibility in terms of where you can work. If you have a job you could do just as effectively at home as in the workplace, ask if you can telecommute. Just be aware that being a work-at-home parent poses certain challenges as well. The kids will need to be kept busy while you do your work.
Save in a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account
Dependent Care FSAs (DCFSA) are offered through your workplace, and through various companies. The maximum contribution allowed is $5,000 per year. The money is taken as pre-tax dollars, so you will also save money on taxes. Both spouses can have a DCFSA. The money can be used for any eligible childcare expenses as long as they are documented, including daycare, summer camp, and more.
Share a Nanny or Au Pair
If anyone in your area has a person caring for their children full time, ask if you might be able to share them, and drop off your child there each day. The children would have to get along, of course, and your child would have to respect their home and their rules. Discuss fair payment with the carer as well. This could be paid for via your FSA account.
Childcare can be very expensive during the summer vacation, so use these ideas to keep the costs to a minimum.