'Up to Dh8,000 for two kids': Parents in UAE worry about high costs of summer camps

Despite availability of moderately priced summer camps, parents are more keen on options offering a wider range of activities

by

Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 3 Jun 2024, 6:59 PM

Last updated: Tue 4 Jun 2024, 12:32 PM

As summer vacation draws nearer, parents in the UAE are increasingly worried about finding affordable ways to keep their children occupied.

They have voiced concerns about the steep expenses associated with summer camps, which makes it challenging for many to enroll their kids in them.


Some parents are even considering keeping children home rather than choosing these pricey camps, which, they say, do not significantly contribute to their educational development.

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Despite the availability of moderately priced summer camps starting at Dh311 per week, totaling Dh1,244 per month, parents are more keen on options offering a wider range of activities. The more appealing camps, which promise unique learning opportunities and entertainment experiences for children, come at a higher cost of Dh770 per week, amounting to more than Dh3,000 per month.

Khaleej Times reached out to a cross-section of parents to understand what their children will be doing this summer as most schools prepare to close on July 5.

Catching early bird offer

American expat Natalia Miranda said, “This summer I’ll be putting my son in theatre and coding classes. I have not signed up yet but I will take stock this weekend for early bird offers. It will probably be in the ballpark range of Dh850 a week with maximum 10-12 classes, which will come to Dh2,500 for one activity. Transportation costs are always extra, so that also needs to be factored in.”

Natalia Miranda with her son
Natalia Miranda with her son

Miranda highlighted there are various things in Dubai that can match with the child’s interests which may not be available at a lot of other places.

“They do have packages to accommodate a varying range of activities. The thing that is difficult for all working parents is that these activities don’t come with transportation,” she added.

While parents are spoilt for choices with sessions catering to each child’s age and ability, and professionals leading these activities, the prices pinch parents the most.

They pointed out one has to cough up several thousands to send two or three children to these holiday camps.

Neha Talwalkar's son
Neha Talwalkar's son

Transportation costs are an add-on

A parent of two schoolgoing children, Neha Talwalkar said, “The summer camps are so expensive that if you want to send your child to even one, you need to think twice. But the fact is there is no option, otherwise. If the children are not involved in any productive activity, they may end up spending the entire day in front of the screen. I will only be off for a week to ten days from work. The rest of the time we’ll be in Dubai. Therefore, putting my sons at a summer camp almost becomes a necessity.”

She adds, “The costs are prohibitive and I have thought over this. My son who is in Year 3 will attend football classes for a month that cost Dh750 per week. So, that is Dh3,000 a month for one activity per child. My elder son who is in Year 7 may attend podcast sessions where he’ll be taught script writing and production which will be around Dh2,000 for two weeks at a popular theatre school here. Then he’ll be pursuing his guitar lessons which cost Dh120 for 45 minutes.”

Last year, her elder son enrolled in theatre and pottery classes while the younger one went to a multi-activity camp. “So, after doing the math I realised, we’ll easily end up spending Dh7,000-8,000 for two children. We appoint a driver who usually picks them up from their respective camps and then drops them back home. So, he charges another Dh1,600. Overall all these activities and transportation turn out to be a substantial chunk every year,” added the Indian expat.

Parents opt out of holiday camps

A Myanmar expat in the UAE shared that a couple of years ago she enrolled her child in a sports summer camp which was one of the few offering indoor sports facilities.

The daily activities included swimming, football, tennis, and other sports that cost Dh 2,000 per month. However, she noticed her daughter wasn't particularly happy there.

Shun Khin Shun Lae Tha with her daughter
Shun Khin Shun Lae Tha with her daughter

Shun Khin Shun Lae Tha says, “I genuinely feel summer camps are very expensive. This year I’ve already decided for the upcoming summer. Since my daughter is almost nine years old, we have identified her areas of interest. This summer I won’t waste time, energy and money in putting her in a camp where often mixed activities take place. As she attends gymnastics, drawing, Kumon and Abacus classes throughout the year, she will continue attending them in summer too. Additionally, we will be travelling for a few weeks so she can skip these camps.”

Other working parents, who endure extended hours at work and battling traffic on their commute, also consider sending their children to summer camps out of concern that the lengthy summer break may lead to increased screen time for their kids.

Quality time with visiting grandparents

Some opt against sending their , particularly if they have relatives visiting during that period.

Abdul Magdi's sons
Abdul Magdi's sons

Egyptian expat in Dubai, Abdul Magdi said, “I have two children aged 5 and 3, and frankly I find very expensive to put children in summer camps. The biggest worry for any working parent is how to entertain their children, how to keep them productively busy? My wife and I haven’t honestly figured out how we are going to keep them busy but my parents are here, so we are a little relaxed at the moment. Besides, we will be travelling for three weeks. But I had done some research earlier and I discovered that for younger children the summer camp packages begin at least at Dh600 per week, which is so costly.”

Abdul’s wife who grew up in Chicago reiterated that the camp prices here are comparable to the US.

He added, “My wife says Chicago is also an expensive city. However, if you consider places like New York that’ll probably be even more expensive. But I understand if a place is not as hot as it’s here, then children can be engaged in plenty of outdoor activities like the pool or the park, which is usually a great option here during the winter months.”

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