How Much You Get Paid to Work at Summer Camp?

Pay is a part of summer camp. And in this episode we discuss that topic, who pays what? How do I get paid more? What cards do I need for payment? All this and more for those new and returning to volunteer at summer camp.

Hello and welcome to There’s No Place Like Summer Camp. I’m your host Andrew Waterhouse, and in today’s episode we’re taking a look at how much you get paid volunteering at summer camp. So come on into our tent, and I’ll spill the beans.

Hello and welcome to another episode of, there’s no place like summer camp. Today’s episode is a Friday episode, where every Friday we basically discuss the popular questions that people have around volunteering to summer camps.

Now, on that subject of having the two episodes a week. It has crossed my mind recently that it may be worth toning things down slightly, so we have one episode a week just the Tuesdays. I’m not sure if it’s maybe putting out too much content too soon sort of thing so let me know how you feel about that.

The summer camp pocket money drama

In this episode, there is actually no updates on the coronavirus since Tuesday, you’ll be happy to hear so be cracking on straight with the episode of how much you get paid while volunteering with summer camp agencies, and let me begin with this: camp America call this pocket money. And the reason they call is pocket money is so they can bend the rules of what employment is or the volunteers that come over to America.

So you’re not technically an employee or a volunteer, and you’re getting paid in pocket money which is like a goodwill package, rather than a wage, so to speak, so we’ll touch upon that later but that’s something I learned straight away camp America. They definitely call this pocket money and I think the other agencies have their own names for it as well they don’t exactly call it a wage.

Flights: To Book your own or Camp America book for you?

From my research of looking at all of the agencies that offer summer camp experience, there are always two different options, which I didn’t personally think was a thing. Basically, whether you would like to take up a flights package yourself as in booking the flight yourself, or whether you would like the agency to do it. When I first applied to Camp America in my first summer, I just went for the default package, where Camp America hand-hold me through the whole process. You just fill in the forms, make sure you have all the correct documents and that you keep paying that money required and going to the orientation day. Now I think of it, there’s a whole list of things that you need to do to get into a programme like Camp America. But one of the things that I just left to them was the flights, but this can actually be booked by you if you really want to.

And this is somewhat of a gamble because there’s like a different wage/pocket money for those that would like to book their own flights compared to those that would just like Camp America to sort it out for them. I remember when I first applied to come to America, I was 21. And when I did this, I didn’t have any personal experience with travelling abroad by myself so I didn’t want to have that extra stress of having to also book my flights and be stressed around the money that was coming out my bank accounts and that sort of thing. But it is an option if you want it. And that’s something that all the agencies seem to do.

So let me just start this all off with specifically for the Brits because of course I’m a Brit myself and I know that plenty of people volunteer for Camp America from Great Britain. And I have personal experience with this but I’ll try and keep it short and sweet for those that are listening from abroad. So for Brits, Camp America pay for your flights, the same for Camp Leaders, and any other programme Camp Leaders either do it from either your camp, or from New York City, whereas Camp America tend to always booked for flights from the departure of New York City. So just keep that in mind, which agency to go for. Just keep that in mind whether you want to travel in and out of New York or whether you would like to travel in and out of your own camp airport.

For EU people that are playing Camp Leaders flights are not included, and neither are Camp America’s. Both recommend only booking your flights after your visa has been approved. Now, on to the different options that these all offer and I know it’s gonna be a lot of numbers here so we’re going to try and keep this really condensed. I’m going to keep this to the main three as I’d like to say, but there are other options out there. So, Camp America let’s start off with those.

Camp America Wage

So for camp America for people that are brand new to the programme and want to volunteer over there. You get the option to see you get to fly over there for $750 a week flights included, so that’ll be your pocket money $750, the flights are included, you just pay all the fees to get there which roughly works out about just making shy of £1000. So when you think about it, you’re actually getting a very close deal of actually somewhat breaking even and you have to think that, you’re getting a three month holiday to go make some memories of a lifetime and you’re breaking even like it’s a win win.

If you don’t want to come to America to book your own flights though you have the option, and that would mean that you get a $600 bonus in your pocket money instead. And that equates to $1350, if it’s your first time over there. For Camp Leaders surprisingly enough, actually give you a higher pocket money across the board. So, if you would like flights in your first summer over to camp summer camp. You get $950 compared to the Camp Americas $750. And if you would like to book your own flights to get $1,550 pocket money compared to Camp America’s $1350.


The last one that I would like to address here is BUNAC. But there are other options available from Americamp,  ccUSA, Interexchange and USA summer camp. They’re not particularly names that I particularly know very well. So, if you would like to know more about that, feel free to get in touch and I can send you the link I got all this information from.

BUNAC also offer $950 the same as Camp Leaders. If you would like to go, while you are between the ages of 18, and 20, and it’s your first time over in Summer Camp. You’ll get $950 we have flights included and the same as Camp Leaders again, $1550, with no flights so that’d be up to you to book flights. If you are over the age of 21 things change slightly. For instance if you are going with Camp America, and you would like the flights to be included. you would get $950 compared to $750 that you would get under the age of 21. No flights option also pumps you up to a $1550 compared to the $1350.

So, I think that pretty much sums up a general overview without diving into all of the numbers. It’s worth actually doing your homework on which summer camp agency you would like to volunteer through. I chose Camp America just because that’s the standout name of all of these I’ve never heard of company does, you know, or any of the others but I had heard of Camp America thousands upon thousands of times before. So I volunteered personally through them but if money is a significant factor then I’d recommend researching those more. I definitely recommend having a search of which ones offer the most money, as a general overview of this page, it seems to be those programmes such as Camp Leaders seem to be somewhat a little better paid than Camp America, but you have to remember also that this is only going to come in stages, across your volunteering at summer camp so you have to weigh up. not only the cost and the salaries that you’re going to be paid because that’s somewhat minor factor into all of this.

You also want to know that you’ve got the support of these programmes and if anything goes wrong, you know who to contact and they’re really supportive and they can basically handhold you through a lot of these things, especially for those that haven’t really done any solo travelling before like I had. I just wanted the easiest and the biggest name; something that you could put on a CV and be really proud of. And I still have Camp America listed on a CV of course I do. Yeah I’m writing a bloody book about it I should really make a big point of it!

should I buy my own flights for summer camp?

So I went for Camp America but it’s all down to personal preference, and you have to also remember if you do go for the no flights options, then you have to also consider that you’re going to be buying these flights. Because of the way the payment works at summer camp, each different in how they pay their staff. You’re not going to be paid back for that extra outlay that you made for those flights, until some way into camp. Its not like you’re gonna be paid this pocket money in advance so it’s all up to personal preference if you’d rather take that risk with your bank account. The risk you are taking is that you get the most extra value for money possible. In some cases, yeah maybe it’d be worth to get in the no flights option, but then you’re playing the gamble of whether the flights that you can find are going to make up the difference and you can walk away with a little profit. Which of course is all up in the air at the moment, especially nowadays with the coronavirus.

Wage spreads at Summer Camp

So typically something also I found out about the wages that you get paid volunteering at summer camp is the spread of the wage that you could get. And surprisingly, there’s a bit local window that you can get for your pocket money. So, based on your country of application, your skill level and your experience, you could get anything between $600 and $1,200. The numbers that I mentioned earlier are just like a wild finger in the air, sort of similar numbers to what I’ve experienced while I was volunteered at a summer camp in my first summer I got $750 so I believe these figures are somewhat accurate. But the window that you could get for pocket money is between $600-$1200 dollars, and from all the research I did for this episode I could not find anywhere where the skill level and experience is defined and how they choose, who is worth more and who is worth less. I don’t know whether it’s down to certifications, or your years of experience.

How you get paid at summer camp

How you get paid is different depending on the camp too, because for me it was twice over the 3 months at camp. And we had to sign up for a debit card, or like a traveller’s card while working in camp, so they could have the funds to pay into that card. On my first pay day, which was around the middle of camp, we got the card, and then we got half of the funds of our pocket money on that card. So you don’t have to worry a great deal around how you get paid, that’s gonna be something that will be addressed within your first couple of weeks at summer camp. I think one of the things that surprised me when I first volunteer that summer camp was how many things you had to go through and steps of like an induction process because there’s so many questions that you haven’t even pondered yet. Only at camp will they have all the answers to questions that you didn’t even know you had. So, just let camp sort out, that sort of thing.

Travellers cards at summer camp

I would recommend taking your own travellers card though as I remember Camp America at least back when I volunteered, recommended a certain card which was the Caxton card. And that was a real godsend. I loved having it I had no problems using my money abroad and it was all in the dollars currencies I wasn’t being charged travellers rates on withdrawals ATMs. Nor did I have any payment issues with restaurants or anything like that so I recommend taking a travellers card just to make sure you don’t have those charges applied when you try and take any sort of money out. Nowadays I probably recommend a card like Monzo. I use that daily in day to day life and they have some real good rates on using cards abroad and that sort of thing but with regard to the payment from Camp themselves, leave that all to your summer camp. Don’t worry too much as long as you’ve got your place sorted at some account, you’re probably going to get paid let’s face the facts.

New tax laws for volunteers at summer camp

So in my research around how much some accounts pay actually found some new things out, and I hope this is new to some of you out there as well, especially those of you that may be applying this year, or going forward. Especially those actually that have applied in the past because maybe some of these things might have gone under your radar.

“Due to recent changes to tax laws in the US, all J1 participants will now have taxes deducted from their pocket money and be required to complete a US tax return form, after they return to their home country. Please keep hold of your payslips, and you can read some more information from Camp America and the other summer camp agencies, about being taxed while in the US.”

This was something I never had to do while working at summer camp and it seems to me that maybe the US has started to latch on to all the summer camp agencies and probably a lot more industries as well we’re taking advantage of this little loophole. It’s where they call it pocket money, rather than summer wage and I do see how it could be a pocket money sort of situation because it’s not particularly like a wage type of role. You can’t really expect to be, you know, paid minimum wage to thousands upon thousands of volunteers that are going there to actually volunteer at summer camps. I could imagine going forward in the future if it gets real clamped down and they’re just going to say like look you can’t have this pocket money thing classification anymore. It has to be minimum wage or nothing. I could imagine going forward in the future there would be a massive question around whether you get paid going to volunteer at summer camp at all. Again, that’s just me chatting absolute shit so don’t take that for word for word. I think that’s my two cents on it is the way things go in the world you never know how things could turn out so that would be my recommendation is, obviously go ahead, apply and make sure you’re aware of this tax return form.

Now, I’m not sure how much of an impact it would have on the wages that you take because obviously it is very minimal sort of wage numbers you’re getting. And if you actually sit down to work it out like I did while working at summer camp, you actually get a little bit narked off is probably the time that you’re getting paid less, much less than, say, $5, an hour, even less than like £3 in some cases, when you think about how long you’re spending at the summer camp and how much you’re getting paid. But like I’ve said at the start of this episode, going to volunteer at summer camp is not about the wage so I wouldn’t really stress too much about that.

Returning staff: What wage to expect

Now I wanted to touch upon the returners of summer camps as well because not all people that go to summer camp are new, and the returners, you always have to pay for your own flights. From all the research that I found through the main summer camp agencies, you pay for your own flights and this was the case when I volunteered for my second summer at my summer camp. You pay for your own flights, but you end up going through a hell of a lot less process and interview stages. That’s because your summer camp knows who you are, your summer camp agency knows who you are and they know you can be trusted because the summer camp have asked you to come back to return so there’s a lot less red tape to go through. One of the real benefits of being a returner is that you get paid so much more than you would in your first summer. I remember when I volunteered for summer camp, the first time around about $750 and the flight was included so I didn’t have to worry about booking. The second summer I went, I think I got paid something absolutely ridiculous like $2,700, something ridiculous. And I was like, holy fucking shit you’re paying me like an actual wage out here, I wish I could do this all the time. But then again, part of that was spent on the flight.


So, I think that pretty much closes, all of the stuff around wages, volunteering at summer camps because not a lot of people actually realise at least in the very early days of my application I don’t think I even realised that you do actually get paid while working at summer camp. Obviously you pay those costs to come to America to make sure your profile gets through, and your application gets through to the summer camp to completion. But I never actually realized that you actually get paid while out there as well by your camp, just to say thanks for volunteering with us. It’s been a great summer sort of thing.

Costs, Wages and summer camp Agency Comparison: Overview

So in review of this episode. Different camp agencies pay different rates. You can choose whether you would like the flights included or not. Personally I would say go for the flights option because it makes it a hell of a lot easier not making that gamble, that you could get cheaper flights. I would also say in closing, that the taxes, around volunteering now are a thing, I just make sure you’re aware of those, you get paid by your camp you don’t get paid by Camp America so everything to do with pay and the cards that you need and that sort of thing will be handled by your camp especially when you get to camp before that’s when they would tell you more about that.

The flight situation, each agency is different so if someone like Camp Leaders would be open to booking your flight to and from your coming in and out of your summer camp airport if that makes sense. Whereas Camp America tend to have a preference to have it just go in and out of New York. So it’s all up to personal preference which one you would prefer. When you’re travelling around the US after your time in some accounts, has come to an end, you have to think about where makes sense for you personally to finish your travels. I found New York to be so much easier than having it go from, say, Atlanta where my camp was because in the first summer that I did summer camp, I travelled to Florida, then to Washington DC, and then to New York and from New York I came home. In my second summer I did, Florida. And I think that was it. It was just Florida and I did like Orlando and that sort of thing. It was really cool. Florida, and then straight from New York.

You have to kind of have some sort of idea of where you want to be so if you’re going to be in the middle of the US where nothing really is I know I’m offending a shit tonne of people just by saying that. Say your dream has always been to go to the east coast of America, you can go along the Miami coast and then do you, do you really want to go back to your summer camps airport to then fly back to home? I don’t know, a lot of people would say that the New York option makes more sense because it’s closer, anyway to where you want to be which is obviously the UK and Europe depending on where you’re listening from.

In closing

I’ve enjoyed that episode it was very insightful in maybe learn a lot of things about the new things around pay and that’s always gonna be changing with the tax returns and that sort of thing. And how different agencies pay different rates, and the pros and cons of having your flights included as well. I hope that’s educated you as well because yeah like I say it’s quite an in-depth episode on how much people pay but I can say at the start this episode I don’t think pay should matter a great deal but then again it’s all a personal circumstance.

So, I hope you enjoyed this episode if you did please rate on your podcast platform of choice, it really helps promote the podcast if you like the podcast please give us five stars or wherever you’re listening from. Enjoy this bank holiday weekend guys I know it is a bank holiday Monday at least in the UK, it feels a little bit strange having bank holidays and I think we’ve had maybe two or three now where I’m just like sick of bank holidays, I’d rather be at work, so to speak. Like, not to go too in into my personal life. I’m currently working from home or work in IT, and it’s a little bit strange when you have a bank holiday during a lockdown because you know you can’t go out, you can’t really go see anyone. And it’s a little bit strange so hopefully, they bring in that updates to the calendar where they have another bank holiday in October, just to address all these bank holidays that we’ve missed this year because holy shit, 2020 seems like been a total shit show and you’d never have thought.

Okay, so I’ll see you on the other side with the long bank holiday you know I’m going to be doing a bank holiday Monday, making another podcast, you can be sure about that. I’ll see you on Tuesday, where we’re going to be talking about how to make the best s’more, so we’re going to be winding things down once again. If you have any podcast recommendations, as I’ve said before, go to There’s No Place Like Summer Camp, you can check us out. You can send in the forms, you can sponsor the podcast as well you can ask for specific episodes to be recorded that you would like to see. You can even ask to be interviewed as well. On the old another subject of plugs, please follow Instagram as well as the place like so we can try and amp that up soon as well. So, yeah, see you Tuesday guys have a good one. Bye.

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