Happy campers: The best value summer courses for Irish teens
The long empty months of the school holidays are looming, when parents struggle to keep easily-bored teenagers occupied. So why not send them to summer camp? Vicki Notaro looks at what's on offer
The school holidays mean a break from routine, but for parents with bored, irritable teenagers who are neither old enough for a part-time job, nor young enough to be entertained by picnics and play dates, the three month holidays can feel a little daunting - especially when it comes to money.
Keeping teens busy and engaged (and away from social media and video games) is so important during the summer months, and there are plenty of courses on offer countrywide to make sure they're active, educated and most importantly, having fun.
But how can you be sure you're getting value for money? Summer camps and courses can be expensive, but because we'd pay anything to keep kids happy, often we don't shop around to get the best deal. With that in mind, we rounded up some great value courses around the country to suit every teen's personality.
By now, many parents will have decided which Irish college to send their children to because often they choose to go with their friends or school mates, and location can play a big part. However, there are still places available on courses around the country, and for those on a tighter budget who still want to send their kids to Irish college there are two-week options available rather than the traditional three-week courses. Most three-week courses range from €800-€940, with the fortnights coming in closer to the €700 mark.
Coláiste Lurgan in Co Galway (www.lurgan.biz) offers a fortnight's course for 4th and 5th years from August 8, a sort of refresher course before returning to school in September. The course and living expenses for a fortnight comes to €680, and you can avail of a return bus service for €50 from Kilbeggan, Athlone, Dublin or Portlaoise or else make your own travel arrangements. They leave it up to parents to decide how much spending money to give their children, but there are few shops and they need permission to visit them.
Other two-week courses on offer around the country (like Coláiste O'Direáin on the Aran Islands in July and August) come in at €720 without bringing travel into the equation, and Coláiste Chorca Dhuibhne in Co Kerry is the same price for a fortnight.
Total cost for two weeks:
€700 (average) for course, accommodation, entertainment and meals
€55 (average) travel costs getting there and back
€50 (average) spends for phone credit and trips to the shop
TOTAL: € 805
From soccer and GAA camps to rugby and basketball, there is plenty on offer to suit active teens. These courses are normally closer to home, with no need to pay for lodgings, and often inspire a summer of fitness afterwards.
Most of the big sporting authorities run their own summer camps, but the majority of rugby and GAA ones are for younger children. The FAI's Summer Soccer Schools are open to girls and boys up to 14 years of age and are based around the country. Kids can choose whether to follow the mainstream course or goalkeepers. It costs €65 for five days per child, with discounts for two, three or four additional family members. (www.summersoccerschools.ie).
Basketball Ireland runs a week-long camp that's both residential and for day campers (www.basketballireland.ie). For those who want to stay over it's €375 for six nights including accommodation, meals in the cafeteria and a disco on the final night, campers are only required to bring a water bottle, clothes, swim gear and a pumped basketball, plus additional money for the tuck shop if required.
Participants are grouped according to age and skill, and get to train with top players. The camp is based in Gormanstown, Co Meath, and transport is not included.
There are other less mainstream sports on offer too, mostly in Dublin - Canoeing Ireland (www.canoe.ie) runs a week-long Kayak Adventure Camp in Dublin for €130 per child for seniors (13- to 16-year-olds), while Surfdock (www.surfdock.ie) are running a camp from Grand Canal Dock where 8- to 16-year-olds can try windsurfing, paddleboarding and cable wakeboarding for €195 for five days.
Drama and Dance
The Gaiety School of Acting runs a Youth Summer School with a whole variety of courses on offer for your budding star. From Theatre production to comedy to musicals, there are lots of different week-long courses running throughout the summer in Dublin. They even have a week-long "triple threat" course for teens who love to sing, dance and act.
Of course, if you're coming from outside Dublin, the travel costs will add up. But for five days from 10am-4pm, the courses cost around €200 each, and all you have to supply is the child and either a packed lunch or money for it. These particular courses are for 14- to 18-year-olds who might want a little more independence.
Whizzkids (www.whizzkids.ie) runs a residential camp at the University of Limerick for 13- to 18-year-old computer aficionados. It costs €450 for six nights and includes a private room on campus, all meals and an evening programme as well as day time tuition. Getting to and from UL is up to the parents, and the cost of transport isn't included.
If it's just a day time camp you're after, full-day courses for 12- to 15-year-olds include web design, video game design, programming and animation, and cost €149 for five days. There are several locations around the country, in Galway, Limerick, DCU, Maynooth, Tralee and more. Travel costs depend on where you're coming from, and students can either bring a packed lunch or buy hot meals on site.
‘Not every boy likes to kick a ball around’
Valerie O'Donovan (53) is a fan of summer camps and is sending her son Mark (15) to a computer-coding course this year. "In order to give structure to the long school summer holidays, Mark has attended lots of summer camps over the years, including a Play Ball summer camp for two years, gymnastics and a sailing camp.
"This year, we chose the Academy of Code (www.academyofcode.com) computer summer camp, due to my son's huge interest in computers and gaming, and also because he has enjoyed the weekly coding classes he's been attending with them.
"Also, he's 15 so no other camp is cool enough! During the recession years, I did budget to send him to the various camps he attended. I felt it was important to enhance his skills, provide social outlets and keep him occupied during the holidays. Not every boy likes to kick a ball around!
"I believe summer camps are good value for money, because Mark has always learned a new skill and had fun doing so!
"These courses can be expensive, but if you consider the skills learned and entertainment provided, the equipment required, rental costs and the attention to safety concerns, then you have to expect to pay for this.
"In particular, I consider the Academy of Code to be value for money as they help nurture my son's interest in computer and console gaming and provide him with skills - not currently provided in our education system - to further that interest and, hopefully, assist Mark with his future college and career choices.
"A little bit of peace for me is good, yes, but peace of mind is even better! I'd rather see him in front of a computer screen learning how to write websites, make apps and maybe even games too, rather than sitting at home playing on them!"
The Academy of Code summer camps run July 13-17 and 20-24 in Dublin, and cost €144 for five days. They're open to students aged 9-17.
'Not every boy likes to kick a ball around'