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How Much to Tip Camp Counselors

By Edited Jul 13, 2016 1 2

Are You Generous or Cheap?

Being a summer camp counselor is the perfect job for teens. With bus transportation provided, a casual wardrobe, the same set hours every week and weekends off, it really is a win-win situation for both parents and teens.

However, summer camp pay is very, very low in comparison to other kinds of jobs a teenager can have. Because the retail job market is full of college students and adults who cannot find work in their chosen fields, younger teens have a harder time finding employment in this area. The pay that is earned is significantly better than a camp paycheck.

Many teens do not mind the low pay, as working at camp is fun, especially if they are employed by the day camp that they went to as a child. They are outdoors, hanging out with friends on their breaks, swimming, and playing the same sports and teaching the same songs that they did when they were children. Getting out of the house every day keeps them busy and out of trouble, and a small paycheck is better than no paycheck at all.

Despite the low pay, there is one perk that these teens enjoy…getting cash tips at the end of summer.

The big question parents face every year is how much to tip camp counselors and if they should tip them at all.

How Much Should I Tip Summer Camp Counselors?

Photo from Morguefile

Does the Camp Have a Tipping Policy?

Parents need to find out the camp’s policy on giving tips before going to the bank to get the right amount of cash or ordering gift cards for each counselor. You can find these policies online at the camp website or in camp brochures. While some camps have guidelines on what to give, others have a clear no tipping policy. If you are in doubt, call the camp director and ask.

There are parents who choose not give tips to counselors, even if it is allowed, because they believe that they shelled out enough money for camp, why should they give any more?

The reason you need to tip is because these people have been making the summer for your son or daughter a memorable one. These teens have keep little Josh or Tiffany out of your hair so you can go to work or have time to yourself.

The excuse that camp is expensive is an unacceptable one. Giving a cash tip is a cost parents need to factor in before signing their child up for camp. The only exception might be that a child who is a scholarship camper. In that case, a tip should still be given, albeit a smaller one.

How Much Money Should I Give to Each Counselor?

The amount to give as a gratuity depends on many factors. A child who has been in camp four weeks is not expected to give the same tip amount as a child who has been a camper for all eight weeks. See what the camp recommends and then give what you feel is the right amount.

When your children are younger, you can have as many as five counselors:

Assistant Senior
Counselor’s Assistant
Counselor in Training (CIT)

While it is protocol to tip the most senior counselors the highest amount of money and then give your way down the list, that is not a rule that is set in stone. Your child may adore the Junior Counselor more than the Senior one. In that case, it is perfectly acceptable to tip her the same or even more money.  In my home, the counselor whose name I heard most in a positive way got the best tip.  If I rarely heard the name, then I factored that in when deciding what to give.

Every region of the country is different. While a $50 tip for the Senior counselor may be normal in some areas, $25 is the norm in others. Again, use the camp guidelines as a way to judge the amount you will give.

The Perfect Thank You Gift

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Who Else Should I Tip?

There are other people who make your child’s time at camp a great one. First, there is the bus driver who safely transports your child. She takes one, two or three of your kids away for the day. My children have had the same bus driver for years, and I am very generous to her for being kind and caring, as well as taking my young ones off my hands!

The bus will also have a bus counselor. This is a teen whom you should tip very generously if s/he is doing their job right. Teens who take on this extra job are different than their peers who drive to camp because unlike their coworkers, they really need the money. These kids are not driving their own air conditioned car and using precious gas money in order to get to work. Why else would they take an hour long bus ride with no air conditioning in 100 degree heat with a bunch of sweaty, smelly children?

There may be another special counselor at camp, like a swim instructor who helped your child overcome her fear of the water, that you may wish to tip. It is a special way to say thank you for going above and beyond for your child.

Deciding on how much to tip your child’s summer camp counselor is a personal matter. Just remember that when you do give a tip, also include a note of gratitude and have your child sign it. Those little things really mean a lot.



Aug 14, 2013 4:59pm
I know about tipping in a restaurant or a taxi driver. I never heard of tipping a camp counselor. Thank you for this educational and enlightening article mommymommymommy!
Aug 15, 2013 9:11am
I just went to the bank today to get my envelopes together for tip day tomorrow. These people have earned it!
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