Marketing Opinion

Early Registration Discounts – Are They Worth It?

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Last week there was a thread on the Summer Camp Professionals Facebook page regarding early registration discounts. Are you doing them?

What’s the True Value?

Recently, I was looking to go to a conference. I had just heard about it. When I looked at the conference fees I realized that I had missed the early bird registration price by a couple of weeks. Now the difference between the early bird registration rate and the normal conference rate was over $100. In my mind, if a lot of people were getting the early registration price, that is what the conference is worth. I wasn’t going to pay more for the conference then what others did, unless the conference workshops were something I HAD to go to. However, there were a couple of other upcoming conferences that I was looking at as well. So I decided to go to a different one. Oddly enough the conference I chose did not have an early bird discount (which is rare in the conference arena). That was okay, because I felt I was paying the rate everyone else was, and that was probably what the conference was worth.

I think the same goes with camps. There are a lot of options for camps out there. If you’re offering an early bird discount you’re

  1. leaving money on the table
  2. possibly turning other parents off who feel they are overpaying for your camp because they missed the early bird discount.

But you might be saying, “They are return campers who know how great our camp is and know that it’s worth the normal fees.”

Then why are you offering a discount if they’ll be returning anyways?

Early Bird Rewards

On this Facebook thread Adam Bell suggested that instead of discounts, camps might want to offer early bird rewards like a family party or camp apparel. I think that is a great idea. You can also offer camp store bucks, free registration to family camp, a weekend retreat for early bird families, a raffle for early bird registrants, etc.

By using an early bird reward as opposed to an early bird discount, you’re not “discounting” the value of your camp, yet you still have an incentive for people to register early.


What else could you offer instead of a discount? Click here for 10 ideas.


  • We offer a March 1st, and April 1st early bird discount for parents who pay in full by those dates. Our primary motivation is to get the majority of campers registered and the paperwork, group assignments, etc. completed before the hyper-busy camp season starts. The second reason is that it helps us manage our marketing budget if we sell early.

    • George, thank you for the comment. I can see/understand giving a $10-$20 discount a couple of months prior to camp for the reasons you stated. It’s the camps that offer deep discounts to parents that register the summer prior, or even the fall prior, that seems unnecessary for a quality camp that campers will return too anyway. If it’s not a quality camp/program then I guess they need to try anything they can to get parents locked in before they find a better place to send their child. That’s just my perspective and I may be totally off target on that.
      By the way I like the squirrel on your site. Nice touch.

  • We offer VIP specials, that only waive registration fees, and we offer early bird pricing to returing campers. All that does is grandfather them into their rate incase we raise costs.

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