What you forgot to save for: The equipment to send with your darling camper.
How to get a good deal: Stick to the list. "Sending things beyond the camp list is superfluous," says Jill Tipograph, founder and CEO of Everything Summer, a firm that helps kids and teens find camps and summer programs. "Parents don't realize that most of the camps have pre-configured cubbies or closets, and they don't have a lot of space," says Tipograph. Send a flashlight with extra batteries. The camp catalog will have gear—but at a premium price. If your child desperately wants a camp sweatshirt, go ahead and buy one, but you'll find better deals on everything else, from rain jackets to portable fans, at local stores.
Use the cash you save on gear to buy a hardy trunk, which is the best camp luggage option because, unlike a duffel, it'll keep all your camper's possessions in one place. When you're checking out different models, Tipograph suggests that you find one with "material that is weather (and mold) resistant [and has] strong corners with extra-strength sewing." If the camp has cubbies or shelves, opt for a soft trunk. They're less pricey, fold down when not being used, and still give you enough space to pack everything without loading your child down with a bunch of bags. There's one exception: "If your child is going to be living out of a trunk, you need a hard trunk," says Tipograph. "This may be the only storage vehicle a camper has. Hard trunks are designed for packing and ongoing accessible storage," whereas soft trunks are designed mostly for packing. While the prices on trunks may seem high, keep in mind that, unlike other camp gear, you can use it for travel and home storage year-round.