Family Life


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10 tips to choosing the right summer camp

kids at summer camp in the woods looking at nature

Before summer even hits, you have to begin thinking about summer camps and activities. The signup can happen well in advance, so it’s really never too early to start plotting. We tapped an expert for tips on choosing the right summer camp. Of course, choosing a summer camp depends on what your kid wants to do, but also how it fits your expectations.

Whether you are looking for a childcare option or the total camp experience, the number of camps available to parents can be overwhelming. Start your search out on the right foot by following some easy tips to make choosing, booking, and sending your kids to camp a fun experience for them and you.

1. Pick the right camp

Talk to your children and find out what interests them. There are all kinds of specialty camps and getting feedback from you kids can help narrow down the choices. Picking the right camp is key to ensuring your children will have a positive camp experience.

Camp directories and camp fairs throughout the year can help you work through all the options and choose the right one.

2. Overnight Camp or Day Camp

There is a big difference between day camps and overnight camps. Day camp is a good introduction to the camp experience, while overnight camps are better suited for older and more experienced campers.

Doing multiple weeks at the same day camp helps campers feel comfortable. They get to know the staff and other campers who attend multiple sessions. With overnight camp it typically takes campers at least one week just to settle in, so booking a two-week stay or more lets them get the most out of the experience.

3. Set a budget

Camp can get expensive! Decide how much money you can allocate to summer camp programs and stick to it.

4. Plan ahead

Many camps offer early registration discounts. Take advantage of as many discounts as possible by planning early. Read up on the camps’ cancellation and refund policy if you are registering early in case you have to make any changes.

5. Organize with other parents

Most kids prefer to go to camp with a friend since it helps with first day jitters. Talk to your friends’ parents and see what their plans are for the summer. This way you can coordinate for the kids to be at camp together.

6. Learn about the camps you are considering

Ask yourself the following questions: What is a typical day at camp like? What is the staff-to-camper ratio? What training does the staff have? How are the staff screened and selected?

These are all key questions that will help you decide if a particular camp might be right for your child.

7. Size

The size of a camp can play a big role in the experience your camper has. Some kids love large settings with lots of kids and activities, other kids tend to excel in smaller settings.

Ask about the number of campers and programs they run each session and if campers will have the chance to be split into smaller groups for some programming.

8. References

Ask the camp for a list of references to call. Most camps are happy to provide a list of parents that will provide you with a reference. Ask about the quality of the program, the staff and the overall camp experience.

9. Facility

Visit the camp, if possible. Most camps will be happy to give you a tour or will host an open house event for you to come and meet some of their staff. It’s a good way to learn about a program.

10. Talk to your friends

Like most things, word-of-mouth can often lead you to the best programs. Ask other parents about information on camps that their children have enjoyed.

A version of this article was originally published in May 2012. Updated in July 2024. 

a man carrying two children

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