When the weather starts getting cooler and the holidays are fast approaching, the last thing on anyone’s mind is to book a summer camp for their child. Yet December is known in the camp industry as National Sign Up for Summer Camp month for a reason: space at a sleepaway summer camp can fill up fast by the springtime.
With more than six million children attending a summer camp each year, don’t wait until it’s too late. Here are some tips on what to look for when researching camps and when to book them.
Match the Camp to Your Child’s Interests
The first obvious step in narrowing down your selection of summer camp contenders is to focus on ones that will nurture your child’s interests or an activity they’re interested in. The good news is there pretty much is a specialty summer camp for everyone today, whether your child is into water sports, art, or cooking.
If your child has always loved horses and wants to learn how to ride, look into equestrian summer camps. If they’re a budding scientist or video game designer, there are plenty of camps that focus on science and computer programming that still include outdoor recreation at their facilities.
Your child is more likely to enjoy their sleepaway summer camp stay if it offers activities they’re truly interested in.
Is My Child Ready for Sleepaway Summer Camp?
You’ll also need to ask yourself if your child is truly ready to be away from home for days or weeks at a time and is mature enough for the separation.
There’s no definitive answer to this because some children are ready by age eight while others need a few more years under their belt. It can also be a tricky situation because while you want your child to gain a sense of independence from their camp experience, you also don’t want them to be sad and lonely due to homesickness.
There are some camps that accept children as young as six for sleepovers away from home, with programs that empower their independence.
You should also make sure the camp is appropriate if your child has special needs, or if they have a food allergy or require medication.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve found a few choices for camps that may be a good fit, it’s time to do your research into them. Online reviews and testimonials are a good starting point. While you can’t validate every review, you may want to stay clear of camps where the feedback is resoundingly negative.
How long the camp has been operating should definitely be taken into consideration. Camps that have been around for decades may be more trustworthy than newer ones with few reviews. They should also be able to provide prospective clients with parental referrals when requested.
The campers-to-staff ratio should be on the low side to ensure your child receives enough personalized attention. Most reputable camps maintain a ratio of 10 campers for each staff member. You’ll want information about the camp’s philosophy, how staff members interact with kids, and how they handle emergency situations.
Keep in mind that you can also tour most summer camps along with your child while they’re in session. Some of them also offer a trial day to determine if it’s the right fit.
Working with a camp advisor is another great way to help find the right camp. They do a lot of the research work for you and can make recommendations based on your child’s personality and interests.
Plan Your Budget
It can a little jarring to see how much camps cost and the variation in price depending upon features and how long your child plans to stay. You need to plan accordingly and set a budget after determining the general prices of camps that meet you and your child’s standards.
Be sure to factor in all of the hidden fees you may be charged for such as meals, equipment, swimming lessons, and more. Ask for this information upfront and tally up the complete cost of the stay before making your decision.
And be sure to take advantage of any discounts the camp offers. Most will give a break if a sibling attends at the same time and early bird discounts. Some give a discount if you successfully refer another family or plan to enroll your child for many weeks.
Search for deals. Some discount sites such as Groupon will provide discounts on nearby summer camp. Your local schools and houses of worship may host an affordable camp option.
Some children may also qualify for financial aid through the camp depending upon your household’s income, family size, and other factors.
The Best Time to Book a Sleepaway Summer Camp Is Now
Even though December may be recommended as the right month to book a summer camp, the truth it’s never too early to start researching camps and to make a reservation. Many families start looking into them over the summer so they can find the right choice for the following year.
The sooner you start your search, the better your chances of reserving a spot at a camp your child will fall in love with.
We Can Help You Find the Right Summer Camp
The above tips are a good starting point for conducting your sleepaway summer camp search. However, if you need a helping hand with gathering information we can help.
Our camp advisors can give you advice on the right camps for your child and set up camp tours for you. Request free information by filling out our online form.