I have been helping families find wonderful summer programs for over 30 years and I thought I had seen every challenge there is. I have watched camps handle lice infestations, meningitis scares, 9/11, Zika, rainy summers, recessions and more. Covid 19 is a new kind of challenge for camps and teen trips as well as for camp advisers and families like yours and mine. Tips on Trips and Camps gets daily emails from the camps we represent optimistically telling us how they are planning for summer 2020. Programs may start at a different date, the sessions may be altered, and health screens ramped up, but to paraphrase one Adirondack camp; We are all Camp People, and for two months of summer we deal with uncertainty constantly. We are resilient and determined and we are accustomed to adjusting the plan. That sentiment will be put to the test for sure. I believe the camp industry is up to the task!
Eve Eifler, owner of Tips on Trips and Camps, says, “There is truly a camp to fit every kid.” With over 11,000 camps in the United States alone, traditional camps still reign supreme for younger kids. Camp kitchens tend to be a focus for many parents, either because their kids have a food allergy or because they have a budding foodie on their hands. Some camps have become peanut, tree nut, shellfish and sesame free. Other camps have installed Viking appliances so that culinary enthusiasts can refine their cooking skills.
For a society of people who prefer to choose their own destiny, American camps have responded with more choice than ever. Gone are the days of a structured camp day with no choice, instead a camper can choose video editing over horseback riding, circus arts over pottery. Eifler says, “There are even separate specialty camps focusing specifically on science, technology, sports or business. These camps appeal to kids who might never have ventured away to camp at all.”
For middle school students who have never gone to camp or who have outgrown camp, there are exciting options in community service, travel, outdoor adventure and language immersion programs. While other “tweeners” may be excited about academic enrichment programs in veterinary science, emergency medicine, culinary arts or fashion.
For high school students, the trend continues to be “traveling with a purpose.” Trips exploring the water crisis in California or water filtration in Nicaragua are among this year’s options. Your teen may be excited about new and exciting travel destinations, like Iceland or Cuba. Eifler continues, “Perhaps your future doctor wants to study global medicine in Tanzania, while learning about HIV/AIDS education.“
STEM programs are attracting high school students to US college campuses to study focus areas, like neuropsychology or environmental sustainability, that are not offered at their high school. Teens wishing to venture further away from home can explore urban design in Scandinavia or engineer a boat from start to finish in the Caribbean.
Eifler says, “Exploring potential career paths is a great use of summer. If your teen is looking for real world, behind-the-scenes workplace exposure, some programs have partnered with large corporate media brands, like Seventeen magazine and the New York Times, or large service organizations like the American Red Cross to provide unique opportunities for teens.”
Eifler says, “summer is what we do and we stay as current as possible in order to provide our clients with the best possible information.” Tips on Trips and Camps, Inc. is a FREE service specializing in overnight summer experiences for children ages 7-19. Call 866.222.TIPS or visit our website at www.TipsonTripsandCamps.com. Once you register a local advisor will follow up with you immediately.
One of parents’ most commonly uttered phrases during initial conversations about finding the “best” camp for their child is “my son/daughter is a super athlete – he/she needs a sporty camp.” Of course, that may be true–kids love sports, many play sports all year long and are proficient in several. However, what parents often do not realize is that summer camp can be a perfect opportunity for their child to try something new, possibly, but not necessarily, a new sport. A new non-sport activity might be something that will interest them throughout their lifetime and give them pleasure in their later years, when physical activity can be more difficult.
Camps offer many different activities that kids might not otherwise be exposed to in their day-to-day lives. For example, model rocketry might be an educational activity your child might enjoy, but wouldn’t have an opportunity to try at home. Perhaps your child enjoys music, isn’t interested in playing an instrument, but would like to try being a DJ on the camp radio station! Or you could have a budding jewelry maker on your hands and not know it! Does your child like to act, or have a great sense of humor? Improv at camp is the perfect place for them to explore acting or comedy in a safe setting.
The bottom line is that traditional camps usually offer quality instruction in sports. However, when looking for a camp you should be asking what camps offer that you might not have thought about because it’s outside of your comfort zone! How do you know your son or daughter isn’t a computer whiz just waiting to go to a camp that offers computer training to expose that talent?
Be creative. Time flies with amazing speed and before you know it thoughts turn to where to go to college and what to major in; you may not have another opportunity to expose them to new interests that could give them an unexpected lifetime of pleasure.
Yes, you can do it. Yes, you should do it.
As a camp and trip advisor I hear it all the time… My child needs a friend to go or they won’t go. Nothing could be farther than the truth.
I sent my children off at 8 years old not knowing anyone attending their camps. They are the happiest campers. They have the best friends from all over the USA! To me this is one of the strengths and benefits of sleepaway camps and trips. They have friendships that will last a lifetime. The skills they developed from meeting new people, learning to cope, and developing independence will enable them to be stronger adults and increase their sense of self. Speak to Camp Directors and Teen Program leaders and you will learn that they concur. Many programs, especially those that involve small group travel, prefer children to attend independently. There are some that also may discourage more than one student attending from a certain school or hometown. The long lasting benefits of students taking a risk and trying new things independently far out-way the security of participating with a friend. Attending programs with a friend may also hinder the experiences for one or both. Often it prevents students from reaching out to others as well as trying activities they might not otherwise engage in. The success stories are numerous. Give it a try, urge your child or teen to venture off solo!
There are three distinct categories that Summer Language Programs seem to fall into: Domestic programs; International Language Immersion Programs without a home stay; and International Language Programs with a home stay. All language programs tend to have longer dates since it is unlikely that your child will learn enough in a week or two.
The domestic language programs tend to be geared toward a slightly younger crowd, who aren’t quite ready to venture internationally. They have structured classes in a dorm setting at a boarding school or college campus. A few traditional camps have language (ex. Canadian camps that include French).
Most of the international programs combine language learning with wilderness, adventure and/or community service and provide lots of opportunities for kids to practice their language skills with locals. A few language programs combine sports like soccer with language and cultural exposure. Some have more structured classroom time than others. If they don’t include a home stay, students often live together in hotels, hostels, tents or community centers. A few international boarding schools run language programs in the summer that have classroom time and camp activities in a boarding school setting.
The Immersion programs that include a home stay are for teenagers who are typically independent and willing to go outside their comfort zones to really experience immersion. These programs are very careful to find good families for the children to live with. Sometimes a child is in a host home by himself with his host family and other times with a friend from the program. Often these children learn the most during their summers.
To figure out which language program is the right fit for your child, you should discuss it with a camp advisor from Tips on Trips and Camps who can help you compare the various summer programs and answer questions about the differences between them.
If your child attends a single sex parochial school throughout the school year, then a co-ed camp might be a welcome change in the summer. Some would say that socializing in this closely supervised atmosphere is a healthy and natural part of growing up. Of course, you would want to make sure that the level of supervision fits your expectations. Some kids and parents might want a break from the sports competition of the school year. A co-ed camp inherently is less competitive in this regard. Some parents think that single-sex camps are unlike the real world and so choose a co-ed camp that more closely mirrors the outside world. Many faith-based camps are co-ed so that children of a same belief system socialize together in the summers.
At a time when most companies are down-sizing, camp advisory service Tips on Trips and Camps, Inc. continues to expand.
Co-owner Eve Eifler just announced that Ellen Blum will join the Tips on Trips and Camps team this year as an advisor in Boston. Eifler said, “Ellen Blum comes to us as a camp lover through and through. She has two camp age children and was a camper herself in Maine for many years. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she cannot wait to help the families of Boston find the highest quality summer programs for their kids.”
Co-owner Carey Rivers of Washington, D.C. says, “In the last two years, we have added 7 new consultants and expanded our reach into Chicago, Dallas, Hartford, Boston, and Barcelona, Spain. We are proud of the service we provide to families all over the United States and abroad.”
Tips on Trips and Camps, Inc. (“Tips”) was started by two moms in Baltimore in 1971 who wanted a better way to research camps and teen programs for their own children. Today, Tips serves families throughout the United States and abroad via the internet and maintains area offices in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New York City and Westchester County, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southern Florida, Connecticut, St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, New Jersey, Paris (France) and Barcelona (Spain).
Parents call one of their local Tips consultants or register on the Tips website www.TipsonTripsandCamps.com and get instant, FREE access to hundreds of carefully screened and selected camps and teen programs. Rivers said, “We provide clients with the information they need to make an educated decision on summer programs for their child – from questions for directors, to references to call, to on-site visit reports. We are better than Google!”
With all this success, however, Tips on Trips is a relatively unknown resource to many parents. Eifler agrees, “We are not a big budget operation, but our service is invaluable to the parents who know to use it. Our business is mainly word-of-mouth and we keep our clients happy! Of the hundreds of placements we made to camps and teen programs in 2011, 96% of families rated our matches as EXCELLENT or GOOD. We are happy to bring this excellent client service to Boston!”
Now that I know where my child is going to camp, the next big decision is, WHAT DO I PACK FOR CAMP?! The good news is–you probably have many things you need already! Take the camp packing list (usually found the web-site or in the welcome packet) and see what you have around the house first before rushing off the buy everything. See if the camp suggests living out of a trunk or packing in duffel bags that they will stow during the session. Remember, you want your child to have fun and not worry about ruining anything, so send older clothes. I used to tell my kids to leave their socks at camp. They get sooo filthy, you would never get them clean again and most likely, they will bring back someone else’s!! Ask the camp how often they offer laundry service. Most likely, you will only need to pack enough clothes for 1-2 weeks. Depending on the climate, your child may want to layer up in the morning and evenings. They will probably shed that sweatshirt very quickly as the day warms up, but it feels awful good in the morning for breakfast or around the campfire at night! Some camps have special dress up days, so you might need a special outfit or a costume for a themed event. Find out if there is a color war and pack handkerchiefs in those colors, so your child is ready. Mostly importantly, label everything! Even with labeling your child will come home with someone elses clothes and your kids clothes will end up somewhere else! After your child comes home from camp, pack away things in the duffle or trunk for next summer! (flash lights, fans, laundry bags, water bottles, old towels,) When next summer rolls around (and it comes quick! ) you will be that much more ahead of the game!
Bottom line is, CAMP is one of the BEST times of your child’s life, make packing easy, fun and part of the experience!!
What’s new for camps in 2011?
- Conditioning – With so many student athletes, some camps are building indoor gyms and employing conditioning directors to give their campers a “leg up” when returning to fall sports. Like never before, activities like Tae Bo, gymnastics, weight training, conditioning, and yoga have become common at camps. There are even summer trips abroad for older teen athletes, combining conditioning (like altitude training), with community service and cultural immersion.
- Animal Care – Whether it is with miniature horses, bunnies or alpacas, many camps now offer animal care as a standard activity. If a child wants more of a focus, there are Junior Vet enrichment courses on college campuses. Most camps, at the very least, have a camp animal, so that kids who are homesick for their family pet can seek the comfort of the camp dog or cat.
- A Camp within a Camp – You can find specialties such as culinary arts, fencing, science, foreign language, circus arts, horseback, tennis or golf within traditional camps. If your child wants to improve his or her tennis backhand or prepare to make the school basketball team, you should know that many camps offer extra sports instruction for a fee.
- Allergies & Food Prep – With the rise in nut allergies, some camps have moved to a peanut-free environment to eliminate the risk completely. In addition, it is not uncommon for camps to offer gluten-free diet options and accomodations for kids with Celiac’s disease or kosher observance.
Right about now, amidst the second onslaught of frigid weather, some of you are probably wondering what the redeeming qualities of winter are – especially those of you who don’t ski!
Good news in two words…”WINTER SALES!”
It is the perfect time to take advantage of the winter sales and start thinking about your child’s summer program. Time to grab those sweatshirts and sweatpants for chilly camp mornings; fleece and long sleeve shirts for evening summer activities; socks because you always need socks as the ones that leave for summer never come home! Don’t forget rain boots for that run of wet weather in July or hiking boots for the trek up Mt. Hood. For those going on summer trips with a winter theme – skiing/snowboarding- now is the perfect time to replace ski pants, under armor and thermals! Flannels are a must to keep nighttime warm and cozy. Check the outdoor adventure stores for equipment. Academic program? Look for discounted office supplies in local flyers.
Don’t forget the basics. Always check the clearance section for extra towels or a shower caddy. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER walk by batteries on sale. You can never have enough. Look for your favorite regular size shampoo and liquid body wash(liquid easier, less mess than bar soap and jumbo doesn’t fit in cubbies and is too heavy for back pack). Snail mail is still appreciated so keep your eye out for reduced cards and stationery.
Considering I single handedly supported sports stores when my own boys went off on their great summer adventures, I would suggest considering borrowing from friends. Think about it before you invest in equipment that may be only a passing fancy or, at best , a seasonal interest at camp, Some families’ garages are an endless pit of new and used equipment. Think green and recycle!
Winter isn’t that bad after all. Besides, who doesn’t love a bargain?
A camper at heart, Ann Kramer Fuchs has been a consultant with Tips on Trips and Camps in Westchester County, NY for the past ten years. She has been involved in the camping industry for 40 years.