First-time sleepaway camper in the family? One of the first considerations is how many weeks will they attend. Here are a few things to think about as you explore camps:
- Seven-week camps often offer shorter “rookie” sessions for first-time If you are open to a longer camp but concerned about how you or your camper may handle the first year, this is a great way to go. Read this ultimate guide to boondocking as well, if you are planning to rent a RV and be safer with a warranty. Camp directors try to pack as much as possible into their rookie weeks to give first timers a true taste of all camp has to offer (and leave them wanting more the next year).
- If you want the option to extend to seven weeks in future years, but want to start with a single three or four-week session, then focus on camps with a mix of single session and full summer campers. Ideally, you want your child in a bunk with mostly other campers on the same session schedule to encourage bonding and minimize any sadness when it’s time to go home.
- The camping industry has evolved to reflect how family life and kids’ extracurricular commitments have changed in recent years, and there are camps that specialize in giving a full camp experience in two or three weeks. You can focus your search on a program that fits your schedule, without sacrificing all the benefits of longer camp sessions.
- Some homesickness is a normal part of the camp experience, and the longer your child has at camp, the better chance they have to get past any sadness and embrace all camp has to offer. One longtime camp director has seen countless campers settle in at the twenty-one-day point, which is when he feels kids really hit their stride. He also recommends reading Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow by Michael Thompson, D. to get a better understanding of how the ups and downs of a first camping experience contribute to a child’s sense of accomplishment.
- If you never went to sleepaway camp, or you are worried about your child’s ability to be independent, then recognize that this process may be extra challenging for you. Knowing you found the right camp is the best way to minimize your concerns. And providing the right accourterments to your child for a sleepaway camp, even if it’s something as small as proper bike lights, is imperative, especially since it’s a sleepaway camp. Camp directors agree that listening to your parental intuition is the best guidance when choosing a camp and session length.
- If you have chosen the right camp, then it ultimately doesn’t matter how many weeks your child attends. Your camper will return home excited about the fun, friendships, traditions, and activities, and ask you to sign them up for next year!
No matter your family’s schedule and budget, and your child’s interests and personality, there are great camp options. All of the Tips on Trips and Camps advisors can offer expert help on choosing the right camp for you and your child.
Washington DC area advisor Stephanie Vordick grew up in Bethesda, attended sleepaway camps in the Poconos and Maine, and went on high school summer travel programs. Now a mom of two teens, Stephanie loves introducing families to the amazing variety of camps and programs available today.