If you’re a first-time potential camp family who has combed the websites, followed the blogs and Facebook pages, spent several weekends touring summer camps, spoken with the directors, and have made the decision that summer camp is definitely for your children, you’re probably wondering right about now when to enroll. Even though the obvious answer might seem to be when the snow melts–right about the time your children begin complaining of having to spend so much time inside and you hope the snow melts soon so that they can before you pull your hair out—most camp families are beginning to think about packing by then. Welcome to the world of summer camp! In fact, summer camps typically open early registration in late fall.
Because camps typically have a very limited number of remaining spaces after returning campers and their siblings commit to another summer, the earlier you enroll the better. Aside from guaranteeing your new campers a place at the sleepaway camp of their choice, it gives you adequate time to begin planning for the summer ahead. After all, now that you’ve made the big decision to send your children to summer camp, you’ll want to set your campers up for success.
Camps often give returning campers the first opportunity to enroll, and use the return rate as a way to determine how many new campers they can accept. However- there are almost always spaces in certain age groups throughout the year. Call the camp – they will help you and be the best source of availability!
If you’re a new or returning family who is not quite ready to commit yet, reach out the camp and let it know that you’re interested. Share concerns if you have them and get answers to questions. The camp is more likely to reserve a place for you if you are communicating with the directors than if they don’t hear anything at all. And, of course, if you’re a little behind the game, never assume that the camp of your choice is full. Sometimes additional space opens late in the registration season and camps can accommodate late comers. Always contact the camp!
Deciding to return to summer camp is a big decision that many families are already making. Sure, it’s difficult to think about summer camp when the temperatures begin to plunge and the holidays are just around the corner. However, it’s actually the perfect time to decide about returning to camp. The camp season is far enough removed that campers have had time to reflect on their summer. Parents, also, likely have adequate feedback by now to be able to evaluate the value of sleepaway camp as registrations begin opening to returning campers and, in fact, at some camps, registration is almost complete. Beyond memories and adventures, there are many factors to consider, particularly as campers get older and new options begin to present themselves. Here are some to think about:
Each summer is a new and unique experience highlighted by changes from year to year: the introduction of new activities as well as the tweaking of existing ones, fresh staff faces, new facilities or remodeled ones to accommodate new programs or expand popular ones. Camp is truly never the exact same experience twice!
Aside from the physical changes to the camp program, campus, and staff, as children journey through their camp years, they look forward to age-specific traditions each year. Some of them are relatively small, such as sitting at a special place during meals or a later wake-up in the mornings. Others are fairly monumental–the trips get bigger and longer, the leadership roles become more significant, and the impact of the traditions themselves grows.
Bonds strengthen over time. It’s always touching to hear returning campers talk about meeting their best friend at camp or share stories about their favorite counselors. There is the intimacy of the bunk or cabin environment as well. As children move through camp with their friends, they become very close. Fresh opportunities also present themselves each summer for campers to make new friends while trying different things.
When one considers how much change happens at camp each summer, it’s easy to see that by not returning–even for a summer–campers miss out on something big! The primary goal of sleepaway camps is to make sure campers are safe and have fun. Their staffs work tirelessly during the winters and dedicate long hours during the summer to make each summer better than the last, which means that probably the most important thing to contemplate when deciding whether to return to camp is that next summer could be a camper’s best summer ever!