Camp Touring: What You Need to Know
Thinking about summer camp for your child? One of the best ways to learn about a day or overnight camp is to tour the camp.
Touring camps is an invaluable way to get to know a camp. Each camp has its own feel and touring the camp will give you a good sense of whether the camp is the best fit for your child and family.
Before you begin setting up tours, take the time to really think about what type of camp experience you are looking for. Doing your initial research will save you a lot of time and allows you to focus on what you really want in a camp.
Ross Moskowitz, Owner and Director of Camp Westmont, a coed overnight camp in Wayne County, PA feels it’s imperative that parents figure out the type of camp they want for their child before touring overnight camps.
“If you are looking for a traditional coed overnight camp, you should tour 3-4 traditional coed camps instead of seeing one coed camp, one single-sex camp and one brother-sister camp,” Moskowitz says. “This way, you are touring the exact types of camps you want, making it easier for you to narrow down the choices.”
Once you decide on the type of camp you are interested in, you can call the director and set up camp tours for the summer. Renee Flax, Camper Placement Specialist for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ advises parents not to tour too many camps in one day.
“Seeing one camp in the morning and one in the afternoon is generally a good rule of thumb,” Flax says. “Touring can be tiring for you and your child, and you also want to give yourself time to debrief between visiting the camps.”
Whether you are touring a day camp or an overnight camp, one of the most important aspects of the camp tour is relationship building.
Genna Singer, Director of Camps for Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, says its important that you feel connected to the camp’s leadership.
“You want to know that you speak about children in the same way, that you can feel the energy of the leadership team and that you understand how the camp is run,” Singer says. “You are entrusting this person with your child, and you need to feel there is a connection and a trust with the leadership staff.”
Jason Mercado, the director of North Shore Day Camp in Glen Clove, says seeing camp in action allows you to imagine what it would be like to have your own child there.
“You can also watch the directors interacting with the campers in real-time,” Mercado says. “Do the kids know them? Are the staff connected to them? When you tour, you notice things and are able to get the true feeling of the camp.”
Mercado understands that not all families are able to visit over the summer and feels that fall open houses are another great time to see camp.
“Our fall open houses coincide with the early bird rates we offer,” Mercado says. “These days are nice because we have the whole leadership team at camp so it’s more spirited than just touring on an off-season day and allows you to get to know the key staff members.”
All day and overnight camp do their tours differently. Some camps tour the whole family together while others, like Camp Westmont, do separate tours for the parents and the child to give both a more meaningful experience
“Both children and parents have their own specific set of questions and want to see different things at the camp,” Moskowitz explained. “At the end, we meet up, go over the highlights and ask if the camper has any questions which feels empowering, like they are being heard,”
While Moskowitz feels a child’s input is paramount to the camp decision, parents will want to give them choice within the camps they are feeling are the right fit.
“If you are touring camps A, B and C but there is something you don’t like about camp C, you can say to your child that they can choose between camps A and B, but the ultimate say has to be the parents,” Moskowitz says.
It’s important to ask questions while on the tour and in the camp environment.
“Find out about their policies, what they consider to be a successful summer for a camper and how they hire staff. All of these questions will help you understand whether or not you agree with the camp’s philosophy,” says Flax. “If your child has a specific special consideration like a food allergy or anxiety, the tour is a good time to ask how they handle these things.”
After you complete your camp tours, take the time to review all the camps and everything they offer. Some families say they just get a gut feeling after touring a camp. Others will have follow-up questions and should call the director to have another conversation.
In the end, only you know your family and child best and will be able to make the final decision on your child’s summer home.