10 Tips When You Get The Sleepaway Camp Packing List

By: Hallie Grodin

Whether you are a first time camp parent or your child is returning for the 9th summer, now seems to be the time those packing lists have arrived. Packing is one of those things that has to be done, it needs to be accomplished at one point or another. And let’s face it… a goal without a plan is just a wish! This summer I’ll have a returning camper as well as a first time camper. I have to say when our camp packing list arrived the other week I did not get as overwhelmed as I did last year, I’ve learned a thing or two. So whether you are a planner or tend to be more of a procrastinator, here are 10 tips I think you should know so you can create your own packing game plan.

1START NOW: While camp is still 5 months away, believe me, these 5 months will fly by. I don’t mean actually start packing your bags, I do mean start getting things in order and buying stuff. Start checking things off that list so you are not in a mad rush in June.

2 COMPARE AND CONTRAST: There are some amazing stores out there with amazing camp products. I loved using them last year and plan to use them again this year. But use them wisely. You don’t need to buy everything from them, you can fill in some basics from elsewhere. Before you go in to those camp appointments, do a little research on line, check out the pricing for bedding, etc. The likelihood is some of those basic items you will find at a lower cost elsewhere – so save those stores for the more fun/personalized items and save some money on basics elsewhere.

3 WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES: I took a screen shot of our packing list so I have it on my phone at all times. You never know when you will come upon a great pillow or t shirt, etc. and want to reference that list to see if its an item you will need.

4 SIBLING/FRIEND LOVE: Have 2 children going to the same camp? Have a close friend that attends your child’s camp and grew out of his/her clothing? Accept those hand me downs! The reality is uniform clothing is expensive. Is my younger son getting the short end of the stick and going with a worn baseball jersey (and much more) this summer? He sure is. Will he even notice? Not a chance. This was hard for me to come to terms with, I don’t want my younger son to get all dirty, shrunk, worn clothing – but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was MY issue and NOT his. And also, its just going to get even dirtier and destroyed this summer!

5TRY TRY TRY: For any returning campers, try on their clothing from last summer sooner rather than later. Items you thought would fit again this summer, make sure you still think they will. Items you were borderline if you needed to replace, after sitting for a few months, you’ll have a better idea of their status.

6 ROADSHOWS: The different camp clothing companies are scheduling their roadshows over the next few months for their uniform clothing. If its a date and location thats convenient for you, make an appointment. Especially for first time campers. Its great to get a feel for sizing of the clothing, what the clothing looks and feels like (sometimes it is just hard to tell on line), etc. And its helpful in getting your camper psyched for this summer. But don’t fret if you can’t attend the roadshow (we can’t attend ours this year!), they all have helpful customer service representatives to get a sense of sizing, if the items aren’t personalized many of the companies will allow you to exchange sizes, etc. But the sooner you start this process, the more time you have to make those adjustments.

7LABELING: It is never too early to start labeling! If you order items from a camp clothing company/camp store, I strongly encourage you to have them label the items for you – the less you have to do the better. Last summer I found the labeling to be the most time consuming part of packing, so start early – as you purchase items for camp, label them. When you have a little extra time folding their laundry, throw on some labels!

8 INVOLVE YOUR KIDS: Whether your child is petrified of going to camp or counting down the seconds, involve him/her in this process. It is fun! Sure financially there may not be choices in some of the decisions or you may have a strong preference in some areas – but find something where he/she can have a say and have fun with it. My kids and I just spent time talking about and looking at different pillow options – I wanted them to pick a fun pillow for their bed that they love and reflects their own personality. At the end of the day it may not be the pillow I would choose for them, but they will be the ones sleeping with it!

9IT’S OK TO SAY NO: There is SO MUCH out there, remember you don’t need it all. If you are going to a camp appointment with your child, get an idea on pricing of items before you go so you can have a sense of the budget you want to spend. They do not need every single item that a store sells in the camp section, they also don’t need every single item personalized. It is ok to say no. But I find having a sense of how much you want to spend and what everything costs will help you be prepared when going in to that appointment..hopefully you can then steer them in the right direction and avoid certain items!

10REMEMBER….CAMP IS ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE, NOT ABOUT THE STUFF! 30 years ago when I left for my first summer at camp, I can assure you I did not have even half the stuff our campers go to camp with these days. And guess what? I had the time of my life. Sure this stuff may seem necessary and important, and some of it is, just remember that the most important part of camp is those people that are soon to become their best friends! Its hard not to get obsessed with these packing lists and stress over them….I promise it will get done!

And finally, while it isn’t time to start packing yet, here are some of my packing tips I wrote about last summer. More to come soon…

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