She’s back! Read the latest confession from one of our experts, giving you the real deal scoop on her experience as a second time camp parent. She is sharing her top tips and advice, on packing, to get your family camp ready!
By: Hallie Grodin
I’ve been feeling really comfortable these past many months – relatively organized and very excited for my second time camper and super relaxed first time camper (very different from the first time camper I had last summer!). Then this morning it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was an ordinary morning driving the kids to school, but a coach bus drove by me. And then I thought about it…in under 40 days it will be my kids I will be putting on that bus. And the tears started flowing. Let me remind you that my son had the time of his life at camp last summer. Both of my campers are counting down the days until camp this summer. But it doesn’t change a thing for me as their mom – I’m not going to be able to control those tears, I’m still going to miss them terribly and I’m still going to be insanely jealous wishing I could be the one getting on that bus driving off to the summer of a lifetime.
So while everything may be different this second summer, a lot may also be the same. Here are some of my packing tips based on what I learned from having experienced this once before as a parent:
1) Start Packing – I sound confident when I say this, don’t I? Guess what? I haven’t started packing. But I have really awesome piles ALL OVER my house. Which leads me to this – if you haven’t started actually packing, at least start organizing. There may be piles everywhere, but you better believe I know exactly what is in those piles and there is comfort in knowing that I have ticked off 99% of the packing list (toiletries and boxer briefs – I’m coming for you!)
2) If you haven’t started packing or organizing – START LABELING. As you do the dreaded folding of the laundry and put it away, label label label! The more you do along the way the easier it will be once you actually get to the packing!
3) These are my now favorite packing tools (*this is not an ad for any of these products, just my personal opinion based on my experience):
- Hefty JUMBO storage slider (2.5 Gallon) – I packed the clothing in these bags within the duffles. So for example, I put all of the t shirts in one ziplock and then wrote on the outside “Jack’s T shirts,” etc. No matter whether your camp has the camper or the counselor unpack, this will make life easier for everyone. To my great surprise the clothing actually came home this way as well, I was not expecting that (huge shout out to Matty and Pierce!)
- Label Daddy – These are my favorite labels. I particularly like the “extra small clothing labels” they seem to be the perfect size for most clothing tags. NOTE: if you have more than one child, particularly of the same gender, I personally order labels with just the last name (if you have a really common last name this probably is not a great idea) – that way I won’t hear complaints when clothing is shared amongst my children that they won’t wear it because it has the other ones name in it, etc.
- Name Dropper Stamp – I found this stamp helpful particularly for clothing that didn’t have labels for a sticker to stick too…but when in doubt I did a label daddy label AND the stamp
- Sharpie – Don’t underestimate the power of the sharpie! Make sure you have a black sharpie as well as a silver sharpie to be able to write on the dark clothing.
4) Show your kids what you are packing so they know what everything is…for example, you probably are sending different towels than the towels your kids use at home, they should see what those towels are so they can identify them at camp.
5) If you are putting things away in “bins” etc – show them where you are putting it before you pack it. I got my kids clipboards and inside I put the stationary, stamps and pens…while I know to not expect any letters, I also know if I don’t explicitly show them said stationary, stamps, envelopes and pens (probably several times) they will claim “they never knew it was there.”
6) Simplify Simplify Simplify! Particularly for boys…well at least, thats all I can speak to as a parent. Last year my son insisted on going to camp with separate shampoo, conditioner and soap – despite my repeat suggestion that he bring an “all in one.” After my discreet inspection on visiting day it was apparent that he had never even opened the conditioner and maybe had used the shampoo twice (oy!). He did promise that he was using soap to wash his body AND hair and he was also using other peoples “all in one.” Clearly I should have followed my gut and bought him the all one – you could be sure that is what I will be buying them both for this summer.
7) Bring extra on visiting day…best to be prepared to stock them back up on shampoo, sunscreen, etc…worst case they don’t need it and you bring it back home!
8) Keep them with their normal routine: Do they normally use mouthwash at night? Then send them with their mouthwash. They may not use it all the time (or at all) at camp – but there is comfort in knowing that they CAN follow the same routine if they would like.
9) This is for the parents of boy’s out there…YES it is ok to send them with stuffed animals, boys have them on their beds too! Send them with whatever makes them comfy to sleep at night.
10) I know it all seems overwhelming and feels like it won’t get done, but I promise it will. Somehow it always does. And things do happen…I walked in last year from dropping our son off at the bus and I found his slides that we were supposed to put in his backpack (not put in his duffle because he was wearing them for those last days between when the duffle was picked up and he was leaving). It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, these things happen. Our camp doesn’t allow packages – but of course I was able to send those slides and my son survived the first few days without them, I never even heard from him that he didn’t have them (that would have required a letter, ha!)
I know a lot of parents out there, especially first time parents, are probably making themselves crazy, pouring over every detail…I did it too. And when I start to go there for this summer, I look back at the pictures from last summer, of my son in the same outfits day in and day out – in the same headband that camp gave him – not the spirit one that I went to a few different stores to find – and remember, that is what it is all about. At the end of the day, who cares what the stuff is, they are happy no matter what because they are in these magical camps making new friends for life and having the time of their life!
Now get to packing…or at least organizing or labeling!