It seems impossible to believe that we're already gearing up for the end of another school year!
With summer fast approaching, we're both beginning to prepare for sending our older kiddos to sleepaway camp. Packing up and bidding farewell to our not-at-all-babies-anymore brings such a flood of mixed emotions. We know that being away from home is such an amazing opportunity for our kids to foster independence, develop resiliency and create lifelong friendships and memories… but when the reality of getting ready for those blissful weeks away from home starts to set in, it can feel pretty daunting.
Fear not! Our Sleepaway Camp Preparation Guide + Checklist will help you feel perfectly in control of all the nitty gritty items that will prepare you and your happy campers for another season of adventure.
Joni + Kitt
It's important to note that each camp will have its own packing suggestions and regulations. Your camper might be traveling by car, bus or airplane — and all of this will impact how you go about packing.
We're sharing our Practically Perfect Packing List of non-clothing items that most campers will need to help you organize yourselves + your campers in these weeks leading up to camp. You can use our list as a starting point. We recommend breaking it down by the following categories: (1) things that you already own and can find around your house, (2) things that you might be able to borrow from friends and (3) items that you'll assuredly need to purchase. Don't delay — download it here and get started today!
To give you some extra motivation to get organized with camp packing, here is a list of our top 5 things to do now to prepare for camp this summer:
1. Buy An Easy-To-Pack Bag
We both own and love these duffle bags. They are high-quality, provide an amazing amount of space, fold up into a tiny profile for storage post-camp, and they have wheels. WHEELS!
These bags have proven to be easy for our kids to pack, easy for them to schlep around, and once they've unpacked at camp, they are very easy to stash away. You can also add your campers' name or monogram, which is great because EVERYTHING at camp needs to be labeled, labeled, labeled if there's any chance of it returning home.
2. Invest In Removable Labels
You knew this was coming! When it comes to packing for camp, everything needs to get labeled. Kids can be forgetful and, when they are away from home, maybe not so tidy. In order to ensure that your child doesn't come home with empty bags, get those labels on!
You can use the old fashioned Sharpie method, which is a great option for some items. But if you're like us and your kids' items are often reused by siblings or passed along to others, removable labels are your jam. We especially love these labels. They are completely customizable, easy to use and, of course, can be removed if needed. We're big fans.
And here's mini tip from two multitasking mamas… If you have loads of labels to apply and just a little time, this can be a great task for your kiddos to assist with!
3. Opt For Inexpensive Linens
We all know how easily and quickly items can become destroyed, especially at camp. As much as we always want to opt for high-quality products, we're also realistic about the fact that certain items might not endure the camp experience and be around for the years to come.
Unless you have old linens around the house that you're sure you never mind seeing again, we recommend snagging some sheets and towels from the clearance aisle at your local discount store. There are tons of places to procure these items, but we tend to start with TJ Maxx, Marshalls or Target.
Assuming that these make it back home with your campers (do the towels ever really make it home?!) designate them as 'camp gear' and store them with other camp-related items somewhere other than your linen closet so that they can be used for this exact purpose from year to year. We store ours in Weathertight Totes in our garages.
4. Involve Your Kids
Sometimes tasks that we find tedious can actually feel fun for our kiddos, especially when they are related to their camp experience! Involve your child in as much of the packing process as possible.
Have THEM grab the 20 pairs of socks that they need (and don't expect to ever see all of those again, either!) Lay everything out in one area of your house, and then have your kids assist you with placing the items into their bag so they know what they have and where to find it. They can also assist with folding (just show them our YouTube Folding Series for inspo!), packing of toiletries + more!
Making packing a group effort might just help minimize the stress of ALL THAT STUFF — and it will provide you all with some extra moments of quality time together before your kids head off to camp.
5. Make A Plan For Letters + Care Packages
Sometimes our kids are having such a blast at camp that writing letters home can go by the wayside. To make it as easy as possible for them to correspond, we recommend having your child pre-address + pre-stamp envelopes before they leave home. We know that we both check the mail religiously while our own kids are away, and we have found that making it as simple as possible to communicate with us makes it far more realistic that they actually will.
We highly recommend sending a letter or two before your kids leave for camp so that they will be waiting for them when they arrive!
In terms of summer camp care packages, here are some items that we recommend sending that are non-contraband (i.e. no candy!)
- Card Games – a classic summer camp pastime
- Mad Libs – a fantastic throwback that will keep your kids and their friends giggling
- Disposable Cameras – these are so much fun to develop when camp is over!
- Camp Talk Game – a fun game for your kids to play with their friends
- Nail Polish – to keep those dirty fingernails covered… kidding / not kidding!
- Friendship Bracelets – because… summer camp!
If you're a planner or a parent who craves structure to your schedule, purchase your goodies and some padded envelopes early and have these packages labeled and ready to send before camp begins. Then when the kids are away, you can simply drop them one in the mail from time to time.
OUR MOST IMPORTANT TIP
Schedule some quality time with your kids before they leave. It's easy to fill the moments before your kids depart with last-minute preparations, but try to get ahead of the game so that you can enjoy some snuggle time before they depart. This is especially helpful for nervous kiddos and first-time campers.
Likewise, be sure to set aside some special one-on-one time when they return. It's an adjustment for the whole family when campers come home. And remember that emotions can run high when kids are overly-tired, missing their friends and mourning the end of spectacular summer experience.
We hope this guide has you feeling a bit less stressed about summer camp preparations. We're wishing you and your families sweet memories this summer + always!