Summer may seem far away, but it’s never too early to start your family’s summer planning, especially if that involves the kids going away to camp. Whether it’s making countless phone calls, sitting online for hours or simply filling out all of the registration forms, getting things organized for summer overnight camp can be a challenge. The answer to that challenge is to start early and do all of the right homework.

These days, getting an early start on summer camp registration isn’t just smart, it’s necessary. It takes time to identify which camp and which program is most suitable, and like anything, there is some shopping around to do. Better camps start to fill up early, especially with happy campers from previous years. The last thing you want to tell your child is they can’t go to a fantastic camp because registration was already full!

In many cases, early registration can also save you quite a bit of money. In a family where more than one child is attending camp, the savings could be hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Do Your Homework

Beyond searching on the Internet, a personal phone call to the camp, and even the camp director, is quite appropriate. Many quality sleepaway camps will even insist on this type of one-on-one communication. It allows the camp to get to know the parents and share the qualities and values of the camp. Open communication can also address any special needs that a child might have and to determine whether or not the camp can support them.

Finally, it’s critical to ensure the camp is a good match for the child’s personality and interests. Children that love athletics and sports may not do well at a camp that’s focused on performing arts or STEM, some children may need a camp with a more structured environment, and there’s always the question of whether a co-ed or single-sex camp would be best.

The Camp’s History Says a Lot

A summer camp that has been operating for decades, with the same management, and with many of the same staff, tells a lot about the camp. Simply put, a poorly managed camp just couldn’t stay in business for the long term.

Another good sign is staff who are highly trained and who return year after year. This is particularly important for a camp that specializes in a specific stream, like sports, education or arts. It’s also important to evaluate the camper-to-staff ratio – obviously, the lower the better.

Check the Philosophy, Values and Mission

Camp philosophy is integral when researching a camp. Naturally, there has to be a good fit for the camper, but it also has to be a good fit for the whole family. The camp experience will shape a child for years to come, so it’s vital that the camp’s principles and beliefs don’t conflict with what’s being taught at home.

A good camp will easily articulate the mission statement of the camp to ensure its the best fit for the camper and their family. This fit should not be undervalued, since a months-long overnight camp is a serious commitment.

Finally, an early start to camp planning will also benefit the kids. For some, it’s certainly an opportunity to slowly lessen the fears of overnight camp. For others, it’s really something to look forward to. And for the parents doing the planning, it’s another item to strike off the “to do” list.