Use A Summer Camp Planning Checklist to Create Your Child’s Perfect Bay Area Summer

As parents, we are constantly making plans for our kids. We craft detailed plans for after school each day, become Tetris masters with our weekly schedules, and are always working toward an even better, faster, less-hair-pulling morning routine. But being in charge of every moment can get exhausting—and sometimes we all wish someone else could take care of the planning for us.

That’s why we’ve created the most simple, comprehensive guide that takes you step by step through the camp planning process. This list is for rookie summer camp families and even those who are long-time veterans. And because working with kids is our passion, we fully understand the power of an easy-to-follow plan to make everyone’s lives easier.

The Summer Camp Calendar

We’ve detailed the specifics below, but this is our suggested timeframe for when you and your family would ideally proceed through each step in the summer camp planning process. Snap a screenshot, tape it to your calendar, or hang it on the wall—you definitely don’t want to forget about these important steps throughout the busy school year!

Your Summer Camp Planning Checklist

Now let’s get down to business. Following the items below, in order, will help you master the summer camp planning process one step at a time. Read on for handy instructions on each step of the process, helpful deadlines for you to weave into your calendar, and tips for making the whole summer camp planning experience a success.

Want a copy to post on the refrigerator or pin to your child’s bulletin board? We’re on the same page (literally). Download a printable version of this checklist here!

Decide when to go.

This is the first step in planning for the best summer your children have ever had. Gather all of your calendars and decide which week (or two) would be best to send your children away to an overnight summer camp. This is the time for you to nail down whether or not your athlete will have twice-daily practices in June or if your musician will have marching band camp during the month of August. Make sure your younger kids won’t have to miss VBS or their yearly visit to the cousins’ house.

In our family, we always sit down in the springtime with a desk-size paper calendar for the upcoming summer months and use a bright-colored marker to block out our family vacations, holidays, birthdays, and any pre-school events that my older kids might have. When an open week or two emerges for all of our kids, that’s the time we send them all to summer camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Do your research.

Starting online, begin researching the best summer camp programs in the Bay Area. A quick search will bring you a whole host of options, with all kinds of activities and for all budgets. The American Camp Association database is a great place to start. You can easily search for exactly the kind of camp you’re looking for, and you’ll be able to quickly see which programs are accredited by the association. This is a mark of the highest standard for camps in the United States, and relatively few programs go to such great lengths to prove their excellence (only about 20% of all camps are accredited)!

Using your search results, choose two or three camps that sound most appealing to you and rank them in order of preference. Visit those camp websites online, read plenty of reviews, and maybe make a few phone calls to have your lingering questions answered about what these programs offer. Price out each camp program and decide how long a session you would prefer for your family (programs range in length from weekends to over two weeks).

Make a visit.

When you’ve narrowed down your list considerably, it’s time to consider making a visit to the top one or two camps that stood out to you. I usually recommend that Bay Area families visit their prospective camps as early as October. That timeframe gives you plenty of time to take advantage of early bird savings on registration, and you won’t be restricted by winter weather. You can choose to visit camp on a specific “Tour Day,” or you can schedule your own personal tour with the staff. Some camps are open for tours year round, so that’s always an option if you need it!

Bring your kids along for an afternoon of touring the camp grounds, seeing the specialty facilities, and taking a peek inside the cabins. As a parent, you’ll have the opportunity to ask for as many details as you like, so come prepared with a list of questions in mind. Your kids will get even more excited seeing the areas in person where they will rock climb, ride horses, or learn flying trapeze.

Discuss with your family.

After your visit, it’s time to debrief with your family. What did each of your kids think of the camp? What elements of the tour did your kids love—or hate? How did the location feel to them? Is your spouse concerned about the location or distance from home? How does the program in question impact your family budget? Once you’ve had the chance to discuss the different facets of camp with everyone involved, you can come to a tentative decision.

Before going any further, you’ll also want to discuss camp details with your child. (Families who are returning to the same camp can also start following the checklist here.) Especially now that you know which activities this camp will offer, you can help them decide between the variety of fun options available to them. Is your introverted child interested in working with animals? Do you want to give the excitable one of the bunch a helpful outlet for some of their physical energy? Help them prioritize and make choices about which activities they’d most like to participate in this summer.

Register and pay your deposit.

Registering for camp is the easiest part of the entire process. Most camp programs allow you to sign up online, and within minutes you will have secured a spot for each of your children. This is the time to take advantage of any early registration or sibling discounts that your family may qualify for—so be sure to register in plenty of time to cash in on your savings! Kennolyn’s early bird discount ends in February (and full payment is required at this time as well for the discount), so the holidays are a good time to start thinking about giving a camp session as a gift [<--link to “gift of camp” piece when live].

In order to register for camp, you’ll want to have the following pieces of information handy: which week or session you prefer, your child’s current grade in school, their t-shirt size, emergency contact information, and if they have a roommate request for their cabin.

Prepare your child.

If this is their first year going away to summer camp, it’s especially important for your child that they are prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically for this new experience. Discuss the fears and expectations they may have about camp. Work with them to discover coping skills and ways that they can soothe themselves when you’re temporarily not there. Empower them to handle tough situations independently, and you might be surprised at how well they function away from your watchful eye!

Finally, you’ll want to make sure to purchase the summer necessities that they’ll bring with them to the cabin. Make sure that you’ve got the right bedding on hand, a sleeping bag if your program calls for one, plenty of play clothes and shoes that can get dirty, travel toiletries (including sunscreen and bugspray), and any accessories they’ll need for their chosen activities. It might be helpful to double check your haul against the Kennolyn Camps packing list to make sure you’ve thought of everything!

Pay in full.

This is an obvious but important step on the path to sending your child to camp. Most programs require campers to pay their balance in full by early spring in order to secure their place in the cabin—and for Kennolyn, this date comes on May 1st. Take care of whatever budgeting adjustments you may need in order to pay their balance in full well before the camp program actually starts this summer.

Go to camp!

Though your kids have been trying to pack for camp for the last four months in eager anticipation, it’s actually, really, finally time to get going on their summer adventure! Pack up their duffel bags, suitcases, bedding, and stuffed animals (can’t forget those!) and get on the road. On the way over, fill your child with comforting and encouraging messages—especially if they seem a little nervous to be leaving home. Prepare them for the moment of saying goodbye, and reassure everyone that they will have the time of their life. We camp veterans know from experience just how true that is!

With a copy of this checklist in hand, you’ll be set to easily secure the best summer your Bay Area children have ever experienced. At Kennolyn, we are dedicated to providing camp programs that inspire generations of kids to do something new and fun with their summer vacations—and which provide lasting skills and character building benefits that all our parents can feel good about.

Interested in learning more about what programs we offer? Reach out to the Kennolyn office today. We’re happy to speak with you and answer any questions you may have about the Kennolyn experience. Or, if you’ve decided that this is the perfect camp for your family, you can register for one of our sessions here.


Kennolyn Camps

Kennolyn Camps