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Opening Day Success: A Guide to a Smooth Start at Summer Camp

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Attention, Campers and Parents!

Planning for summer camp is LOTS of work and it’s all about to pay off. Is your camper ready to embrace new friendships, plunge into exciting activities, and create memories to last a lifetime? All your effort for them to have an amazing summer camp experience culminates on Opening Day and it’s right around the corner now!  

But the journey isn't over just yet! Opening Day is filled with lots of tasks and activities to cross off the list so we've compiled six valuable tips to help you stay organized and ensure a successful Opening Day:


Make a Travel Plan

A little planning now will minimize problems later. Being hungry, late, or sleepy can quickly turn the excitement of opening day into stress. This is a happy day, so make a plan that allows for a snag or two. If problems do arise, don’t panic. Your positive attitude will help set the tone for your child’s experience. Here are a few ways to keep your trip smooth and stress-free:

Pad your Time

To truly make the most of opening day, it's highly recommended to add a couple of hours to your estimated travel time. By incorporating this buffer period, you'll be able to embark on a relaxed and leisurely trip, free from the pressures of rushing to reach your destination. This additional time ensures that even if unexpected delays arise, you'll still arrive at camp with plenty of time to spare.

Pressure-Free Travel

The beauty of padding your travel time is that it grants you the freedom to navigate any unforeseen obstacles with ease. Whether it's heavy traffic, road closures, or unexpected detours, you can approach these challenges without feeling rushed or stressed. Embrace the journey and enjoy the flexibility that comes with allowing ample time for a pressure-free trip to camp.

Quality Time Along the Way

Rather than viewing the trip as just Point A to Point B, consider it an opportunity to create lasting memories with your child. Take advantage of the extra hours by planning a stop at a scenic spot for a delicious lunch or an enjoyable picnic. Additionally, you can make a stop along the way to pick up any items you may have forgotten to pack.

Complete Registration

Registration is a way for the camp to ensure that everyone who is scheduled to arrive actually makes it. To ensure a smooth start to your camp experience, it's important to honor the designated registration time set by your camp. Punctuality is key. An early arrival will be just as unappreciated as a late one. There are a lot of little steps in the registration process:

Meet the Directors

Directors oversee the camp's operations and create an enriching environment. Introduce yourself and your child. This interaction helps set the foundation for a positive time at camp. Ask any questions you have and express any concerns. They’re there to ensure the well-being and happiness of all campers.

Settle Your Child's Account

Finalizing any outstanding payments ensures your financial obligations are met. By promptly addressing these matters, you contribute to the smooth functioning of the camp's administrative processes.

Cabin Assignment

This assignment plays a big part in your camper’s sense of community and belonging. Embrace the chance to meet your child's cabin mates—these connections could likely become lifelong friendships!

Talk to Medical Staff

Share relevant information about your child's health including allergies, medication requirements, or any pre-existing conditions so the medical team can provide the support your camper needs.

Move Your Child's Gear

Assisting your child in moving their belongings and helping them organize their space allows them to settle into their new living space and begin creating a sense of personal comfort and familiarity.

Meet Your Child's Leader

Make sure you cover the important issues with the cabin leader or group leader, but be aware of his or her responsibility to other families. You may have to wait your turn to have a decent talk, but it’s worth your while. If you cannot be there in person on opening day, you should still share as much helpful information as you can with the camp staff. The best way to do this is by writing a descriptive letter to the camp director.

Engage in Conversation

Your child’s cabin, bunk, tent, group, or unit may have more than one leader, but make sure you meet at least one of them. Ask about their camping experience, where they are in school, how their summer has been going, and where they live. You should leave camp with a good sense of who is caring for your child.

Share Important Information about your Camper

Communicate any physical, behavioral, or emotional concerns you have about your child and tell the staff how you usually deal with these issues.

Recent Life Events that may be Relevant

You may want to mention exceptional family circumstances, such as a recent divorce, loss of a loved one or pet, or a traumatic academic, social, or athletic event. Personal details aren’t necessary, but a basic understanding of what has been happening in your child’s life can put their emotions and behaviors in perspective for the camp staff. 

Address Medical, Behavioral, and Emotional Concerns

You might still want to say hello to the health center staff whether your child has medical, behavioral, or emotional issues or not. These are the folks who will care for your camper in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Meeting your Child’s Needs

Together, you and the camp director and the medical staff can decide how the whole camp staff can best meet your child’s needs. Perhaps you’ll decide that not every staff person in camp needs to know your child’s special concerns.

Prescription Medications

Ensure that the medical staff is aware of any prescription medications, which should be provided in their original bottles with clear dosage instructions.


Trusting the Staff

Some parents and children hesitate to share information about medical, emotional, or behavioral concerns. They may feel that the information is too personal or they worry about confidentiality. Trust that the camp staff will handle sensitive matters with discretion and confidentiality.

Allocate Spending Money

When it comes to sending your child to camp, one important consideration is the allocation of spending money. Many camps have policies discouraging campers from carrying cash for security reasons. Instead, they may request that you set aside money for your child to use for camp store purchases, arts and crafts projects, or out-of-camp trips. Providing your child with spending money ensures they can participate in various camp activities and experiences.

How Much to Allocate

Some camps include spending money in the registration fees; others ask you to make a deposit when you register. If the camp does not publish a suggested amount in their information packet, ask the director how much spending money is adequate. You’ll get back whatever is leftover at the end of the session.

Camp Clothing = Camp Spirit

Purchasing camp apparel and other items on Opening Day fosters a sense of excitement for your camper. Whether it's a camp T-shirt, hoodie, or other camp-themed accessories, wearing these items signifies their involvement in the camp community and adds to the overall spirit and enthusiasm.

Saying Goodbye

Each child is unique in their preferences when it comes to saying goodbye. Some may prefer their parents to leave promptly after settling in while others may desire a bit more time together. It's essential to communicate and agree on an appropriate time frame before departing.

How to Say Goodbye

Decide on a farewell gesture that your child is comfortable with, such as a short walk, a hug and kiss, a high-five, or any other preferred method.

Stick to the Exit

Once you've said your goodbyes, make a clear and decisive departure. Lingering or returning unexpectedly can create anxiety about the actual departure. However, if your child requests a little more time, accommodate their needs and suggest a specific timeframe for saying goodbye.

Your Camper’s Reaction

Cabin leaders have seen it all—campers breaking down in tears as their parents depart, or campers eager to rush their parents out of camp. Keep in mind, the goal of sending your child to camp is to give them a sense of independence. If your child wants you to stay longer, acknowledge their feelings but stick to the initial plan. Give them a choice: to say goodbye now or in ten more minutes. If they embrace the new environment quickly and make friends right away, that's a positive sign!


Make Opening Day a smooth slide into life at camp for your child and walk away knowing they’re about to embark on a fantastic camp adventure. We appreciate you reading our tips and we wish you and your camper a wonderful summer camp journey! Feel free to comment on this post and share your own experience of Opening Day.

Check out some previous posts I’ve written on successfully navigating Visiting Day and how to be prepared for Closing Day. You can find all this valuable information and so much more to aid your camp prep in 'The Summer Camp Handbook', a thorough guidebook that covers every part of getting your camper and yourself ready for the camp season.

Thanks for reading, Folks! And, as always, Happy Camping!


- John


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