You already know that every family is different, but it turns out that the top five things that families are looking for when it comes to making a decision about camp registrations are very similar.
If you want to position your camp as a top pick for parents, pay attention to how you communicate the top five things that drive camp registration decisions.1
1. Location: Whether parents are looking for camp that’s close to work or close to home, this is going to be the number one factor they’re checking for. Having your location information displayed prominently is key.
Use your header or footer space to display location data. Repeat this on every landing page and group it with other contact information, like telephone number and email address, to create the easiest experience.
Surprisingly, many websites don’t make the camp location visible on the home page and require users to hunt for it, or give up in frustration.
2. Schedule: When it comes to the schedule, parents are looking for the camp dates and/or start and end time. Parents should be able to see at a glance the days and camp hours, registration fees, and how to register. If putting all of the necessary details in one place isn’t feasible, make it clear where they can go next for other information.
Showing your session availability will let parents know which weeks are filling up or already have a waitlist. Camp websites like Hiller.org keep their availability updated automatically using the ActivityHero schedule widget.
3. Category: To communicate what kind of experience you offer, you’ll want to use multimedia such as photography, video, and descriptions. Using high-quality photography and video from actual events can help drive better engagement and more interest. Having a landing page that can go into depth about the types of experiences you offer helps families more readily imagine kids in your classes.
Give parents a sense for how their kids will spend the day. You can describe the daily schedule, highlight the parts of the activity that are most popular, describe what students will create, or describe what children will learn/know by the end.
If you have a more specialized program, like dance or sports only, and offer different levels or styles within each program, use the descriptions to explain the differences.
4. Price: You should know how your prices compare against other local options. You want to position yourself competitively, but that doesn’t mean price cutting. If your camp is priced higher than other options in the area, offer parents an explanation why. Are there premium features included, like transportation, materials, or food? Does your staff have additional certifications and educational experience? Sharing a bit about why you’ve shaped your pricing structure the way you have can create a level of transparency with parents that builds trust.
If you offer discounts, make sure to make the discount deadline clear – this can help to drive a sense of urgency, as too much time to think about making the commitment might lead to parents putting it off or forgetting about it all together. Take a look at our tips on effective camp discounts.
Alternately, it might make sense to offer a payment plan to early birds. The ability to pay over time and budget month to month until the start of camp encourages earlier commitments. It can also position your camp as a partner to parents; offering payment flexibility can communicate that you care about the kids in your community and want to connect with more families.
5. Reviews: Got some great reviews? Show them off. When parents are searching for the right fit for their kids activities, they’re reading up on what other families have to say. Adding a reviews stream from ActivityHero, Google, or Yelp to your website can help lend credibility to your business.
Respond to your reviews. When you take time to reply to your customers’ feedback – both positive and negative – you show that you value the relationships you’re making with families. In this interview, Yelp expert Darnell Holloway explains that responding within 24 hours leads to better outcomes.
Consider investing in testimonials. While it takes time to interview customers and craft a narrative around their story, it can benefit your business. Testimonials give you the opportunity to find out – and share – what parts of your camp experience families really loved. You can use this to continue shaping your activities and experiences and also to share real feedback with users.
“Who else is attending” is a consideration that didn’t break the top five, but is still influential. A lot of parents and guardians – and kids – more strongly consider enrolling in camps with people they know. To encourage more word-of-mouth business, consider offering a small discount or credit towards a future registration for any referrals from current customers.
While it’s not possible to be the perfect fit for every family, paying attention to how you share and showcase what you offer will help you turn your website visitors into more registrations.
Families can apply for financial aid to over 50 different summer camps on ActivityHero.
For the first time, families who struggle to make ends meet can apply for multiple summer camp scholarships with ActivityHero’s simple online registration. Thanks to over 50 summer camps who are offering scholarship spots for underprivileged youth, over 1,000 weeks of camp are available this summer for as little as $20, or 50-95% off the full price. Participating summer camps are located near San Francisco, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Wichita, KS, Arlington, VA, and Seattle, WA.
While some camps already offer scholarships to families with financial needs, each has its own application process and deadline. ActivityHero’s scholarship program allows families to apply for multiple summer camps with one application, reducing the application time and increasing the possibility that a scholarship will be available.
“We have an amazing variety of summer camps, extracurricular activities and sports on ActivityHero,” said Peggy Chang, Co-Founder and CEO of ActivityHero, “We want all children to have access to high-quality summer experiences and benefit from the social and learning opportunities.”
In particular, summertime poses challenges for working parents to fill in the 11-12 weeks that school is out. “Moms are most likely to take on the responsibility of finding childcare when kids are out of school,” Chang said. “And if there is a gap in childcare coverage, moms are often the ones that stay home with the kids, and this can impact their career. By providing an easy way to find camps, and connecting them with scholarships, we want to help moms reach their fullest potential in the workplace while their kids gain new experiences at camp.”
Many of the camps who are part of ActivityHero’s scholarship program have never offered financial aid in the past. “I’ve always wanted to offer scholarships but I didn’t know how to start it,“ said CD Hullinger of CD’s Art Studio. “ActivityHero’s scholarship program makes it easy for me to offer a few spots without the administrative work.”
ActivityHero.com is the leading online marketplace for camps, activities, after school classes, workshops, and kids’ nights out. More than 2.5 million families use ActivityHero to find and book kids’ activities from a wide variety of local providers.
Activity providers can claim and customize their listing or upgrade to ActivityHero online registration tools at https://www.activityhero.com.
With so many choices available, how do you find a summer camp that fits your family’s style? Here are key questions to ask when starting your search.
By Wendy Chou
Some parents see summer vacation as a chance to try new skills and challenges, and some would rather that their kids unplug and unwind from the pressures of the school year. Whether you are researching camps for the first time or looking for some refresher tips, these simple questions may come in handy when considering a camp for your child.
What is the ratio of campers to staff?
Is the program staff composed of college students, more experienced teachers, or a mix?
Do students roam independently or stick closely with one counselor throughout the day?
Does the camp offer more free time or more structure?
Is the focus on learning, on fun, or on a combination?
Do campers tend to return year after year?
What sets it apart from similar camps in the area?
Does the camp cover gap subjects (ones that your child sees less of during the school year)?
Special Features and Accommodations
For skill-based camps (for instance, coding or sports camps), how do you accommodate different ages or abilities?
How would staff try to accommodate the needs of my introverted camper, or my spirited camper?
If needed, is before or after care available (if so, how does it differ from the main day’s activities?)
Are transportation options (e.g., bussing) available?
A Camp Director’s Perspective
Parents should feel free to call or e-mail camp directors “if they want to know more,” recommends Rory Judge, who has 40 years’ experience with the Bay Area’s Adventure Camps. Chatting with parents one-on-one about their summer camp questions is the perfect way to help “even the most nervous first-time parents warm up to camp,” Judge explains. For starters, he likes to find out a prospective camper’s age, how much camp experience they already have, and what school they attend. With websites, reviews, and other online tools becoming more popular, Judge finds that parents today seem comfortable doing their own research online in lieu of calling in.
Whether you like to gather information online or talk to camp staff, keeping these questions in mind can help you narrow down the field of camps that really fit your family’s style. And to easily find camps that match your child’s age, interest and available dates, check out the search tools on ActivityHero. You’ll find reviews from parents and can book your camps with one convenient registration form.
Considering exploring overnight camps for your children this summer? Two directors share tips to prepare kids for the positive experience of a lifetime.
By Laura Quaglio
If your kids haven’t tried sleepaway camp, you’re entering uncharted territory for your family. That, however, is not actually a bad thing. “Doing something outside of your comfort zone burns memories that last forever because it won’t blend into the background of life,” says Michael Richards, founder and executive director of Science Camps of America based in Pahala, Hawaii. When kids spread their wings, they can grow as a person — and become more the person they really are, not limited by the perceptions and history of their classmates or even their own family.
“Campers all enter on this totally equal basis, and they can express their personality without the backdrop of their whole life, their whole history,” says Richards, whose camps are for teens aged 13 to 17 who are interested in exploring volcanoes, rocks, forests, oceans, and skies of Hawaii to learn about related sciences like geology, climate, and astronomy. “You can’t come to school and reinvent yourself — or even be yourself,” he adds. “In the camp, kids can express their personality and no one is going to judge them or say, ‘Why did you suddenly change?’ I think that gives kids tremendous empowerment.”
Being in a camp environment also helps prepare kids to function as positive and productive members of society during adulthood. At Camp Chrysalis, where kids aged 8 to 17 explore various outdoor environments in California, director Lee Tempkin takes pride in showing campers how “shared leadership” works. “Everyone calls me Lee, though it’s clear I’m the leader,” he says of his management style. “The staff and I have camp huddles, talk around the campfire, and discuss who would like to give the next camp talk,” he says. “Kids see that we are all part of an adult community. That we respect and work with each other and with them.” Being in a tight-knit group 24/7, even for a short time, helps kids build stronger teamwork skills and independence, all of which will serve them well when they eventually leave home as a young adult entering the workforce or college.
Still a bit hesitant? Worried if your kid will thrive and if you will survive? Here are some ways to tell whether you and your child are ready … and how to prepare them for a transformative, positive experience.
Think About Their Personality
Richards says that “the vast majority of kids love [overnight camp], even if it is their first time doing it.” The kids who do best, says Tempkin, are those who are open, flexible, and positive about new experiences. His camps expose kids to a variety of outdoor activities while living among redwoods, tide pools, marshes, and mountains and learning about ecology and our responsibility for our planet. Kids will get dirty and wet. They’ll sleep in tents with other campers and learn outdoor skills. Kids who are accustomed to spending most of their time in an urban area, indoors, or in solo activities may have a tougher time adapting. For them, as well as kids younger than age 8, he says it’s better to start with overnights or a weekend getaway at a friend or family member’s house. “Summer camp is not the time to have a kid be away from mom and dad for the first time,” he says.
Kindness, too, is key. “Kids who are mean to other kids may have a hard time,” says Tempkin. Campers will be interacting with each other in close proximity all day (and night) without breaks. Kids don’t have to like everything or everyone new, he notes, but they need to appreciate different experiences and different kinds of people.
In a way, this is good news, because it means that bullying is not generally a problem at either of these overnight camps, and probably many others. “Kids are amazingly open about it, and they won’t let anyone get away with the slightest bit of it,” Richards says. “Maybe because they’re not with their usual peer group. They think, ‘Let’s stop this before it starts.’ It’s really something to see.”
Let Your Child Choose the Camp
Richards says that telling a kid, “you’re going here” is one of the biggest mistakes parents make. Of course you won’t want to let your child have the only say-so: Sometimes kids don’t have the same concerns that you do. And if you aren’t comfortable with their pick, your child will sense that, and it might affect their stay. On the other hand, kids will be more invested in having a good time if they are allowed to select a program that excites them.
Some camps offer a range of activities that can include athletics, crafts, survival skills, and so on. Others center on a particular theme, such as a single sport, academic subject, or interest (like soccer, science, or computer coding). “Kids find us because they’re interested in science,” says Richards. “So they’re going to be in a group of like-minded kids. All of a sudden, these kids have that shared enthusiasm, and that makes it a very good social experience.” On the other hand, kids who don’t have a specific interest may prefer to dabble in a variety of activities, which can help them find a new hobby they’ll love. Either way, discuss these different options and be sure your child knows what “their” camp offers.
Encourage Their Independence
At Camp Chrysalis, kids learn to keep track of their gear, their toothbrush, their fork, and so on. They will spend 8 to 12 days at Big Sur, Mendocino, or Sierra. They will hike, swim, and hang out. They also learn camping skills like “how not to damage a tent,” “how to sterilize drinking water,” and “how to whittle safely.” You can help set them up for success by encouraging them to take more responsibility for such items and actions at home. Let them start packing their sports bag or packing their lunch for school. When preparing for camp, have them help you pack their labeled camp gear, too, so they know where everything is located.
At Science Camps of America, Richards likes to give kids as much choice as possible throughout the day, such as which bed to sleep in, which van to ride in, and what topic to debate that evening. If you don’t already do so, start encouraging your kids to make more of their own choices when it’s feasible.
Another tip: Once they’re at camp, leave them be. Both camp directors agree that kids will have a better experience if their parents aren’t checking in all the time. In fact, many camps take away tech, though they’ll certainly allow phone calls if a child is particularly homesick.
If you miss texting your kids, remember this: Taking that away will free them up to interact with the kids at camp. Richards says he gathers up the cell phones after each camp’s orientation. “The kids know that it’s going to happen and they’re all horrified by the prospect of it, but within a few hours, you’ve got 20 strangers who are best friends. It’s amazing to see how fast they socialize and connect without cell phones to distract them.” You can both get accustomed to the idea by easing up on the tech connections at home a bit, too. And if they do phone home, Richards says make sure to tell them you’re excited and happy for them. You may feel like you should tell them how much you miss them, but both camp directors agree that this often makes kids feel guilty about having fun, which can inhibit their ability to immerse themselves in the experience.
Fear of the unknown can be powerful, but it’s easy enough to dispel some of it. Richards, for one, believes in finding information that helps kids and parents “envision the environment” and understand what a typical day or week will hold.
“I encourage parents to look at the camp’s website with their kids,” says Tempkin. “We also have a family night in June, where we show slides. I think it’s reassuring to have some of the basic information so it’s not so scary for them to go off on their own.”
If you like, call the camp and see if a director or staff member can answer your questions. What do the facilities look like? What food will be provided? What will the campers learn? Work with your kids to create a list of things you want to ask.
If you learn something you think the kids won’t love, don’t withhold the information from them, advises Tempkin. “I’m a believer that kids are people who need to be respected to handle information, especially regarding an experience that is going to be their experience.” The more a child knows, the better they can picture themselves there, having a great time.
Talking to other parents can be helpful, too. Ask the camp director for references. Also look for written reviews such as the ones on ActivityHero or on the camp’s website.
Ask About Staff Numbers, Age, and Experience
For parents who are worried about their kid getting lost in the shuffle, it’s important to look at the size of the camp, says Tempkin. “We divide our campers into four small groups of 8 or 9 kids with 2 staff members, and they eat together and doactivities together on a daily basis, so the staff gets to know the campers really, really well.” Richards, too, has a smaller camp, with just 20 kids and 5 staff members per session. “We try to develop a relationship with each kid, one-on-one,” he says. “Our motto is: Don’t treat them as a group. Treat them as individuals.”
Maturity of the staff is important too, says Tempkin. Half of his staff members are adults, not college or high school students. “The maturity of the staff is reassuring for families who have never done camp before,” he says. Younger staffers can serve as great role models or mentors, but there must be enough adults available to deal with larger concerns and keep campers on track.
It’s also a good sign if some staffers are former campers, since they will know the culture, and they obviously enjoyed their stay when they were kids. Tempkin says that most of his staff grew up attending his camp, and he has known them since they were 8 or 10 years old. “They act as mature mentors who can be a positive factor in the kid’s life,” he says. “Kids need adults in their lives who are not their parents, especially as they become teens. A good camp can provide those mentors.”
Last, ask how long staffers have been with the camp. A low turnover rate means staffers know what they’re doing — and they enjoy it enough to return summer after summer.
Talk About How Kids Can Share Their Experiences With You
Kids love to teach their parents, and attending a summer camp offers them a chance to learn new things and then pass them on. Your child can do this by keeping a journal. Kids at Camp Chrysalis write in a “Bear Book.” In fact, Tempkin says that this can also help dispel some homesickness because kids know they can always write a letter to home and share it later. They also send a postcard to parents midway through the trip. This is fun for kids, most of whom have never written out a postcard before, and for parents who feel better when they receive even a brief communication.
Another option might be to revisit the locations your child explored and ask them to serve as your tour guide. Richards says that one mom and her son spent a few days in Hawaii after his camp ended, and she phoned a few days later to share how much her son enjoyed showing her around the island. Richards adds, “It gave that boy an opportunity to take what he had learned and teach it to his mother. And as we know, when we teach something, that’s when we really learn it.” Tempkin has similar stories of campers who became “great tour guides of the areas they’ve learned about.”
As for parents, knowing that our children have surpassed us, even in a small area of expertise, is tremendously rewarding. So when they share, listen closely and ask questions.
In the meantime, go ahead and start making your own list of what you want to do — or where you’d like to go — when your kids are at sleepaway camp. Who knows? Their getaway might be a transformative experience for you, too.
Plan ahead for winter break. Discover popular winter camps in the San Francisco Bay Area.
By ActivityHero Staff
This year, several popular winter camps are offering single day options for the greatest flexibility if you aren’t planning to take the whole week off. One-day camps are the first ones to fill up, so if you see one still available, book it now.
You’ll find camps that fit all interests, like LEGO, art, sports, or chess to make the most of your winter break. Top winter break camps in SF Bay Area include:
Adventure Camp – San Francisco Fun filled adventures for kids 4 and up.