Overnight/Travel Sleep away camps

10 Coolest International Overnight Camps

This summer we yearn to explore new places and international sleep-away camps could be just the thing to make up for the past year of shelter-in-place.

Below are 10 of the coolest international overnight camps around the world, ranging from soccer camps in Europe to cultural exchange in Costa Rica to horseback riding in England to a sports camp in Australia. The camps below allow a variety of ages, interests and experiences.

Soccer Camps International offers Elite International Youth Soccer Camps in England, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal with famous European soccer clubs like Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atletico de Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan, Paris Saint Germain, Benfica Lisbon and more. Many of these Official Summer Soccer Camps provide soccer training sessions at the Exclusive Official Club Training Sites where the Clubs First Team and Academy players practice daily. Boys and Girls ages 7 to 18 years old can choose from residential or day camp sessions, goalkeeper sessions, and language options (Spanish and French). Players from all over the world participate at these elite camps each summer to experience soccer at his best!

French International Language Camps are held in the French Alps and includes sports and cultural activities and a complete French and English language teaching program. Summer and winter programs for children and teens 6 to 17 years old are total immersion experiences with a multi-lingual team and with children from all over the world.

Les Elfes International Summer Camp

Les Elfes Summer & Winter Camps. Les Elfes offers summer and winter camps in Switzerland. Summer students from 6-17 years old spend 2-4 week-sessions in Verbier, one of the most famous ski resorts in Switzerland! Students will enjoy their days with outdoor activities, language classes, sports, and excursions. Over 40 exciting outdoor activities are available, such as rock climbing, mountain biking, ropes courses, wakeboarding, tubing, paragliding, basketball, hiking, swimming, ice skating, tennis, golf, horseback riding and many more.

Les Elfes Winter Camp offers ski or snowboard lessons, from very beginner to advanced level, combined with optional language lessons and exciting after-ski activities and excursions.

Gakko. This two week summer program takes place in Kagoshima Japan and brings together a mentors from industry experts, graduate students and college students to create an experience that is truly one of a kind.

Costa Rica Youth Exchange. This summer program gives high school students an opportunity to live with a host family in Costa Rica and experience the real community and culture. Students will learn Spanish and go on excursions and participate in local activities.

Camp Cooper. Camp Cooper is an overnight camp based in Scotland for kids 7-17 from around the world. Camp sessions range from one week to five weeks, and they offer a variety of activities, including dance, journalism, circus skills, mountain biking, film-making, sports, and more. Additionally, they offer English language sessions for those who need them.

Travel for Teens. Instead of an overnight camp based in one place, Travel for Teens allows kids 13-18 to travel the world, holding trips in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. These trips range from 6 to 23 days. The variety of trips is large – some include volunteering at an animal rescue in Costa Rica, scuba-diving in Fiji, and photography in Venice.

Lingua Service Spanish Summer Camps. While Teen Spanish only offers programs for teens and families, Lingua Service Worldwide offers a variety of summer Spanish camps throughout Spain for children ranging in age from 5 to 17. They offer 12 different camps, each held at a different Spanish school throughout the country. Camps vary individually in what they offer; some provide home stay opportunities and free time while others have on-site accommodations and 24/7 supervision. There’s likely to be a perfect fit for any child interested in learning more about the Spanish culture and language.


Global Link China. Global Link China offers a unique cultural immersion trip for children aged 8 to 18. During the 3 week camp, children receive 45 hours of Chinese language lessons as well as basic written letters and are immersed in the Chinese culture with pre-planned activities and tours of many spots in Beijing and Shanghai.

Sports Camp Australia. Sports Camp Australia offers summer camps in over 14 different sports, including tennis, golf, and swimming. There are camps available for those as young as 6 and international campers are welcome. Overnight programs typically include 30+ hours of sport practice along with all meals and housing.

Village Camps Summer Riding Program. Village Camp offers a high-end equestrian camp in York, England. The camp is held at the esteemed Follifoot Riding Centre and is available to riders of all levels, with at least an hour being spent in the saddle each morning for a lesson. Afternoons are available for down-time and games with the horses.


Regardless of where you send your child, an international overnight camp is something they are unlikely to forget. The experience will bring them more confidence, valuable life skills, and fond memories. If you do not think your child is quite ready to travel internationally yet, check out these sleep away camps in your area as another alternative to international overnight camps.

Adventure/Outdoors Biology Camps Environmental Featured Posts Geology Hiking Marine Science Nature Programs Science Sleep away camps

Is Sleepaway Camp Right for My Kid?

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

kids goofing off and having fun at overnight camp

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.”

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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.

child exploring a creek on a hike

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.

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Do a Bit of Detective Work

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.”

kayaking counselor

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.

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10 Media Choices for Kids Going to Sleepaway Camp

These books, movies, and TV shows offer a glimpse into the magical world of overnight camps — and can help ease kids’ minds before packing their bags.

By the Kids’ Media Experts at SmartFeedchild sitting at a campfire, happily

Overnight camp can be an exciting adventure; however, going for the first time can cause some jitters for parents and kids alike. Soothe the nerves of your camper by sharing these interesting camp experiences — some completely silly, some true to life. In the media choices below, we explore nontraditional camps like spy camp and roller derby camp, as well as the more common sleepaway camp in the woods. Share them with your soon-to-be campers and see their excitement grow!

Books for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

rollergirlRoller Girl
Ages 8+
This terrific graphic novel tells the story of a young teen learning to work hard and become a good teammate at roller derby camp one summer. Her ideas of friendship are tested outside of camp, but she comes through strong and inspired to do her best.


spy-camp-bookSpy Camp
Ages 8+
This sequel to Spy School reports on spy summer camp. A thrilling adventure awaits the main character as he heads to camp for high-stakes survival training camp, but encounters much more. Please note that while there is violence in this book, it is cartoon violence.


lumberjanesLumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
Ages 10+
Supernatural creatures run the show in the wacky summer camp portrayed in this comic book series. Five girlfriends band together and have a great time dealing with strange critters and a tough camp counselor. Ultimately, they empower each other to have a summer full of adventure.


blessBless the Beasts & Children
Ages 13+
This classic novel tells the difficult but poignant story of boys sent away to camp because of challenging home lives. Set in the West, it shares how the boys unite and defy authority to do what is right. Beautifully written, this story will be best for enthusiastic teen readers.

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Movies for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

parent_trapThe Parent Trap (1961)
Ages 5+
Whether you prefer the 1961 original or the remake, the story is funny and engaging. Twins are separated by their parent’s divorce and raised as singletons. They rediscover each other at summer camp, scheme to reunite their warring parents, and chaos ensues. Quaint and old-fashioned, the actors in the original will charm you.

girls_rockGirls Rock!
Ages 7+
Girl power is the message in this documentary set at the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon. Several girls from differing backgrounds are featured as they learn to play an instrument and build confidence through their performances. These girls share their feelings and their creativity. It’s an empowering movie, at times infuriating and sad, but with a powerhouse of a message.

moonrise_kingdomMoonrise Kingdom
Ages 13+
This movie shows a stylized world like no other. It’s a quirky movie with laughter, sadness, and hilarity. The pair of runaway tweens are decent and devoted. Not your usual camp experience, but entertaining and lovely.


Ages 15+
Great love for the theater supersedes any differences that this group of campers discovers about each other. Every two weeks, campers put on a Broadway show. Personalities are strong but, always, the show must go on! Be aware that there is strong language and situations in this PG-13 rated movie.

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TV Shows for Kids Going to Overnight Camp

Ages 5+
A spin-off from the popular Disney series Jessie, this fictitious camp experience is full of pranks, silliness, and friends.


camp_lakebottomCamp Lakebottom
Ages 7+
Completely imaginary, this camp is run by monsters, with very few rules and regulations for the campers. Bathroom humor is popular and frequent. Obviously, this is not what overnight camp will be like, but it’s funny to imagine.

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10 Truly Unique Sleepaway Camps for Kids

Check out these far-flung camps that offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences for kids. Volcanos, roller coasters, chefs, circus performers, zombies and more!

By ActivityHero Staff

Science Camps of America- volcano

How far are you willing to go to find the perfect camp for your children to explore? Let’s take a trip across the globe and “visit” 10 camps that parents absolutely must know about. Of course, camps that offer extraordinary things tend to come with extraordinary price tags. But, as the saying goes, you (or, to be more precise, your kids) only live once!

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1. Science Camps of America

When you read the camp description, you may be asking your teenager if you can go with them to explore volcanoes and learn about oceanography. This camp is on the Big Island of Hawaii, where Land & Sea campers will visit Kilauea, the world’s most active (and easily studied) volcano. There is also an Air & Space version where campers get to visit some famous observatories.

thrillcoaster.jpg2. ThrillCoaster Tours

Does your child have a need for speed? Believe it or not, ThrillCoaster Tours offers roller coasters all day, every day. Your teenager will travel the country on a first-class motor coach/van, hitting up theme parks on a daily basis. The counselor-to-kid ratio is 1 to 6, and the staff is as enthusiastic as the campers will be about testing the nation’s best coasters. Kids (ages 12 to 16) are grouped according to their tolerance for vertical spins, 120-mph whirls and upside-down action. They’ll stay in Marriott, Embassy Suites, and Hilton hotels (one teen per bed) to rest up for their daily dose of action. There are several sessions, and they’re a little costly, but let’s be honest: What’s it worth to have your little speed demon consider you the coolest parent on the planet?

3. Plantation Farm Camp

Does your child prefer the peacefulness of nature? Plantation Farm Camp, on California’s beautiful Sonoma Coast, offers children the chance to temporarily swap their increasingly wired worlds for front-row seats on a working farm. Campers spend full days doing farm chores, swimming, tending campfires and more. It’s a lovely way for your child to take a break from technology and get in touch with nature. (Note: There’s a generous sibling discount.)

russia5.jpg4. Equestrian Teen Tour of Russia: St. Petersburg and Moscow

Sometimes “one of a kind” is a slight exaggeration. This is not one of those times. After all, how many programs put their campers up in Joseph Stalin’s former mansion? What horse-loving teen will ever forget a Equestrian Teen Tour of Russia: St. Petersburg and Moscow? Kids who experience this remarkable program stay at hotels with first-class equestrian centers and enjoy intimate (and English-speaking) horseback tours of Moscow, includes the Kremlin, museums, Red Square, the ballet, opera and some of Russia’s best restaurants. In the middle of the trip, your child will fly to St. Petersburg and stay in the gorgeous Astoria Hotel. The price tag of $13,500 in 2017 includes luxurious accommodations, gourmet food and flights to and from NYC.

ImageSampleLg_Tall_0018_Layer 8.jpg5. Camp Winnarainbow

 Did you think we’d forget to include a circus performing arts camp? If so, you were wrong! Camp Winnarainbow in Berkeley, Calif., offers your child classes in circus arts, drama, multi-cultural dance and martial arts, play production, trapeze & aerials, tightrope, juggling, unicycling, stilt-walking, gymnastics, magic, music, clowning, art, and environmental awareness! The camp stresses an inclusive atmosphere that’s low on competition and high on support. One-week sessions are $925 and two-week sessions are $1,845 and include meals, lodging, and (of course) a final show for parents at the end.

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DSC_0508_8136_Final.jpg6. Teton Valley Ranch Camp

For an authentic ranch experience with incredible scenery, look no further than Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Jackson, Wyo. Campers begin their mornings choosing from a list of adventures that changes daily, and they’ll wind down in the evening with a low-key activities and festive campfires. This is a real outdoor camp, including a full equestrian experience, and campers will need to bring a bunch of items, including rain layers, sleeping bags for different terrains, and roping gloves. Separate sessions are offered for boys and girls. Both month-long sessions run $6,600 (for 2017) and include food and lodging.

kids on a giant tree in big sur7. Camp Chrysalis

For 35 years, this camp has offered kids the opportunity to explore gorgeous natural settings like Mendocino, Big Sur, and the Sierras. There are options for younger kids (8 – 15) and older teens (15 – 18), and 2017 session prices start at $1,207.

zombie_camp_2.jpg8. Zombie Summer Camp

From the sublime to the … well, we aren’t prepared to call zombies ridiculous because, after all, you never know. The counselors at Zombie Summer Camp dress as (what else?) zombies, and the children get Nerf blasters to fend them off. (Nerf blasters are provided, but your child can bring his or her own.) Beyond battling zombies, activities include protecting the land, creating and executing team-based plans, foraging for supplies, problem solving, and learning life skills and basic first aid. The counselor to camper ratio is a terrific 1 to 5, and all have two-way radios to keep the plot going, zombies at bay, and campers safe. Zombie Summer Camp is offered by The Story School at Waltham, Mass. and starts at 1,570 for a one-week overnight stay (if you register by March 31st). There are also multi-week sessions, scholarships and other camp themes, such as Wizards & Warriors and Blackwatch Summer Camp.

SpaceCamp.png9. Space Camp

Located in Huntsville, Ala., Space Camp is known throughout the world as the premier destination for would-be astronauts to learn about and experience outer space. Kids from the age of 9 to adult will experience a gravity chair, build a rocket, plan a mission to Mars, learn the history of space exploration, and launch their rocket at the end. Teens aged 15 to 18 can even earn one hour of freshman-level general science credit from the nearby University of Alabama-Huntsville and. The five-night summer program is $999 in the summer of 2017, and scholarships are available.

homeimage4.jpg10. Camp Jam

Does your child appreciate Led Zeppelin? If not, shame on you, and rectify this oversight immediately by sending them to Camp Jam. Aspiring rockers start by learning how to tune their instruments and create beats and, throughout the week, they will enjoy performances and advice from local indie bands, create their own music video, perform at nightly open mics and, at week’s end, join their fellow campers to put on a show to remember. There are 10 locations throughout the U.S. to choose from. Check their website for details on locations and fees.

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Guest Posts Sleep away camps

Is Summer Camp Really Like the Movies?

Sending your children to sleep away camp is an amazing way to ensure their summer is one of personal growth, enduring friendships and exciting new experiences. But this decision can be understandably scary for parents whose only camp knowledge comes from the movies.

Unfortunately, camp novices often have hazy visions of camp life as riddled with inattentive counselors, massive food fights, and “panty raids”, conjured up by painfully inaccurate pop culture phenomena – Wet Hot American Summer, anyone?

Photo by Flickr user Camp Starlight
Photo by Flickr user Camp Starlight

During the many summers when I spent eight weeks at a traditional all-girls sleep away camp, my “camp friends” and I often commiserated about the struggle to explain our love of camp to our “home friends”. Our girlfriends back at school just didn’t understand why we wanted to spend entire summers living in wooden cabins with no electricity, not interacting with any boys, and wearing – *gasp* – uniforms.  We all wrote on our camp yearbooks: “From the outside looking in you could never understand it; from the inside looking out you could never explain it.”

This problem isn’t limited to over-dramatic preteen girls; adults who didn’t attend sleep away camp may still see the experience as a bit of a mystery. So, as someone who considers herself a top expert on both real camp life and summer camp films, I’m here to answer your question once and for all: is sleep away camp really like the movies?


No, sleep away camp is not really like the movies.

There are no hidden stashes of junk food or secret late night kitchen raids. There are definitely no food fights a la Camp Rock or It Takes Two. Harmful pranks or bullying like in the beginning of The Parent Trap would not be tolerated, and if anything like that ever happened, an “isolation cabin” would not be the solution.

Photo by Flickr user pineappleupsidedown
Photo by Flickr user pineappleupsidedown

To continue on a Parent Trap vein, girls never cut each other’s hair, nor pierce their own ears, nor discover they are long lost twins (even if we may have pretended once or twice). Unlike in Meatballs or Wet Hot American Summer, the male and female counselors don’t spend their whole summers – or a single minute – kissing all over camp. In fact, counselors never have inappropriate relationships in any way – though I promise you, as 13 year old girls, we wished they did so we could gossip about it.

Unlike the movies, campers don’t get left behind on overnight trips, left hanging upside down from the rock wall, or left operating a motorboat alone. And no, there was never, ever, a “panty raid”.  (What does that even mean?!)

But on second thought…


Yes, sleep away camp is really like the movies.

The identical cabins along the bunk line are all wooden, there’s no electricity, and The Parent Trap-esque green and white uniforms are a staple. Yes, the lake is usually pretty murky, and very cold, and the swim test is truly everyone’s least favorite activity (but braving the lake is worth it so you can learn to waterski for the first time). Yes, the campers sing silly songs and chants all day long, the campfire nights are the best, and s’mores are practically their own food group. And yes, there are plenty of counselors just like Bill Murray in Meatballs – counselors who befriend introverted kids and help them transform into more outgoing, happier children. Those counselors make sure you know that “it just doesn’t matter” if you win or lose any camp game, because you’ve succeeded just by trying your hardest.

Photo by Flickr user herbynow
Photo by Flickr user herbynow

Most importantly, it is the friendships from camp that are really like the movies. As evidenced by the tear-filled end-of-camp departures from the campers in The Parent Trap, the C.I.T.’s in Meatballs, and the counselors in Wet Hot American Summer, camp friends are true friends. Saying goodbye at the end of each amazing summer is sad, but camp friends know that the bonds of shared summers will endure long after the last campfire’s glow has faded away.

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Author: Emily S. is a former camper, C.I.T., and counselor. She spent 8 incredible summers at an all-girls sleep away camp in Harrison, ME. She also is a blogger for direct4tv. She works with Adrian Rawlings, Senior Editor of

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Preparing Kids for Summer Camp: Why Communication is Key

Prepare Kids for Summer Camp
Image by Flickr user foreversouls

Summer camp is a great experience for kids. The memories they make at camp will be treasured for a lifetime.

One question that we hear from parents often is, “How do I prepare my child for summer camp?”

Day camps, and especially overnight camps, can be a tough transition for some kids.

We’ve put together some helpful tips on preparing kids for summer camp to ensure that they will have an unforgettable experience.

Let them know what to expect

  • Review the camp website or brochure with your child, showing them pictures and discussing the activities that they will be doing.
  • Let them know what the camp day schedule is like.   Many camps have an example of their daily schedule on their websites.
  • Discuss what there will be in terms of snacks and meals. Are meals from home or provided at camp?
  • Tell them how long will they stay.  Will they be picked up after a half-day, even if other campers stay all day, or will they stay until late afternoon?   Who will pick them up?
  • Especially for younger children, many camp directors encourage visiting the camp before it begins.  Some camps have specific orientation days, and most will allow visits.  Meeting the camp staff beforehand can be very helpful for both the child and the parents!  Try to attend the parent information session if there is one.

Build it up positively

  • A child is more likely to have fun if that’s their expectation. Mike Dobson of Urban Adventure Camps describes it like this:

Help kids get excited.  Children feed off of what parents tell them.  If a parent sends them off in awe about what a great experience they are going to have on that day or that week, the child arrives at camp with a great attitude that is immediately contagious throughout the group.  The same goes the opposite way, if a parent is hesitant when they are leaving them or says things like, “I am going to miss you so much” or “I don’t know what I will do without you”, the children take them literally and it can really stress them and put a damper on their entire experience.

  • Avoiding a long separation process during drop-off can help with this as well.

Talk to them about their experience

  • Each night ask your child what they liked at camp, and what the plans are for the next day.
  • If they are not having a good time, let the camp director know.  In general, camp directors are some of the most kid-friendly people you can find, and they really want their campers to have fun.

Prepare for homesickness

  • Most sleep-away camps are well-prepared to handle homesickness, since it’s not at all unexpected.  Read what the camp has to say on their website about how they handle it and how you can help ahead of time.  Talk to the camp director if you are particularly concerned.

Summer camp is fantastic experience for the kids.   A little communication with both your child and the camp can assure that everyone starts having fun right away.

Preparing Kids for Summer Camp: Why Communication is Key

Camps Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Sleep away camps

Academic Camp: A Summer “Must” for Curious Kids

Summer academic camps can unite kids with like-minded friends, prevent summer “brain drain,” and help them explore hobbies, interests, and future careers.

By Sarah Antrim


Looking for ideas for your kids’ summer camp lineup? Don’t feel bad about looking up academic camps and experiences that center around common school-year subjects! Kids actually love to learn new things, especially in the more relaxed setting often found at summer academic camps. Choosing one or two such programs for your child can offer plenty of benefits — some of which might surprise you! For instance, camps held at colleges might offer college or continuing education credits. They also help kids get familiar with the campus, which might ease their transition from high school to university or help them choose a school to apply to. Other camps might give them an edge in their future science, math, or other courses during the upcoming school year. Or them could help them test whether a current interest in a subject like art or cooking might be a phase … or a career path. Here are some popular types of academic camps to help you narrow down your search for the perfect picks for the upcoming summer.

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College-Based Summer Camps

College Camps Summer Courses
Photo by Flickr user PNCA YOUTH PROGRAM

Teenagers and pre-teens will be thrilled to tell their friends that they spent part of their summer at college! Many universities offer summer courses for high school students, whether they’re run by the university itself or in conjunction with another organization. Some colleges even offer sleepaway camps where kids get to spend the night in the college dorms and eat in the dining halls. Kids will be excited about testing the waters and getting the mini-college-experience … and parents will have peace of mind knowing that their kids are safe in university housing.

The icing on the cake? Many times the summer courses count for college credit or “continuing education credits,” which will look great on your child’s resume when applying to schools in the future.

Learn more about college camps and find some in your area here!

Nature and Science Camps

Nature Camps Summer Course
Photo by Flickr user IntlWolfCenter

Have you got a science fan on your hands? If you live near a nature preserve or national forest, chances are there’s a nature camp nearby. Traditionally, most nature camps are guided by counselors who are well-trained in natural science. Your “nature nut” will learn about plants, animals, and all that our planet has to offer.

Find the best nature camp in your area!

Music and Band Camps

Music Camp Summer Course
Photo by Flickr user alankin

Even kids who love music might have a tough time finding the discipline to practice during the lazy, hazy days of summer. Music is supposed to be fun! What makes it more fun? Summer music camps that offer kids a chance to enjoy friendship, the outdoors, and their love of music. Best of all, kids who attend music camp will be surrounded by peers who share their love of song. They might even build relationships that will last a lifetime.

Find the perfect music camp in your neighborhood.

Computer and Technology Camps

Tech Camp Summer Course
Photo by Flickr user samsungtomorrow

These days, kids and technology go together like bread and butter. Unfortunately, many kids don’t get to delve into the processes and tech that creates what they see on their computer screen. All kids can benefit from getting a sneak peek at coding, even if it’s not their first love, so consider basic technology courses, robotics camps, and other tech fun. For a true techie, look into camps where they can learn a programming language, try digital art and animation, design video games, and explore other computer-based subjects.

Find specialized computer and technology camps near you here!

Culinary Camps

Art Camp Summer Course
Photo by Flickr user NC San Diego Cooking Classes

Picture this: Come home from a busy day of work, and dinner’s waiting for you. Who’s wearing the apron? Why, your child — surprise! Depending upon your child’s age, that’s actually a possiblity. Did you know that cooking camps were one of the most popular camps in recent summers? Kids who learn how to cook are likely to eat healthier and be more willing to try new foods. You’ll also feel good about knowing that they’ll be more self-sufficient as they get older and are on their own. Who knows? They might decide they love all that goes with being a chef and want to wear that white hat for the rest of their life!

Find culinary camps right in your neighborhood!

Still not sure which camp might tickle your kids’ fancy? Not to worry, we have hundreds of new camps listed every day at ActivityHero!

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