Sleep-away camps can provide a breath of fresh air for parents and kids. The right camp program, whether focused on performing arts, sports or across-the-board outdoor pursuits, allows campers to sharpen various life skills, make long-term friendships and, perhaps, compel them to unplug from their favorite electronic devices. Parents, meanwhile, get a nice break for couples time and/or home improvement projects.
As many families also look to get in a cohesive family vacation before the next school year starts, once the overnight camp is selected, it may be a wise move logistically to piggyback a family vacation onto the week before drop-off or immediately following the end-of-camp pick-up day. Jeff Manheimer, co-founder and CEO, Tripping.com (aka “the KAYAK” of vacation rentals), also recommends looking into vacation rentals near the sleep-away camp of choice for even greater convenience.
“Camps are often located near lakes and/or mountains, and according to our research for 2018, lake beaches are rising in popularity while mountain destinations also offer the best bargains of the summer,” said Manheimer.
“For the same price of a cramped hotel room, vacation rentals offer separate bedrooms and more living space. A full kitchen, meanwhile, means you can eat all meals at home, saving hundreds of dollars off restaurant tabs and providing an opportunity to experience seasonal farmers’ markets and produce from the area. Vacation rentals also mean separate rooms for different members of the family, and greater privacy. They are also often full of toys, games and books, as well as pools, hot tubs, volleyball courts, putting greens, and other activities.”
Manheimer also recommends comparison-shopping with different rentals on his or other sites to suss out the best location, size, cost and amenities based on the needs of individual family members. Other things to investigate include the property’s cleanliness (“Photos and past reviews are very telling indicators.”) as well as communications between the party that owns or manages the rentals and its clients.
“Is the owner responsive and courteous when you communicate with them,” says Manheimer. “What about the booking website? Do they have a customer service team? This is important when booking, but critical during your arrival so it’s clear where and how you will you pick up the key or door lock pass code. Vacation rentals rarely have a 24-hour front desk, unlike many hotels, so clear communication is important, especially if an emergency comes up.”
In addition to those deal makers and breakers, he also suggests families booking a home-away from home are clear on policies regarding privacy (i.e. is the owner on premise?), payment arrangements and cancellation policies (for example, if the child ends up going to another camp).
There are also some camps, such as YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colo., Snow Mountain Ranch (in Granby, Colo.) and Club Getaway in Kent, Conn., providing rustic accommodations and activities for kids, parents, grandparents and even four-legged family members. These are a great option for families with kids who may do better in a “day camp” environment, with day rates starting at $30 per day.
Other U.S. regions that multitask as destinations for summer camp locations and family vacations include:
- The Mississippi Gulf Coast
- The Berkshire Mountains in New England
- Rural Maine (Spruce Point Inn Resort & Spa, is a local favorite “stopover.”)
- North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Hendersonville, (to see why The Hunger Games crew chose Dupont State Recreational Forest as a filming site) and the Crystal Coast.
- The mountains of Virginia, home to a number of summer camps including Camp Mont Shenandoah, Camp Alkulana and Camp River’s Bend (Fort Lewis Lodge & Farm) hosts families before and after drop offs and during parents’ weekends.)
The Raystown Lake Region of Pennsylvania, home of Kids Cave Kamp at Lincoln Caverns.