Last May, I got an email that turned me into a ball of tears: after struggling for months to piece together a summer camp schedule for my two kids, ages 7 and 9, the camp we were counting on for multiple weeks cancelled nearly half of my kids' sessions! My head spun in disbelief. What are working parents to do?
After re-arranging camp options, hiring sitters and using vacation time to fill gaps, I saw an opportunity to create a business that would help solve this dilemma -- and the camp-search problem in general -- for working parents like me. If you find yourself in a summer scheduling bind, check out CampEasy or consider these other helpful tips:
1. Check out summer programs at local gyms.
There are local gyms that offer extensive camp programs in the summertime -- anything from general interest to specific sports-related programs. These are often open to families who are not necessarily members, and they can be affordable (some of them subsidize the programs as part of their marketing efforts, to recruit new families to join the gym). In our area, for instance, one health club offers weekly sessions for pre-schoolers to high schoolers. Oftentimes these gyms don't do much to market the programs themselves, so it takes some hunting and pecking.
2. Post on neighborhood lists.
Those of us who rely on neighborhood lists know they can be gold mines for info and referrals. Put your situation out there on the list and who knows -- you may learn that a neighborhood college student's job plans fell through and he or she is looking for work. You may even learn that other families are in a similar boat and you can pull your own "camp" together for a week or two. I'm always amazed that people with very specific-sounding requests often get very specific responses and needs are met in creative ways.
3. When all else fails, think big.
Already checked out all the YMCA camps nearby, the city and county options and the local private school camp options? This last idea assumes you have kids who are old enough for sleepaway camp, and that you have the budget for it. There are super cool and adventurous camps that will capture your kids' imaginations for a week or two and might become the highlight of their summers. On CampEasy we call them Destination Camps as a special category: I'm thinking of Space Camp in Alabama, SeaWorld camps in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego, SeaTurtle Camp in Wilmington, North Carolina. There are camps too that take kids scuba diving (SeaTrek BVI), windsurfing (Columbia Gorge Teen Camps) and mountain climbing and whitewater rafting (Calleva, in Maryland). Many of these travel camps have space right up until go time. Who knows, what you thought was a crisis could end up being the best summer opportunity your child's had!
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