It’s December, and as winter storms sweep across the nation, it’s time…to plan summertime activities!   Believe it or not, it is not too early to start planning what your kids will be doing in the summer of 2020. Camps start filling their spaces in January, and camp consultants are already planning events to introduce parents to a variety of summer opportunities for children. Tips on Trips and Camps, a consulting company that offers advice on summer camps and teen programs, hosts camp fairs beginning early next month in New York City, and also has fairs in Connecticut, Dallas and Los Angeles. Check their website for details.

Start thinking: what kind of activities will your kids be able to enjoy this summer? Will there be any opportunities to travel as a family? If there will be, it is best to plan these trips before focusing on what your children will be doing on their own. We at GCP are huge fans of family travel and highly recommend carving out some time in summer if at all possible to take a family trip. Don’t be afraid to start hitting the road early with the little ones!

On to camp planning. Threshold question: sleepaway? Depends on the age, interest level and maturity of your child. Check out previous GCP post “Getting Ready for Summer: Camps” and Parent Magazine’s “Happy Camper: Is Your Child Ready for Sleepaway Camp?”  for help with figuring out whether your child is ready.

If you and your child are interested in sleep away camps, be sure to take time to research and even visit several of them. You can meet camp representatives at local camp fairs (usually held in high schools), and camps would love to send you their brochures. Check your kid’s school bulletin boards and local family magazines to find out where fairs are being held in your neighborhood. Some of these camps are not very diverse, so you should ask camp reps about the diversity of their camp population.  Word of mouth also works with respect to finding good camps, so ask friends and parents at school if they have recommendations.

Many of these sleep away camps run for 8 weeks in the summer (!) but you can also find some that have two, three and four week sessions.  GCP advice? Try a shorter session at first and if that goes well, increase the weeks the following summer.  If your child has a passion for a particular sport or activity, look for a specialty camp.  Over the years my boys went to one and two week sessions of golf, lacrosse and basketball sleep away camp, usually with one or two buddies, and they had a great time.

There are also lots of day camp opportunities for you and your children to explore. Day camps often run for shorter lengths of time (1-2 week sessions versus  7-8 weeks of sleep away camp) so it is easier to fit them into a busier summer plan.  Make sure you ask your son or daughter what interests them before diving in to finding a day camp program.   Would they like to spend time exploring an already existing passion, or perhaps try something new? It is important to get them involved in and excited about the process of planning for their summer fun.

Summer day camp can also be an opportunity to improve academic skills, or take on new academic challenges.  Does your son or daughter want to learn to code?  Universities across the country host Id Tech camps for middle and high schoolers who want to code, learn to design games, produce videos, or learn a host of other tech skills.

Many of these summer camp programs can be pretty expensive, so be sure to check out the price tags before allowing your son or daughter to fall in love with the program.  Check out your local museums (especially science and technology museums) to see what summer programs they are offering as well–these are likely not to be so costly.

Whatever you and your family decide to do this summer, NOW is a good time to start planning for it. Come summer time, you all will be glad you did!