How to Choose a Camp

With more than 12,000 camps in the United States, choosing onemay seem overwhelming. However, selecting the right program oftenboils down to knowing your options and asking the right questions.

The American Camping Association (ACA) offers the followingguidelines when choosing a camp to help ensure that it is anexperience your child will cherish for a lifetime.

Ask the Right Questions

Below are some important questions to ask the camp director, aswell as the answers you want to hear.

What is the educational and career background of the campdirector?

The camp director should possess a bachelor’s degree, havecompleted in-service training within the past three years and haveat least 16 weeks of camp administrative experience.

What is the camper return rate?

While every camp is clearly not right for every person, a largenumber of returning campers usually indicates a high level ofsatisfaction with the camp’s programming and operation.

How old are the counselors? What percentage are returncounselors from past years? What qualities, certification andexperience does the director look for in staff?

Among the counseling/program staff, 80 percent or more should be18 years or older. Any counselor under 18 must be at least twoyears older than the camper they are supervising. Some staffturnover is natural, but most camps have between 40 and 60 percentof staff return each year. If the rate is lower, find out why.

What is the ratio of counselors to campers?

The ratio should be based on the ages of the campers and theirspecial needs. Severely mentally disabled campers require a ratioof one staff to one camper. Non-disabled resident campers requireone staff for every six campers ages 6 to 8; one staff for everyeight campers ages 9 to 14; and one staff for every 10 campersages 15 to 18. Day campers require one staff for every eightcampers ages 6 to 8; one staff for every 10 campers ages 9 to 14;and one staff for every 12 campers ages 15 to 18.

What is the camp’s program philosophy?

Some promote competition and healthy rivalry among camp teams,while others encourage cooperative learning. Knowing your child’spersonality and learning style will help you select a camp withthe appropriate philosophy.

What are the safety and medical accommodations at the camp?If your child has special needs, are programs, accommodations andfacilities adequate?

What is the transportation system?

Find out what type of vehicles are used (typically it’s vans orbuses) and how often they are inspected by qualified mechanics.

Ask the director to describe the camp’s driver training andongoing safety awareness programs.

Ask if it will be possible to visit the camp before enrolling yourchild. Ask for names of camper families to contact for theirimpressions of the camp.

Is the camp accredited by the American Camping Association?

ACA-accreditation verifies that a camp has complied with up to 300standards for health, safety and program quality which arerecognized by courts of law and government regulators. At leastonce every three years, an outside team of trained campprofessionals observe the camp in session to verify compliance. Ifa camp you are considering is not ACA-accredited, it is importantto find out why.

Camp Is For Everyone

These days, there are camps to meet every interest, price rangeand schedule. Knowing your options, as well as your child’spersonality, will help you identify programs that your child willbenefit most from.

Resident Camp

Most offer a variety of programs for ages from about seven on up.The majority are coed, but camps for girls or boys only and campsspecializing in a particular program are also available. Residentcamps offer varying overnight accommodations such as cabins, tentsand tepees.

Day Camp

Similar to resident camps except campers are somewhat younger(starting at about four years-old) and everyone returns home atthe end of the day.

Specialty Camps and Programs

Campers can embark adventures as varied as learning how to ride ahorse to how to race a car. If your child has an interest, chancesare there is a camp that specializes in it.

Special Needs Campers

A physical, medical or mental disability is not a roadblock for acamp experience. Each year more than a million special needschildren benefits from summer camp. Some camps specialize inserving certain groups while other camps integrate special-needscampers into the total camp population.

Session Lengths Vary

Children may stay at camp for a few days, a few weeks or theentire summer. At camp, there’s a session length for every child,budget and schedule.


Camp remains a very affordable option for most everyone. Fees canrange from $15 to $120 per day, depending upon the choice of camp,the facilities offered and the camper’s needs. Many camps andother organizations offer financial assistance based on need.

Want to know where to find a camp fair near you?

Too busy to head to a camp fair? Check out our virtual camp fair instead!

For more information on the advantages of early registrationand the benefits of the camp experience, please visit the ACA website at or call 1-800-428-CAMP.

Founded in 1910, the American Camping Association is a nationalcommunity of camp professionals and is dedicated to enriching thelives of children and adults through the camp experience. ACA isthe only organization that accredits all types of camps based upon300 standards for health and safety.

© American Camping Association


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