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Kids / Lifestyle

Choosing The Right Summer Camp For Your Child

February 12, 2017

Summer camps are much more than sitting around the campfire eating s’mores. They are a chance to provide your children with lifelong friends, memories and new skills. But with thousands of summer camps and programs to sort through how do you figure out which is the best fit for your child? How do you find a camp for a son who is interested in watersports or a daughter that loves to study french?  Enter camp referral services. These little known companies are staffed with experts who can help you pick the right summer camp for your child. JOYST researched these services to figure out which ones will help you get your kids into the camp of their dreams while giving you back some much needed time now – and while your kids are out of the house during those long hot months of summer.

What Is A Referral Service?
Camp referral services specialize in helping parents select summer programs for their children.  You will start with a phone call to talk through what your children’s interests are, your budget, where you would like to be located and what your desired dates are.  Based on that information they will send you a list of several camps or programs that meet your criteria and they will then work with you over several iterations to further refine until you have a selected a camp that you and your child are happy with.  Advisors will pass on your name and contact information to all the camps they recommend.  Camp referral services are free to the user. The camp pays the service a fee once a user books through them.

How To Choose A Referral Service
In finding a referral service it’s important to ensure that whoever you are working with has the experience, knowledge and insights to be able to ensure you find the best fit for your child.  Make sure that they know all of the camps they are representing and that they have recently visited them during the summer months to see how the kids experience it and have had conversations with the camp directors.  Ensure that  they keep up with changes and trends.  And most importantly make sure that you feel comfortable working with them as a partner to map out your child’s summer.  

Optimal Timing
It’s always good to start your research the previous fall or winter.  The more traditional eight  week camps often fill up in the fall with returning campers and their siblings. Many camps also offer incentive discounts for those that sign-up in the fall.  But don’t fret if you have not started your search yet. The winter months are the busiest time for referral services and camp sign-ups.   

What Not To Do
Try not to pick a camp just because you like it. Each child has their own unique interests and needs, and these can change each year as they move through different stages. A lot of parents can look at a camp and view it through their own lens – feeling that they will have a second experience of going to camp, when their child’s interests are what is important. So you may have been to the best tennis camp growing up and have loved it but your child might do much better at an arts or soccer camp instead.

Are There Other Options Besides The Referral Companies?
Another way to help you choose your child’s summer experience is to hire an educational consultant who focuses on summer and enrichment programs.  As children reach college age, many parents are looking to understand how their child’s summer experience will fit into the broader picture of future college admissions. At this stage a college consultant who has researched summer opportunities may provide another alternative.  These consultants usually work either for a flat fee or for an hourly rate ranging anywhere from $250 or more an hour depending on the specialist.

Have further questions about these camp referral services and want advice from moms who have used them?

Contact us here to set up an appointment to talk to us over the phone or via text.

Here are four camp referral services that JOYST recommends:

1. Camp Experts & Teen Summers

In business since 1987 this service run by Jack Driben and Joanne Paltrowitz has forty-three well trained experts representing over a thousand camps for children age three to twenty two. They provide advice on day camps, sleepaway camps, pre-college for college credits and non-credits, test prep, teen travel, community service, internships, gap year  and a broad range of other programs for ages three to twenty-two.

What users have told us:

Joanne at Camp Experts interviewed me extensively about my daughters – not just what they like to do but also about their personalities – as well as learning what we wanted for an experience for the girls. She also made sure that the girls were empowered to choose their own camp. I was able to vet the camps first but the girls ultimately made their own choices.  Joanne built different recommendations for each girl and was careful not to give the same for both. Both girls ended up so happy with their summer at camp that when I needed a second activity for the summer, I immediately turned to Joanne for additional suggestions.” – Rosa Maria Caballero.

2. Camp Specialists

Camp Specialists is lead by Arlene Streisand and has been in business for over twenty years.  They have a database of three hundred plus day and sleepaway camps and teen programs, with most of the camps primarily in the New York, Pennsylvania, New England area and a few in other Middle Atlantic states.  Their team of twenty helps families with kids aged four to sixteen.

What users have told us:

“I had a giveaway water bottle with the name ‘Camp Specialists’ on it and one May day seven years ago, I dug it out and called them. I decided I needed to find a camp for my older daughter for that coming summer!  It was ambitious because camps book up a year in advance.  The owner, Arlene Streisand was terrific!  She sent me brochures from a number of camps and we went on tours that summer. It seemed it was too late for sleep-away camp that summer. After contemplating our options we decided that we wanted to go in another direction – from a softer/gentler camp to a healthy camp. Arlene knew right away what we should do and our daughter actually went to camp that summer for a few weeks! She has spent 7 summers there so far.” – Randi Guttenberg

3. The Summer Lady

Husband and wife team Ann and Dick Travis founded the business over twenty five years ago and have been fully focused on the camp business since then.  They work with kids aged eight to eighteen and have over five hundred camps in their database.

What users have told us:

“I first learned about referral services when we started looking for a sleep away program for our twelve year old son.  I was overwhelmed with the choices and wasn’t sure how to find a program my son would be happy at.  A friend introduced me to Ann Travis, ‘The Summer Lady’ who started by asking me all about my son – his interests, his expectations for the summer and his personality.  He wanted lots of “cool activities that he could try” and I was looking for a two week program on specific dates that wouldn’t be too far away.  Ann came up with a short list of camps that met our criteria and I reviewed them with my son and we chose one.  It was a perfect first introduction to camp.  Our son had a great experience which was exactly what we were looking for. ” – Bettina Cisneros

4. Tips on Trips and Camps

Founded in 1971, this service run by Eve Eifler and based in Baltimore is the second oldest in the United States and represents over six hundred programs worldwide for children ages seven to twenty two.  Their fifteen  camp advisors provide free advice to families on everything from traditional summer camps to academic enrichment, language experiences, specialty camps, service programs, internships and more.   Barb Levison is their New York advisor.

What users have told us:

“Tips on Trips  was fabulous. I described what I was looking for, and they helped me clarify what I was looking for, and sent me a list of five camps that all hit the spot. They helped me evaluate them, and ultimately make the perfect choice. I have passed their name along to several friends.” – Jeff Bloch 


Bettina Cisneros

Bettina spent her career building businesses at startups (CNET) and more established companies (Yahoo! and Time Inc.). With her two kids now away at school, she is excited to be building JOYST, a platform she wished she had as a working mom.