Visiting Day is quickly approaching and both parents and children are eagerly anticipating spending time together. Here are some tips for making sure everyone has an enjoyable day:
Make your reservations early. Camps in the same area tend to have similar visiting days and hotels/inns and restaurants get booked early. Some parents make their reservations a full year in advance. For those who did not get their first or second choice hotel this year, visit the hotel this summer in person and put yourself on the wait list now.
Become familiar with all of the details and rules. Be well aware of arrival and departure times, parking, and scheduling for the day. Are siblings, grandparents and pets allowed? Do some activities require early sign-up? Do you need to bring lunch into camp? If you are bringing food into camp, what is allowed and not allowed? Be especially mindful of food allergies. Also, try to avoid foods that require cool temperatures. Many, many chocolate bars have completely melted on Visiting Day.
With regard to food, please remember that less is more. Food kept in the bunks attracts insects and animals, and excess food is typically donated to shelters or food banks within 24 – 48 hours. Also, while allowing your child to indulge in a couple of favorite treats will be very much appreciated, showering them with a ridiculous amount of processed and sugary food is probably not the best thing to do either. They are not deprived at camp! They get ice cream, desserts, and all kinds of treats throughout the summer (along with healthier cuisine, of course).
Keep gifts to a minimum. Camp itself is one of the greatest gifts of childhood. Be proud that you gave your child this opportunity. Do not feel guilty and overcompensate by buying them excess gifts. Kids ask for and are happy with the simplest things. Many camps have a no bunk gift policy to decrease pressure on parents and competition amongst campers. Respect this policy.
Spend quality time with your kids, and take your cues from them. This is their day to show you what they want to share. Some campers may choose to spend quiet time with you. Others may want to introduce you to everyone at camp. Ask to see one or more activities of their choice, not every activity that you want to see. Try to focus on activities that Maine camps are known for and kids cannot do easily at home: water skiing, sailing, canoeing; nature hikes, ropes courses; sitting under pine trees or alongside the lakefront’s beauty.
If you are allowed to take your child out of camp, try to spend some time at camp first to get a sense of their community and camp family. And then, plan a special outing to a place they do not get to see or take them for a Maine meal (there are so many amazing restaurants in seaside villages and Portland); this way you will start to build your own camp time memories in a place that you will always share with your child.
If your child has had some recent issues, or you want to review anything, be sure to contact the camp in advance, to set up a time to speak with the director or any other senior staff. Hundreds of parents, siblings and relatives are at camp for a few hours. Knowing ahead of time you need to speak to them will enable them to make that a priority.
Manage your expectations. While Visiting Day is a special, magical day, even the happiest of campers can become overwhelmed and experience homesickness. Don’t show your sadness in leaving him/her behind for the rest of the summer. Remind them of all the fun they are having, and how boring and hot it is at home. Include a favorite counselor in the good-bye if necessary. Once Visiting Day is over, our camps are very adept at keeping the kids busy, and any sadness is usually very short-lived.
Bring an extra suitcase with you to bring home finished art projects and/or clothes that your kids do not need (or never wore yet).
Finally, consider turning Visiting Day into a mini-vacation. One of the best things about sending your children to camp in Maine is that you can easily turn these trips into vacations. In Maine, you can investigate quaint seaside towns like Bar Harbor and Camden; hike and explore Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park; enjoy championship golf; discover Freeport– home to L.L. Bean and fabulous outlet shops; try deep sea and freshwater fishing; enjoy Windjammer cruises and lighthouse tours; try your hand at Atlantic Ocean sea kayaking, and meander through Portland’s quaint cobblestone streets, shops and galleries, to list just a few attractions.
Whether you are temporary empty nesters looking for a romantic getaway, or you are heading up to Maine with children and grandparents in tow, you can turn your trip into a memorable one that may very well become an annual tradition.
No matter how you spend Visiting Day, use these tips to make sure that you and your children enjoy the special time together, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures and videos to preserve the memories!
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.