As a family with two kids and two working parents, summer camps are a reality for our kids’ summers. When the kids were younger we could sign them up for the same summer camp every week all summer long, and they thought it was great!
But as they got older they didn’t want to spend all summer at one place. They wanted to try new places and activities. And that’s when organizing and scheduling started to get ugly. First, there was the planning. Which camps are held which weeks? Where are they held? Can we possibly get one kid to Camp X and the other to Camp Y on the same day? Then there was keeping track of what did or didn’t get registered. And how much did it cost?
I had to come up with some strategies to tame the summer camp chaos.
Summer Camp Planning Strategies
Here are some strategies I learned along the way to reduce the chaos of scheduling multiple summer camps.
Have one “base camp,” and scatter in other camps along the way.
The kids would spend roughly half of their weeks at the summer camp near our house, which was held at the gym our family belonged to. We would look ahead at the field trip options and make sure they were going to that camp on the weeks with the most appealing field trips. On weeks where they weren’t excited about the field trip offering (our daughter hates going to baseball games, for example), we would fill in with other camp opportunities. This strategy helps ensure some level of stability and reduces the amount of logistics for parents.
Our criteria for choosing an ideal “base camp” was: close to home, affordable, and obviously good activity and safety offerings.
Limit the number of spendy camp options you present your kids.
There were a few camps our kids really loved that were much more expensive than our “base camp.” But we felt the camps provided them with great opportunities to learn, be active, and/or do things they loved. For example, there was a great horse camp our daughter attended with a friend for several years in a row. Another camp she was obsessed with was one where they spent the week making candy through an awesome (but spendy, and not close to home) program at the local Science Museum. You know your family’s budget, so try if you can to make one or two camp splurges available, but make them only that – a splurge, not their whole summer.
Coordinate with friends.
This doesn’t necessarily reduce the complexity of your summer camp scheduling at first. However, it will reduce the whining about going to camps by the end of the summer. It might also allow carpooling for drop offs and pick ups, which in the end also helps reduce summer camp chaos.
Watch the weekly schedule.
If there is a week you have your kids going to different camps, ensure that you have a plan for making sure they can get dropped off and picked up without cutting into your work day or taking hours of your time in transit. When possible, we would ensure that one kid was at our “base camp” when the other was gallivanting across the city for a camp further from home.
Take the last week of the summer off.
Whenever I could, I would take the last week of summer off of work. That way kids had at least one week where they were unscheduled, and we could do fun field trips (or just hang out in the neighborhood).
My Summer Camp Planning Solution
I was able to manage all of the above quickly and easily once I created a spreadsheet for managing summer camp planning, registration, and tracking what was happening each week throughout the summer. I can’t even tell you how much time and frustration this tool saved me.
Every time I mentioned to friends, neighbors, or colleagues that I had created this summer camp spreadsheet, they instantly asked for a copy. That’s when I knew that 1) I wasn’t alone in the summer camp struggle, and 2) I had a tool that could really help families get their summer schedules under control.
My Summer Camp Options Spreadsheet can help you:
- Consolidate summer camp information (costs, website, weeks available) in one place
- See what camps are available on which weeks, factoring in family vacations and other activities
- Identify which camps work best on which weeks by easily comparing to your other childrens’ schedule
- Track whether you have registered for camps and how much they cost
- Easily see at a glance what each week of summer holds for your family
Want to see the Summer Camp Options spreadsheet in action? Click on the short video below for a quick overview of how it works.
As one user of my Summer Camp Options Spreadsheet said…
Do you need this perfect life hack to tame your summer chaos? Purchase of the Excel spreadsheet comes with a link to an in-depth 12-minute video with tips for how I’ve actually used the spreadsheet, along with customization ideas for you!
Start taming your summer camp chaos today!
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