Before you start searching for a camp, check the National Camp Association (www.summercamp.org). It suggests that you make this a family decision.
Is your child ready for a residential camp? Or should you start with a day camp? Decide what you and your child hope to gain from the experience. Discuss any special interests of which you may not be aware.
The National Camp Association site offers recommendations for camps. You'll be asked to list the type or types of camps you like. However, there are no recommendations for day camps.
Summer Camps (www.summercamps.com) lets you browse both day and overnight camps. It breaks them down by adventure, tour and travel, sports, art, academic, technology, special needs, health and fitness, and military. Each category has a list of subcategories to further refine a search.
For example, say your son loves baseball and wants to hone his skills. Click on Baseball and Softball Camps listed under Sports Summer Camps. Summer Camps lists facilities throughout the world (but mostly the United States and Canada), along with descriptions. It also includes pertinent information such as a link to the campâ€™s Web site, type of camp (day or overnight), whether itâ€™s boys, girls or coed, and the cost.
But the list of camps, especially for popular activities, could be too extensive. Use the search function to narrow down the location, price range, type (day or overnight), religious affiliation (if any) and gender.
Other Web sites that offer this type of information include CampPage Summer Camps Guide (www.camppage.com), Camp Search (www.campsearch.com), and Petersonâ€™s Summer Camps and Opportunities (www.petersons.com/summerop).
Checking a summer camp's credentials
Undoubtedly sending your child halfway across the country (or the world) can be a frightening experience for both of you. Elegant Web sites and glowing testimonials from former participants and their parents just arenâ€™t enough to soothe frayed nerves.
Ask the camp if itâ€™s licensed. Some states require licensing. To be licensed, camps must meet certain health and sanitation standards, number of campers per counselor, building codes and other criteria. Licensing isnâ€™t the best indicator of how well a camp is managed. Besides, requirements vary from state to state.
The American Camp Association (www.acacamps.org) offers accreditation that exceeds licensing requirements. It collaborates with organizations like the American Red Cross and American Academy of Pediatrics. Standards include programming, camp staff, emergency management plans and health care. Its Web site has a searchable list of accredited camps.
Choosing the right camp is the biggest step. The Internet can help you once your child is there, too. Forget packing your children's bags with stamps and stationery. When did they last write letters?
Most camps (even the non-tech ones) offer e-mail. Some have gone further by including Web cams for virtual visits. That should help ease lingering concerns on your part.