Pick the right summer camp for your child

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A stay at summer camp could be one of your child’s favorite memories–if you pick the right one.

Each year more than 11 million children and adults attend camp in the United States, according to the American Camp Association (ACA). That includes more than 12,000 day and resident camps nationwide.

Your BBB recommends that you research the camps you are considering before you make your choice. It’s important to know your child’s personality to identify which camp program will benefit him or her most. Include your child in the decision-making process when looking at camps.

According to the ACA, there is no government oversight of camps which is why it’s so crucial to do your homework. Most complaints received by BBB about camps nationwide allege camp billing and refund issues. These include failure to respond to notices of cancellation, which resulted in unauthorized credit card charges. Other complaints include contract issues and claims that the camp advertised activities and field trips that their child never participated in.

BBB offers the following advice for parents searching for the right camp:

Check BBB.org. Find trustworthy camps by checking the company’s BBB Business Review. You will find important background information, such as how long the camp has been in business, advertising issues, ownership information and how it resolves complaints. You may also want to find out if the camp is certified by the ACA. The organization requires camps to meet up to 300 nationally-recognized standards.

Visit the camp in person. This will be your opportunity to check out living, eating, recreational facilities and meet staff members. Be sure to ask about safety procedures and how rules are enforced.

Assess the quality of staff. Find out the camp director’s background, the criteria used for hiring staff and whether certification in CPR and First Aid is required. It is also important to know the ratio of staff to campers. Parents sending children to specialty camps should inquire about the staff’s level of expertise in the specialized area.

Know the fees and payment policies. What is the total cost of tuition? Is your money refundable should the camp be canceled? Are there extra charges for any activities? Are meals and transportation included? Make sure all these details are included in your contract.

Ask about medical care. Find out if a nurse or doctor is on-site. Inquire about the procedures for transporting injured or sick children to nearby medical facilities and under what circumstances you will be notified of any problems.

Consider a backup plan.  In case the camp you choose gets canceled for unexpected reasons, be sure to have another camp or two in mind. It is ideal to also visit and research those backup camps in advance so that you can be well-informed in the event of a last-minute decision.