Going away to camp for the first time can be a hard thing to pack for; it’s basically a super fun holiday but it lasts a lot longer and you probably don’t know exactly where you are going to be staying, let alone what you are going to be doing daily. I found it hard packing my first summer as I wasn’t entirely sure what I would need or rather, what I wouldn’t need but luckily there was a returning counsellor who had friended me on Facebook and I was able to quiz him on what was worth taking.
So here’s a list of twenty-five things I think are great to take with you stateside. A list that’ll hopefully help you prepare for your summer!
1. Your passport and all the other important paperwork
This is the only thing on this list that you actually have to bring with you and without these things, you are not going to get very far. Important paperwork includes you DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility, a printed copy of your medical insurance certificate, a printout of your flight details, a copy of the Camp America Participants Handbook – which is a good summary of all the important to know stuff, a copy of your ‘arrival in America instructions’ and finally at least $150 in cash.
2. Camp America T-shirt
This t-shirt holds a lot more power than you think. Not only does it look great but when you turn up to the airport and see somebody else wearing it, you know that you can go right up to them and say hello. In my first summer, I met one person when I first arrived at the airport and by the time we got to the plane there was easily thirty of us all wearing the same t-shirt about to go to the same camp.
3. Your Phone
In 2017 your phone is everything, it’s your camera, your music and your connection to everyone, you probably wouldn’t get to the end of your street without it. Despite this, there will be days at camp where you don’t even think to check your phone and it’s possible to go weeks without opening the Facebook app minutes after you last closed it. Don’t leave it behind though as you shall definitely want to call home at some point, plan your end of summer travels and post awesome Instagram photos.
4. Beach Shoes
Flip flops, sandals, Crocs? Every camp has a lake or a pool, or even both. Chances are you will end up spending plenty of time in the water and then walking around camp afterwards so whatever style you choose, make sure they are comfortable!
5. A Torch (Flashlight)
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it gets dark at camp, a lot of camps are located in forest areas and not all the areas of a camp will have lights. So, to make sure you don’t go wondering off into the woods at night, take a torch. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy just bear in mind the smaller and brighter the more useful it’ll be. Amazon has dozens of styles which can be fairly cheap.
6. A Waterproof Watch
For the most part, camp life runs on a pretty structured schedule and your need to get to lunch on time can make a big difference to how much time you get to spend eating. Not only are you going to need to know the time, but the campers are going to be asking what the time is (a lot), so you make sure you get a comfortable watch that you can wear both during swim sessions and on the sports fields.
7. Sun Cream (Sun Block)
It’s summer, it’s going to be hot and you don’t want to be the one that gets burnt in the first few days and then has to suffer whilst stuck inside for a while. You are going to be responsible for making sure your campers don’t get burnt so ensure you are prepared for being their role model. Don’t forget you have all summer to perfect your tan!
8. US plug adaptor
America has funny looking plugs that are different to ours here in the U.K. and that means you’re going to want an adaptor so you can plug in your electrical things. Amazon sells packs of two for about £5.
In my three previous summers, I’ve learnt one thing about sunglasses at camp; buy cheap ones. Over my three summers, I’ve lost or broken 14 pairs of sunglasses. Camp life moves pretty quickly; the fast pace and fun of camp activities can easily lead you to forget where you have put things and then there’s the off-duty antics which can lead to anything happening. This summer, my goal is to hold on to one pair of sun glasses and not sit on them.
10. Labelled Clothes
Speaking of losing things, writing your name in your favourite hoodie can make finding your stuff a whole load easier. My camp is fairly small compared to most with a total population of fewer than 200 people, but plenty of clothing can and does go missing every summer. In addition, with a population of special needs children, it can be easy for a camper to not realise what is theirs. My advice is to write your name or initials in everything… but not so that it can be read whilst you are wearing it!
11. Swimwear (One piece AND two piece)
You are going to end up swimming at some point this summer, you don’t want to forget your favourite swimwear. Dependent on what work you’re going to be doing you may need more swimwear than others. I personally take at least three pairs of shorts because there’s nothing worse than putting on a wet swimsuit. Whilst selecting your swimwear remember that you are going to be working with children and need to keep things modest. Gentlemen that means no speedos, and ladies no bikinis. However, for your times off-duty you can wear whatever you like, and most days off can involve as much water activities as camp days so bring your speedos and bikinis or whatever you feel comfortable with for your own time.
Unfortunately, it rains in America and whilst it doesn’t rain as much as in the U.K., when it does rain, it pours. I have seen some incredible storms during my summers and during these rainy days’ camp life still has to go on and you are still going to need to walk to the dining hall for breakfast. A small lightweight sports coat or poncho will do.
13. USB battery charger
Travelling around can leave your phone battery flat and a USB battery will give your phone a power boost and keep your Instagram-ing alive. It could even lead you to make some friends if a person you’re with is out of battery juice. I have two and use them all the time whilst travelling, they are especially useful if your phone battery is a little unreliable. You can get good portable ones on Amazon for around £10.
14. Warm clothes
Daytime at camp can be beautifully sunny and warm, but the mornings and evenings can sometimes cool down so I always take a pair of warm comfortable trackies and at least one hoody or sweater.
15. Fancy dress
A lot of dressing up happens at camp, my camp runs a themed dance every week with themes like country western, Hawaiian luau, superhero and movie characters. Don’t pack massive costumes but consider anything small and simple you may have and then you will always be able to buy or make additions to your outfits. Fancy dress is also a great way to boost spirits around camp on some of the less exciting days so consider anything fun but make sure it’s all child appropriate and friendly!
Flags are a great way to decorate cabins and show off where you are from or even what teams you support. Last summer I hung a large half British half American flag outside my cabin and everyone seemed to love it. There are loads of flag designs or even bunting on Amazon if you don’t have anything. (Flags also make great capes for superhero themed fancy dress!)
17. Toothbrush (or two)
I forgot my toothbrush last year and whilst I was able to get a new one relatively quickly, it’s not something you want to be without. Maybe bring a spare just in case something happens to your first.
18. British chocolate!
You may have heard that there’s nothing quite like British chocolate and unlike American sweets, their chocolate sucks. Bring a stash of your favourite chocolate to keep you going on some of the colder nights on duty or use it to cheer up a friend halfway through the summer. I never leave for camp without a box of Cadburys Heroes!
19. Comfortable shoes
Camp can be tough on the feet, there is a lot of walking and running around and a pair of super comfortable trainers will make your summers a whole lot more enjoyable. I always bring two pairs in case one gets wet. Don’t worry about bringing serious hiking boots unless you’re told too, as the chances are you’ll be fine with trainers which also take less space in your bags!
20. Extra socks
Speaking of feet, you can never have enough socks at camp; it can be hot and sweaty and occasionally wet, plus you are bound to lose at least one in the laundry so bring lots, you won’t regret it.
Weirdly Americans aren’t big fans of the spray style deodorant we use here in the UK; they only seem to sell roll-on deodorant, so if like me you prefer spray deodorant then make sure you bring a bottle or two!
22. Bugs spray
There can be lots of mosquitos around camps with lakes, especially at the start of the summer so protect yourself from the chances of bug bites and bring a good quality insect repellent.
23. Bluetooth speakers
Music is a wonderful thing at camp, it’s great for waking children up in the mornings, soothing them to sleep at night and keeping them entertained throughout the day. Portable speakers are ideal at camp and you can buy all sorts of styles from Amazon. Also, check out the Camp America Spotify playlist for an awesome summer soundtrack!
24. Hobbies materials
Things like friendship bracelet making or card games can be great ways to pass down time at camp and campers will love watching, helping or even learning how to do new things. I always bring a colouring book to camp and then photocopy the pages so my campers can enjoy colouring some relaxing patterns.
25. Prom Suit!
Finally, the summer ends with a prom and smart attire is the dress code (although there is no real dress code). Bring a dazzling summer dress or your sharpest shirt, for you shall want to be looking your very best. But don’t go overboard dress shopping, it’s probably going to be very hot and a little less formal than your imagining. Something from River Island will do.
See more of my blog posts here!