It’s February and summer is just around the corner. Um, maybe not. I don’t have to remind you that it’s been pretty nippy on the East End lately.
But here at Dan’s, we are always looking to the future—a.k.a. The Summer. And if you have kids, then chances are you’re sitting at home right now, trying to figure out where to go for summer camp.
I know exactly how you feel. I have three kids of my own and understand how difficult (and expensive) the process can be. So when my editors mentioned Dan’s Camp Guide, I got fired up and immediately started searching for digital tools—apps and websites—that can help find that perfect summer spot.
A Slow Start
My first step was a simple web search combining the terms “summer camp,” “app” and “guide.” Bad idea. Most of the results focused on a jam band rock festival somewhere in Illinois that happens to be called Summer Camp. Not exactly what I was looking for—but hey, if you dig bands like Primus and the guys from Phish, then definitely check it out.
I decided to take my search to the App Store, and while I didn’t strike gold, I did find a few promising free apps.
The best of the bunch is Our Kids Camp Locator. Catchy name, and no mistaking what it does. I love simple apps and this one takes the cake. Upon opening, you have three search options: GPS, manual address or camp type. Once you retrieve your search results, you just click to access the website, directions, contact info and photos.
There are limitations, of course. For starters, thousands of camps simply aren’t listed in the service. I entered the zip code 11968, and the app produced a list of camps in Ontario. That’s Canada.
Even worse: there are no reviews, comments or advice from independent sources; you’re basically at the mercy of whatever information each camp chooses to share. Not exactly an objective way to decide which people will take care of your precious 10-year-old.
The Maine Point
I dug around and found a free app called Maine Summer Camps. At first glance, this one seems really limited—you’re brought to an interactive map that has lots of dropped pins from participating camps. Guess what happens when you click on one of those pins? Nothing! You just get a camp logo—no information, not even a link to a website. But the “main”—no pun intended—tab at the bottom of the screen has an option to “find a summer camp” where you can narrow down your options based on camp length and type. You can also request a print copy of a Maine camp directory.
Of course, none of the camps are located anywhere close to the East End. And who actually wants to leave here during the summer?
Chat It Up
Okay, using apps seems to be limited. So I went back to the web and rolled up my digital sleeves. I found a couple of different websites that have decent information and independent reviews.
Choicecamps.com is a good place to start. It has a simple interface with tabs breaking down camps by general interest such as “sports camps,” “arts camps,” etc. It also provides links and review to teen travel services, which have basically replaced summer camp for teenagers. Most importantly, the site also has regional breakdowns for camps
Campratingz.com is great if you want to focus on parent reviews and gossip. It feels more like Trip Advisor, less like a database of information, making it an ideal secondary site to visit, once you’ve zoned in on some good potential camps. One drawback is the user interface; it’s a little disorganized and illogical. But all the information is there.
Finally, once you’ve made a decision about camp, there are lots of sites that provide tips on what to bring. Of course, keep in mind that just because you pack lots of sunscreen, bug spray, and toothpaste, it doesn’t necessarily mean your kid will use it!