This blog, written by WA director Tom Holland, was originally posted on CharlotteSmartyPants.com
So, you have decided to take the leap. As a parent, you have readied yourself for this moment as you have watched your child flourish at a variety of summer activities. But this year is different. Your child came to you with excitement in their eyes and requested to spend part of their summer attending a different kind of summer camp program: an adventure travel program.
These programs (like Wilderness Adventures, based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming) specialize in small groups and carefully mapped out adventure trips that will take your camper to a variety of different exciting locations (think Yosemite, Yellowstone, Alaska or Costa Rica!)
You are thrilled that your adventure seeker is ready to spread their wings and develop their leadership in new ways. Now, as spring break is in the rearview mirror and summer is on the horizon, you want to prepare them for the experience in the best possible way. So, what do you do? Here are some tips to get your child ready for their first travel adventure trip:
- With your child, get to know the program. Connect with the camp director and have your son or daughter know what to expect on the first day as they travel to their destination. Consider reading the itinerary, catalog, and description online again to get your camper fired up!
- Review the packing list and get the gear they need. Many programs sell or rent the necessary items, so look there first. But this process can take some time, so allocate the appropriate amount of time to get the gear your child needs.
- Get active with your child. Most of these programs require some level of physical activity and exertion (check with your program provider to see how much), so it is always a good idea to get active before the summer to be ready for the adventure ahead. And with that said…
- Help them to break in those boots! Many campers go out and buy brand new boots right before the summer season. This is great, but it is very important to break those kicks in! Make sure your child wears them prior to the summer to avoid discomfort (blisters!) during their program.
- Review important policies with them. It can be jarring to a child when they learn for the first time that the program is electronics-free, or that they cannot call home anytime they would like. Go over this with them, so they know what to expect.
- Engage them with books or literature about the area they are going to. This can really get a child excited for the adventure ahead. If you do not know the best book to recommend, call the program, as they will likely have great recommendations for you.
- Consider decreasing your child’s electronic use a week before the trip. Most adventure travel camps do not allow electronics, so ease your camper into the water before they have to go cold turkey!
- Set appropriate expectations. I have met many parents who love their camp experiences, but who are disappointed when their child does not love camp as much as they did. As parents, this is often our own doing. If we present stories of endlessly sunny days (they weren’t) where we ate oodles of ice cream (you didn’t) and where we made the best friends we ever had (you might have-but who needs that pressure?), we give our children unrealistic expectations for what their experience will be like. Tell them that they likely have moments where they feel homesick and they sometimes might not like the food, but these moments are a part of the experience and challenge along the way is part of the fun!
Finally, it is important for parents to ready themselves for time without your child. In our next blog, we look at how parents, themselves, can get ready for their child to attend a residential camp experience, and what they can do while they are away to support their adventure. Stay tuned…