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4-1-1 for Happy Campers

Today, there are camps to meet every interest, price range and schedule. Knowing your options, as well as your child’s personality, will help you identify programs from which your child will benefit most.

Types of camps 

Residential camps - Most offer a variety of programs for children starting at age six or seven. Resident camp options include co-ed, single sex and specialty camps that focus on a particular program. Resident camps offer varying overnight accommodations such as lodges, cabins, tents and teepees. Some residential camps are also called ‘outdoor education centres.’

Day camps - Similar to resident camps - except campers are somewhat younger - starting at four years, and everyone returns home at the end of the day. An incredible range of programs available close to home.

Family camps - Many camps are now offering the opportunity for families to experience camp together. Usually there are separate programs for kids and adults for part of the day, and whole family time at other times in the day.

Specialty camps and programs - Campers can embark on adventures as varied as learning how to ride a horse, water ski or dance. If your child has a special interest, there likely is a camp that specializes in it.

Special-needs campers - A physical, medical or mental disability is not a roadblock for a camp experience. Each year, thousands of special-needs children benefit from summer camp. Some camps specialize in serving certain groups while other camps integrate special-needs campers into the total camp population.

Session lengths vary

Children may stay at camp for a few days, a few weeks or the entire summer. At camp, there’s a session length for every child, budget and schedule.


Camp remains a very affordable option for most everyone. A large range of price options are available, depending upon the choice of camp, the facilities offered and the camper’s needs. The majority of camps in Alberta offer financial assistance based on need. Contact the individual camp for full information.

Start with your child

When beginning the camp-selection process, consider your child’s interests. It’s important to know a child’s personality and identify what camp programs will benefit your child most. With a variety of programs and activities, summer camp offers fun and meaningful adventures to match a child’s interests and maturity level.

Be certain to include your child in the decision-making process. Together with your child, explore the camp options and examine the materials the camps provide. In addition, many camps have websites that include photos, maps or virtual tours of the camp facility, sample daily schedules and menus, and information about the directors and key staff. As children become better acquainted with the camp experience and more involved in the decision-making process, they will have less anxiety about going away to camp. Think about what you want in a camp before you enrol your child.

Packing tips for residential camps

Bedding - Select easily laundered bedding that is appropriate for the climate at your camp. Articles to include are sleeping bags, sheets and pillowcases, blankets and pillows.

Towels and toiletries - Towels should not be the family’s best, since they’ll be used for swimming and other waterfront activities as well as for showers. A small bag or plastic bucket will help campers carry and keep track of essentials such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, comb and brush. At some camps, campers walk to separate facilities to shower.

Clothes and laundry - The frequency of laundry day at camp affects how much clothing to pack. Generally, sessions under two weeks in length do not include laundry services. Always send along an extra pillowcase or laundry bag for dirty clothing.

Most camps supply lists of recommended clothing and some include required uniforms.

In general, camp gear should be comfortable and durable clothing suitable for active days at camp:





Long pants for leg protection on hikes and horseback rides

Comfortable, durable shoes and sneakers

A hat

A raincoat or poncho


Flashlight with extra batteries

Inexpensive camera

Canteen or water bottle

Insect repellent, sunscreen and lip balm

Pre-addressed, pre-stamped postcards or envelopes

Medication. Send medication in original bottles, along with dosage instructions, to the camp nurse or healthcare facility. Your medical release form should list all medications

Don’t pack:

MP3 players, iPhones or other smartphones or any other communication devices

Laptops, iPads and other portable computers

CD players, stereos

Video games or TV

Food (candy, snacks)

Hunting knives and other dangerous items/potential weapons

Fireworks of any kind

Expensive clothing or jewellery

Clearly mark your child’s name on everything sent to camp with permanent marker or nametapes. Use common sense and think about the activities that will take place and the climate at camp. Don’t hesitate to call the camp if you have questions.

Other things to consider

Insurance - The camp may provide camper health and accident insurance. Sometimes parents are asked to provide information on family health and accident coverage. It’s always a good idea to ask if there are additional charges for insurance.

Spending money - Many camps have a canteen service and may recommend your child have a certain amount of spending money for that purpose. Because children might lose track of the money, camps sometimes collect it from each child at the beginning of camp and put it in an account. As items are purchased, the costs are deducted from the account. At the end of the session, money remaining in the account is returned to the camper.

Additional costs - Camp T-shirts, group photos or special outings may be available. Usually camps include these fees on your bill.

Transportation - Bus transportation, especially at day camps, may be included in the camp fee. At some camps, it is an added expense. Resident camps may offer bus service from centralized locations or provide pick-up service at airports or train stations.

Health information - All ACA-accredited camps require a health history prior to camp.

Questions to consider in selecting a day camp

Day camps offer experiences that are unique from resident camps.

Because of this, there are specific points to consider when choosing a day camp:

Does the Alberta Camping Association accredit the camp?

What training do the staff receive on safety, supervision, counselling, problem-solving and other issues unique to working with young children?

Is the price all-inclusive or are there extra charges for:


food service

group pictures


horseback riding


swimming lessons

extended care

field trips

If transportation is offered, where is the closest pick-up location?

Does the camp have an ‘express bus’ which transports children quickly?

If before- and after-camp extended care is offered, who is with the children and what activities take place?

Is lunch served or do campers bring their own sack lunch? Are snacks and drinks provided?

If the camp offers swimming, are there swimming lessons or is it simply recreational swimming?

Are campers in a group with a counsellor all day? Or are campers free to go from one activity to another with appropriate supervision? In this case, whom would you talk to if you had a question or concern about your child?

Is an Open House offered before camp starts where you can meet your child’s counsellor and van/bus driver?

Are parents allowed to drop by for visits, or is there a special parent visitation day?

Questions to consider in selecting a residential camp

Is the camp accredited with the Alberta Camping Association? Accredited camps meet hundreds of industry best-practice standards for safe and quality camp experiences.

What locale do I want to consider (i.e. mountains, lakefront, distance from home)?

Do I want a traditional camp that gives my child a wide variety of experiences, or do I want to select a specialty camp that focuses on a particular activity or set of skills?

What size enrolment will make my child feel comfortable?

How rustic do I want the camp to be?

How structured do I want the program to be? Does my child like to have lots of choice in the activity schedule?

Is my child ready to sleep away from home for an extended stay? This will help you to select either a resident or day camp setting.

What session length will appeal to my child and to our family plans for the summer? (One week? Three weeks?)

How can I stay in touch with my child during camp? Does the camp allow mail, phone calls or texts or emails? Does the camp have parent visitation days?

How will the camp meet my child’s special dietary or physical needs? There are camps in Alberta that offer camps for kids with severe allergies.

What is my budget for camp tuition? Remember, many camps offer financial aid.

Once you have answered these questions, visit to find a camp just right for your child. The Alberta Camping Association is dedicated to promoting, organizing and advancing camps in Alberta. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit


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