Preparing your child's bag for camp--whether it's a four-week overnight experience or a weeklong day camp--can be a daunting experience. A parent has to anticipate everything their child will need (luckily, most camps provide a packing list) and then get all of that stuff into a backpack, duffle bag or trunk. We're lightening the load with our best packing hacks.
Pick the Perfect Bag
Before you start packing, you'll need to identify which type of bag is best for your child's camp. Ask the camp directly, as some will recommend trunks while others prefer duffle bags. Backpacks are usually sufficient for day campers, but sports or music camps may require specific equipment bags.
Label, Label, Label
Make sure you label every item you pack--that includes each and every towel, pair of underwear, hat, shoe, swimsuit and bandana. Use sharpie on tags or iron-on labels inside clothing, and show your child where you're labeling everything. That way, they'll know where to look when trying to determine if an article of clothing is theirs.
Folding clothes is not the most efficient way to pack and won't help your child stay organized at camp. Packing cubes or Ziploc bags are great ways to keep all that stuff contained, and they compress down to save major space. Separate each clothing category into its own cube or each outfit into a Ziploc bag
Throw in Extra Ziplocs
Speaking of Ziploc bags, pack a few extras to be used for storing wet bathing suits or damp and muddy clothes. These bags create a barrier between the wet and dry clothes and will help keep the inside of your child's bag clean and dry.
Pack Some Freshness
Most summer camps are hot and sweaty places--that's why kids love them. But it takes only a matter of days for their camp bag to begin smelling like dirty socks. Stuff some dryer sheets into the inside pockets or mesh lining of their bag to keep their clothes smelling fresh just a little bit longer.
Know What Goes in and What Stays Out
Not everything your child will take to camp belongs in his or her pack. For example, don't put medication in your child's bag; give it directly to the camp nurse instead. This rule also goes for inhalers, EpiPens and may include bug spray and sunscreen. Check the camp rules for details.
Don't Bring the Best
There's a great chance your child will lose a lot of their stuff at camp; it's best to pack assuming that's the case. So don't send them off to camp in their best clothes and brand new shoes. Instead, pack those last-season basketball shorts with the slight rip and that old T-shirt that doesn't necessarily need to make it back home.
Leave Some Room
Every parent knows their child will not re-pack in the same careful and considered way parents packed them in the first place. So when you pack, make sure to leave room in their bag for their clothes to expand--because dirty, balled up items take up more room than neatly folded ones.
Think Small for Toiletries
Instead of packing your child a huge bottle of shampoo or conditioner, think about packing numerous bottles of hotel or sample size toiletries. Not only are these bottles less inclined to leak (and if they do, there's less mess to clean up), but if a bottle gets misplaced, your child can just move on to the next one. Plus, they take up less room.
Get Lunch Right
If your child is going to day camp, you'll probably need to pack a lunch. To avoid any hassle, put your child's meal in a labeled paper bag, and don't pack food that requires spoons or forks (or include plasticware if you do). As always, consider the allergies of other campers--peanut butter is often a no-go. Also pack a large, labeled water bottle to help your kid stay hydrated throughout the day.
Layer by Importance
If you child is attending camp during the peak of summer, you can pack that sweatshirt at the bottom of the bag. The items they'll use right away should go near the top for easy access. Smaller items, such as writing pens and trinkets from home, should go in the inner mesh pockets of the bag. Make sure you walk through the packing process with your child so they know where every item is located. It's amazing how even a small camp pack seems to swallow certain items just when you need them.
Have an Organization Chat
A simple run-through of folding techniques and an explanation of when and why to use plastic bags for dirty items will go a long way toward ensuring your child takes care of their belongings at camp. Not only is summer camp about friends, outdoors and fun, it's also about learning independence. Talking to your child about valuing their items is an important part of growing up and a great way for parents to teach their child a lesson in self-sufficiency.