It’s summertime! For many of us, we will soon be sending our kiddos off to sleep-away camp. The weeks leading up to camp can be daunting: there is so much to think about, plan, do, get and pack to prepare for your little (or big!) ones’ time away from home. To make the process more manageable and actually more fun, I’ve prepared a 5-step checklist for you to follow. Let’s dive in!

Step One: Create a Packing List

packing checklist
Create a packing list (one month prior) – or better yet: consult the list your camp sends you. Most camps have already figured out what your child needs, based on camp activities and how long they’ll be there. For example, how many t-shirts, swim suits or towels will they need? Is any specific sports gear required? Do they need bug spray? Now is also the time to purchase (or borrow from friends or siblings) anything that is missing. I strongly encourage you to follow the camp’s list because the last thing you want to do is pack too much. If you don’t have a packing list, the American Camp Association provides a good general guide of what to pack for any kind of camp experience. Adjust accordingly to your camp’s activities: horseback riding or surfing? Tech camp or sports camp? Sleeping under the stars in the great outdoors or in posh air-conditioned cabins? You get the idea!

Step Two: Gather Everything

Gather Everything!
Pull all clothes, gear, towels, bedding and toiletries together so you can check items off your list and make sure you have gathered everything that your child will need. This step is also the perfect time to ask yourself: are you sending too much? In the past, I’ve followed my son’s camp packing list to a “T” and over half of it has come back neatly folded and unworn/unused. So instead of sending 2 blankets, I’ll send one. Instead of sending 4 towels and 2 washcloths (washcloths? At camp? Do boys even take showers at camp?!), I’ll send only towels. (Full disclaimer: my son’s camp launders the campers’ items half way through the camp term, so that helps, too.)

Step Three: Label Everything

Labeling your kids clothes
All hail the camper’s mom’s (and dad’s) mantra: if you want your camper’s items to come back home with them, label it! By gathering everything together in Step 2, this step becomes much easier. You want to do all the labeling at once – especially if you’re ironing labels on clothes, towels and bedding. Don’t forget to put labels on shoes, water bottles, books, hats, flashlights and even pillows. Have your camper help you! Just remember: if you don’t label it, it’s likely not going to come back home to you.

There are a variety of ways to label your kid’s items: iron-on labels, stick-on labels or with an indelible ink pen like a Sharpie. My favorite custom iron-on labels are from Tinyme, while you can find some pretty hefty-duty stick-on labels (if ironing is not your thing) at LabelDaddy.

Step 4: Time to Pack

packing cubes
Now that you have all your items gathered and everything has been labeled, it’s time to pack your child’s trunk or duffel bag. But wait! Not so fast…there is a strategic interim step here: use packing cubes to sort your child’s clothes into categories. It makes it easy for your kid to find his t-shirts, pull out those shorts or grab that swimsuit. My son’s counselors raved about his packing cubes and said they were getting them for next summer. My husband, a touring musician, also swears by packing cubes. They are a game-changer when it comes to traveling and keeping everything organized and in its lane.

I’ve also seen some photos online of parents using ziplock bags for their kids’ clothing – it’s an easy, cheap solution that delivers the same results.

Step 5: Load it Up!

packing the suitcase
Now this is the exciting step, because you’re getting really close to going to camp! Involve your kids in this process so they know where everything is in their truck or duffel. There are so many creative ways to do this part, especially now that you’ve got the rest of the organization down. Have fun and start counting down the days . . . to more fun ahead!


If you are a pro at sending your kids to camp, I’d love to hear any tips you have on how to get them ready, packed up and out the door. Please share in the comments below!

6 replies
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Oh, how amazing that would be, Hazel! We’d have organized trunks and totally unfettered fun. Let’s go!

  1. Ellen Delap
    Ellen Delap says:

    What s great list of ways to be prepared! I appreciate knowing the level of preparation required for the fun!.

    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Thanks, Ellen! Breaking it all down into a few simple steps gets you (and your kids) leaps and bounds toward fun. Makes me want to go to camp all over again!

    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Thanks, Tex! Packing cubes are amazing because you can dedicate a certain category to each cube, and then you’ll have a better idea about how much you need to pack to get your son ready for camp. Have fun!


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