Category: Questions to Ask

Let Your Child Grow Beyond You

by Karen Meister


As you know by now, I am a complete and firm believer in the value of the right summer camp experience.  I believe as a parent, you provide strong roots at home that represent your character and desire for your children as they enter into society.  And by sending your child to the right camp, especially when they are away for the whole summer, you are giving them the wings to confidently practice what they have been taught at home.  You are saying to your child:

“I believe in you and that you will be successful on your own.  Go and make the world a better place.  Goodbye!”

And so, I share the following story from one of my clients who was hesitant but interested in venturing into camp beyond the tried and true, beyond where the neighbor goes.  They were interested, but fearful,  in finding a place where their son could soar;  letting him go to be all that he could be.  Although it will take a few minutes to read, please read this lovely story.

I share, with the family’s permission, the story of Christian, as she has told it.

When your kid is away from home and you get an unscheduled, unexpected call from camp, your heart starts to race a bit.  ”Hello?”

“Hi, this is the Camp Director. Don’t worry, Christian is fine. Nothing has happened. Are you with your husband?”

“No, I’m out picking up school uniforms, but I can conference him in.”

“Yes, I think you should do that.”

Conference call initiated and the Camp Director said:

“In 25-30 years, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m still getting emotional thinking about it. As you know, we are in the middle of Color War. Christian’s age group had a big softball game this afternoon. His team is behind in overall points, but if they got a win, the softball game would be a good place to close the gap. The whole camp was there to watch.

“There’s a little boy here from China. He’s not very athletic. And the other team’s coach put him first in the lineup. And he had two strikes. I was calling the game and gave permission for the coach to come in and help him swing the bat.

“So he gets a hit. And it goes straight to Christian, who is pitching. Christian’s a heck of a ball player. I don’t need to tell you this. Simple play for him to grab the ball and toss it to first. Easy out.

“But Christian saw this kid and made a play straight from the heart. He easily fielded the ball, turned, and threw it as hard as he could into the outfield, keeping the ball in play, so the little boy could round the bases for a home run before the ball could be thrown back to the plate.

“The whole camp saw it. He never once let the little boy know he did it on purpose. So tonight, I stood up in front of the whole camp and awarded Christian the ‘Hugeness Award’ while still keeping the secret, so as not to taint the other boy’s home run. Christian is an amazing kid with a huge heart.”

After I dried my tears, I thought THIS is why summer camp is so important. It has taught my uber-competitive kid that “winning” comes in many forms. I am so grateful that we can give him this opportunity and so so so proud of him!  And so happy that I worked with Karen in finding just the perfect camp for my son to really spread his wings.

And I cried too.  Because when a child is successful, AND the parent shares, it makes my job so worthwhile.  Thank you to all who have shared with me over the years!

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Top 10 Questions for Camp Director

by Karen Meister

The Camp Directors and Owners are flying around the country meeting and greeting potential campers and families this month.  They are very busy, and ready to present the picture of their camp to you and your children.  But you need to be armed with the right type of questions to make sure that you find the perfect camp for your child and family.

Here are the top 10 questions for you to ask at the meeting:

1. What is the camp’s philosophy and programming structure?

The flavor of a camp starts from the top down.  The philosophy of the director will be the direction of the staff.  What is the philosophy on competition, rules and boundaries, sportsmanship, in bunk relationships, participation when the child is interested or not interested in an activity, and methods of encouragement.  Understand the programming structure:  full choice, partial choice, activities with your bunk, activities with your division, single sex and coed activities, placement by age, placement by ability…..  Understand how your child will spend their days and make sure it fits their personality. Bottom line:  Make sure their philosophy matches your parenting style and your child’s personality and learning style as well.

2. How is staff hired, screened and trained?

First, find out the hierarchy of staff from the top down.  You are meeting the director.  Understand how many people are between your child and the director, the chain of command and communications between the chain.  Then, find out :

Who interviews the staff? What are the criteria for staff members? How are they screened? Are there background checks in place?  How many US vs out of country staff will there be?  Does the camp utilize best practices in these areas? What is the return rate of counselors? What are the ages of all the counselors in the cabin? Are staff trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communications, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision? Do they receive additional training from child development professionals? Knowing who will be working with your camper on a day-to-day basis will not only assure safety and happiness, but allow you to rest easy knowing that your child is in well-qualified hands.

3. What measures does the camp take to ensure the safety of the campers?

What is the makeup of the health center on the camp?  Who staffs it?  What type of doctor is in place?  On premise or off?  How far is the emergency room and major hospital?  Can a helicopter land if necessary?  In case something happens, from lice to broken limbs, what are the procedures to ensure quick and competent response. You should also inquire about the camp’s safety procedures, risk-management standards (buddy systems, cabin checks, curfews), and the guidelines set for campers (boundaries, water safety, etc.).

4. What type of settings and accommodations are available?

Bunk beds or singles?  Cubbies or trunks for storage?  Toilets and showers – in cabin or out of cabin?  How many per cabin?  Who cleans them?  What is the dining hall like? What food options are provided? How many campers will be sleeping in each cabin? Knowing what to expect before getting to camp will help your child adjust smoothly.

5. What is the camp’s return rate?

Asking this question directly will always lead to a high percentage rate.  But ask it a bit differently — “how much space is there for a new 13 year old camper?”  If there is lots of space, it may indicate that there is a burnout by age 13.  If it is still packed, a culture of retention is established.  Campers that return to a camp summer after summer are a reflection of the personnel, administration, overall ambiance, experience and sense of community the camp provides.

6. What type of child would succeed at this camp?  And what child does not belong at this camp?

You know your child the best, so you are in the best position to judge what type of camp would best suit him or her. Be sure to know what type of camp you are looking for in order to direct your question properly. Are you seeking a traditional and varied camp program, or a camp where campers hone a particular set of skills or talents? Does your child want a summer filled with sports and physical activity, or one filled with arts and creative activity? What is the competitive nature of the camp? Some camps promote competitiveness while others focus on cooperative learning. A description of a typical day at camp can be a good tool to help you decide. Be sure to then match your child’s personality to the appropriate camp’s program.

7. What is the camps staff-to-camper ratio?

This ratio indicates the overall level of supervision your camper will receive on a daily basis while at camp. It is important to also understand the ratio in the cabin during the day as well as at night.  When the campers go to bed, does a staff member stay in the cabin?  on the porch?  in the field?

8. Is the camp accredited?

The ACA (American Camping Association) examines the living accommodations, food service, emergency preparedness, program practices, health care, personnel, transportation, and administrative procedures of each camp that seeks accreditation. If the camp is not accredited, be sure to ask why.  From personal experiences, there are reasons that make sense not to be accredited by the ACA, but you want to understand why.

9. How are disciplinary actions handled/homesickness/bullying?

There are many behavioral problems that can arise during the summer.  Understanding the cause of the problem is crucial and know how the camp handles these issues must fit with your philosophy.  If penalties are involved for behavior problems, what are they? Who can administer these penalties?  What boundaries does the camp set for campers? Positive reinforcement and fair treatment are qualities parents should look for when choosing a summer camp.  If a child is homesick, what is the procedure?  Phone calls permitted?  How are you included in the team to help your child be successful?  If bullying occurs, what procedures are followed?

10. What does the Camp Director want the campers to take away with them at the end of their camping experience?

Look for the passion that starts from the Camp Directors toes and projects through their eyes and facial expression.  You want the passion to be passed to your child.  If you agree with their passion, and answer to this question, feel good.


Remember, before you have the interview with the Camp Director, it is important to work with your Camp Expert to narrow down the best options.  You should get to the stage of the interviews knowing that you will make an excellent decision no matter what.  Now you are done to philosophy and qualitative feel.  For help finding the right camps to interview, feel free to contact Karen Meister at Camp Experts & Teen Summers.


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.


Want to Tour Camps for 2018 Summers


by Karen Meister

To tour or not to tour?  That is the question.

Your friends in NY, NJ, PA and MA spend the summer before they send their kids to camp visiting a series of pre-selected camps.  They pack up the car with provisions for two days and take the kids to camps within 4 hours of driving.  Which camp will be their future summer home??  It is a natural course of  business.

But alas, most of my readers are from the South and/or South/Central America.  And touring summer camps a year before camp is to start is although possible, quite a large expense.  I tour the camps on your behalf and of course, try to get to know you very very well in order to recommend the camp that will be the perfect fit.

However, if you decide to make the financial investment into touring the year before, it is a terrific idea because you will use all six senses to make your ultimate decision:

1.  TOUCH:  You will touch the baseball fields, feel the cabins, shake some hands and feel hugs from welcoming staff.

2.  SEE:  Once you are prepared to send your child to camp, you will be able to visualize their settings.  You will see their bunks, the grounds, the counselors, the activities.  As good as videos are these days, there is nothing better than seeing the real thing.

3.  HEAR:  Going into the dining hall and hearing the roar of cheering during every meal time may or may not be great for your child.  But you will know for sure when you visit.

4. TASTE:  Of course, if there are any allergies or food concerns, you will see the dining hall in action and be able to taste test the food and the way it is served.

5.  SMELL:  The smell of the pine trees at camp is one I will never forget.  But at the same time, what will be the smell at the camp you select?  Is it clean or moldy?  Does it have that outdoorsy smell?  Or is it more open and have no memorable smell?

6.  And finally, your INTUITION will guide you:   You will know when you have found the right place.  You and your children will feel like you are home.

Keep in mind, touring camps should be limited to 2- 4 camps.  More than that will be confusing and overwhelming.  Before selecting camps to tour, you should always work with your Camp Expert to make sure you have identified the best possible options on paper.  And as I like to do, I try very hard to paint the picture of what goes on at camp.  I try, especially if you cannot visit, to engage all of your senses in helping you to make your summer home decisions for your family. If you would like to set up a tour this summer, for the summer of 2017, please contact me ASAP.

Camp tours are pre-scheduled and we must take care of business right away.  And of course, if touring is not an option, I will always be your travel guide with expert advice and we will bring the camp directors down to meet you in person.



Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305-931-5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Camp – With/Without A Friend

by Karen Meister

Whether for religious reasons or just purposeful soul searching, we all look forward to the “do-over”.  Apologize, forgive, forget and do better.  And the same goes for our children and hence, the annual escape for a child to their summer home.  Towards the end of June, a child embarks on a new beginning for seven weeks.    The transgressions and mishaps of the previous summer are wiped clean, the positive memories and warm feelings are retained, and the fabulous summer home awaits.

A new year!  A new summer!

So…  off to camp with a friend or without a friend?  I always vote for “go it alone” if at all possible.

When your child goes off to camp without a hometown friend, they may be uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes.  The unknown of their new summer home can be overwhelming.  And yet, with proper selection and preparation, those 20 minutes will be exciting rather than scary.  Your child will be free to:

  • select the type of camp that is just perfect without having to consider others’ needs
  • explore new activities and learn and fail successfully
  • enter the social laboratory of making friends without having someone looking over your shoulder
  • be responsible for themselves alone without the baggage of a friend from home
  • make new friends because they must
  • come home with stories of success and let the failures be part of learning without constant reminder or embarrassment
  • expand their worlds to friends outside of their hometown, and
  • look forward to returning to their special summer home the following summer.

Think about your child’s summer as an opportunity every year to start afresh.  In the words of Queen Elsa, your child can “Let It Go”  as well as start over every summer.

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Doing your homework

by Karen Meister

There is so much information on the internet that you really begin to question what is real and what is not so real.    For example, my son recently hired a moving company to move a small amount of furniture from Aventura to Ft. Lauderdale.  The company received all the necessary stars, on line, to indicate that they were a reputable moving company.  He SMARTLY put the deposit on a credit card.  He took a day off from work and had to make the move during a small window of time to accommodate the rules and regs of two condo associations.  Needless to say, they never showed up.  He did receive his deposit back, but he was definitely “taken” by the on line credentials.

How can you tell the difference between something that is real and something that is not so real?  How do you go go on Trip Advisor or Camp Ratingz and understand what is a real submission vs. something that was placed, purchased or manipulated?  You can’t tell. That is the bottom line.  The most reliable source of information must be, continues to be and will always be personal connections with something.

Travel agents, as a perfect example, offer an element of expertise and entre that cannot be achieved through on line research.  They have visited the sites, they have met with the personnel and they can direct you to the locations, hotels and planning that you could never do on your own.  Well, you can do it on your own, but you will spend a lot more time, and the risk is incredibly high.  And there is no fee for a travel agent… so why not use their cost free expertise?

Same with camp and teen programs.  Every single brochure, dvd and website is gorgeous.  Every single camp has happy kids, lovely directors and beautiful fields.  And trips and programs for teens are each and every one fantastic for their experience, safe, secure and reputable.  Right??  Well…. the stories we have heard are pretty chilling.  There are many community service programs that have left kids so much on their own that the chance for local kidnapping to drug involvement to pick pocketing is overwhelming.  It is so crucial to make sure that you research using a reputable service, again at no charge like a travel agent, to make sure you find safe, secure and consistent organizations.

So this week, starting on Wednesday, I will be doing your homework.  Please go to my Twitter Feed where I will be sharing a lot of insight on programs that will include excellent summer camps at all prices, lengths and locations AND  teen programming and opportunities.  Three days of presentations, in detail, by programs that I have used for many successful years.  I will let you know about opportunities and price savings; specialty programs and deadlines; new and updated information.  Your job will be to send me your contact information and specific requests.  Just click here and fill out the form to get into the loop.

Remember, tune in Wednesday, November 6 – Friday November 8.  I will be tweeting and hope you join in.


PS My son got all his money back from the movers and we found a reliable source to oversee the move without using the internet.  Unfortunately, he lost his day off from work…..


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Summer – Research Now

by Karen Meister

It’s only October and I am already getting calls of panic from parents who believe their opportunity for summer camp for 2014 has already past.  And guess what?  There are several full summer camps that are already filled for the summer of 2014.  And if full summer camping is the type of experience you want for your children, you really should be staring your research with an open mind as to where, if 2014 is the goal.  And yet, there are still so many camps and experiences available… but you have to be in the know.

So let’s check out reality.  There are about 2900 summer camps and over 7600 total programs around the world for summer time enjoyment (according to the American Camping Association and I will assume the numbers are actually greater).  Figure a minimum of 100 children per session and an average of 2 sessions per program.  So, there are approximately  2.1 million plus spots to be filled.  You will find something!!!

Granted, there are some programs that fill up in August and others that never fill up.  And making the match between your very specific desires and availability may or may not occur ever….  But alas, the odds are in your favor.   So stop sweating.  Many more things to fret over.

But yet, let’s get down to business and make some decisions.  And now we will get into my favorite topic which is PARENT POWER!!!

Question 1:  Is a summer experience filled with independence, new experiences, learning, and fresh air something good for your child?

Answer 1:  YES

Question 2:  What time and budget can you allot to give this independent experience to your child/teen?

Answer 2:  Only you know, but figure out the specifics.  What dates are they available to go away?  How long can they go away?  Think both physically and emotionally for both the kids and you.  And how much can you afford to spend?  Think anywhere between $1500 and $12,000.  Every family is different and determine what is right for your personal family needs.

Question 3:  What do you want for your child/teen?  Yes, I clearly said what do YOU want for your child/teen.

Answer 3:  If you had a good experience at camp, you often want to find a similar experience for your child.  You want to encourage them to have the same wonderful memories, bonding and experiences that you fondly remember.  And of course, if you did not have a good experience, than you are very sensitive to make sure they do not have a repeat of your history.  But please make sure that you don’t choose to shelter your child because you had a bad experience.  Simply make sure you find the right fit for your child to maximize the probability of a successful experience.

But the real message is….  if you want your child/teen to go away for the growth and development opportunity, you don’t need their permission or buy in.  You are the parent.  Granted, you want them to “want” to go….  You want them to be excited about the opportunity.  But sometimes, they are hesitant for so many reasons that require YOU to be the parent and direct them.  Especially the hesitant teenager…. wants to stay home and hang out, wants to go with a friend, doesn’t like anything you present, “you can’t make me” attitude.  Or the child who really pulls on you…. “but Mommy, I am going to miss you sooooo much!”  How can you possibly send that deliciousness away?  Because it is the greatest gift and given the right choice, they will thank you so much years from now.

So there is a simple process for buy in.  Ready??

  1. Know your child — their likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses
  2. For teens, know their passions or their lack of passions
  3. Work with an adviser (like me,of course) who knows kids and knows the programs that match
  4. Learn, read, ask questions about the programs suggested specifically for your families’ needs
  5. Narrow down to the top two or three (again, I’ll help you) that make the most sense/cents
  6. Now give the child/teen the option to decide.
The language to use?


This summer, you get to go to a special, exciting program.  You get to choose which one you want, but you must choose one.  So I have three programs and we are going to look at them together and pick the greatest most exciting one.  You (my child) are in charge!!


So now, your child has a sense of control over their own destiny.  It worked for me… when my son was 15.  And he says he is now my greatest advertising for the positive push forward.  He now has a lifelong passion for travel!!  Give your kids the same wonderful gift — a strong parental role model and the gift of independence.


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.



9 Steps to The Right Camp

by Karen Meister

Nine  good questions to ask to find the right camp experience for your child and family.  One question not to ask — where does the neighbor’s child go.

Each child is different and each camp has a different personality.  The goal will be to make the greatest fit.  Let’s start with some assumptions.  First, assume that you want a camp that is safe and secure and that the children will be well supervised.  Let’s dig a bit deeper into the differences between one good camp vs another good camp.  The questions to consider are:

  1. What is my child’s personality like?
  2. What are my child’s interests?
  3. What are my interests for my child?
  4. What about the siblings?
  5. Are there any special needs?
  6. How much money am I prepared to spend?
  7. How far can my child travel?
  8. How long can my child be away?
  9. Where do I want to visit my child for the next few years?

1.  What is my child’s personality like?

If you can answer these three simple questions, you can begin to identify the type of camp your child will enjoy.  First, imagine that your child is entering the dining hall of their future camp.  Behind door number one, the dining hall is filled with kids standing on the tables, cheering at the top of their lungs, the craziness is exciting for many.  Behind door number two, everyone is sitting at their tables, with their counselors, eating, engaging and having lively conversation, but more subdued.  Pick one door.  Second, your child is invited to a birthday party.  They go to the side of the room and wait for others to approach them or, they enter the room and the other children flock to greet him.  Finally, there is a room full of people, adults, older children and children the same age as your child.  With which group is your child most comfortable?

Seems like a strange collection of questions, but believe it or not, each camp also has a personality.  And understanding your child’s personality in these three areas helps to identify a collection of camps that will be a better fit than others.

2.  What are my child’s interests?

Put your dreams aside and focus on your child.   Does your child want to chase, touch, play with any type of ball and any type of team?  Or prefer the individual sports of ie tennis, golf, horseback riding, sailing, skateboarding? An indoor, “don’t make me sweat” type of child?     Are the interests really more towards scientific?  Curiosity?  Theater?  Arts?

Identifying your child’s passion helps to again make better choices.  It doesn’t mean that a child should or would go to a camp specializing in their passion.  It just provides better insight into where your child may find comfort while exploring new areas of interest.  You want to increase the probability of success by at least providing an area of interest during their summer experience because of course, we now move to the next question….

3.  What are my interests for my child?

You see, you are the parent.  And although your child may prefer to spend the entire summer playing video games, watching TV or playing the guitar, you know that physically and emotionally, they will need to branch out just a little bit.  So… what are your thoughts?  Do you want your child to learn a life skill ie tennis, golf or sailing during the summer?  Do you want to expose them to the great outdoors?  Is travel an important element you want to share?  Do you want your child to be exposed to the wonders of the arts because they only want to talk about the baseball?  Or is it possibly the reverse?  Do you want your child to learn the fundamentals of basketball dribbling, the intensity of competition?  Do you want it all?  Some?  What did you like or dislike about your summer experiences?  And how would you like to repeat or change the experience for your child?

4.  What about the siblings?

In selecting a camp, and certainly to make your life easier, it would be really nice if all the siblings get to go to camp together.  So understanding the needs of each child also help in selecting just the right camp.   If you have a boy and a girl, it is important to review either co-ed or brother/sister camps.  All boys?  All girls?  You can really focus on the single sex camps.  One thing can be said — if the children can go to camp together, it is a bonding experience they will cherish for life.  Sibling rivalry at home?  Send them to camp together and watch them bond.  Even if their interests are different, and personalities are different, which so often may happen, finding a camp that offers a compromise for each child will often be a great choice.

5.  Are there any special needs?

Does your child have an allergy, a condition or special need?  Is nighttime bed wetting an issue?  Phobias, medications?  Is there a doctor or RN on staff?  Or a local pediatrician with standing orders?  How close is the nearest hospital?  What about religious preferences?  Or a need for tutoring or language skills?  Anything that your child may have or need can be accommodated at so many camps.  The trick is to provide full disclosure to the camp or camp consultant with which you are working.  Believe it or not, camp people have absolutely heard it all.  There are more kids on ADHD meds than not, there are more kids taking growth hormones than ever before.  Gluten free, peanut free, egg free and milk free diets can all be accommodated.  Every religious or non-religious needs can be accommodated.  Just speak up and make sure the camp can provide your child with the most perfect, safe environment possible.

6.  How much money am I prepared to spend?

Camps come in all price ranges.  The price — high or low — does not necessarily mean it is a better or worse camp.  You must dig deeper.  Sometimes, a lower price will reflect a smaller staff, less equipment, facilities that are not as nice or new, less security.  But not necessarily.  Sometimes, a camp has a lower price because they are building their marketplace, the directors are making a choice to be available to a certain market, or there are subsidies provided by charitable organizations.  Sometimes the price is higher because the camp has a more experienced staff, facilities are at a high standard, and the reputation allows for a higher price.  Or sometimes, the marketing choice is to charge a higher rate to connote a better camp.  You just never know.  But what you can identify is how much you are prepared to spend.  Whatever you decide your budget will be for the summer, there will be ways to change the location, length of time, and specific camp to accommodate.  There is something for everybody.

And yet, make sure you keep in mind the expense of taking care of and entertaining the children the rest of the summer.  Many people decide that full summer camping is not the best choice because of the cost.  Keep in mind, that you pay a very large premium for fewer weeks of sleep away programming.  And then you must fill many weeks of summer at home, which of course comes with an alternative but additional  price tag.

7.  How far can my child travel?

There are many reasons to select certain locations for your family.  Based upon where you live, certain locations may offer start dates that are more in line with your school system.  You may prefer to send your child to camp by bus or drive them to camp.  Or you may have a relative or summer home in an area to which you want to be close.  But if they are getting on a plane to go to camp, they are getting on a plane.  Many parents have expressed a fear of sending the children too far in case of emergency.  Reality is, you are selecting a camp that you believe will care for your child at all times including emergencies.  With flight schedules the way they are today, you can fly anywhere within a few hours.  Whether drive or fly, you will not be there for the moment of emergency… no matter what!  So if you can let them fly…. especially if you are trying to get out of the hot south, let them fly….

8.  How long can my child be away?

There are many factors that must be considered for this question.  First, of course, you must review the school calendar.  Second, the family obligations such as family trips, special events, sports practices, etc.  Third, budget certainly comes into play.  Typically however, a parent fears a full summer commitment for a child, especially the first year.  Remember why you are considering a sleep away camp in the first place.  Sleep away camp offers the opportunity for a child to develop independence and development.   Any sleep away experience is good, but if possible, the longer the better.  The reason is that if homesickness is at all a problem, it takes time to overcome the experience and turn it around into a positive.  In addition, a full summer experience really allows the development of friendships and bonds that will last a life time.  There is no right answer, but only the right time frame for your family.  Know that there is a camp that will meet your specific needs.

9.  Where do I want to visit my child for the next several years?

So now we are really getting into the nitty gritty.  Let’s assume you have narrowed down the camp selection to the top three.  If you flip a coin, and make your final selection based on the coin toss, your children and pocket book will be indifferent.  However, you will be going to visiting day for hopefully several years ahead.  Where do you want to visit?  How long does it take to get there?  Are there decent and cost effective hotels in the area?  Are there interesting things to do in the area to add a few vacation days to your visit?  Let’s just call this one a tie-breaker!

Identifying your best case scenario is a terrific way to begin your search for just the right camp.  And of course, using a camp consultant (like me…) makes the process so incredibly simple, worry free and accurate!


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Spinning in Circles?

by Karen Meister

Post-Spring Break is always a hectic time.  Great vacation time quickly turns into FCATs, Finals, AP exams, graduations, proms, awards ceremonies and before you know it, the first of June has arrived.  You are so busy with day to day activity that planning for the summer is so hard to even contemplate right now.

And you are kicking yourself!  Why didn’t I take care of this months ago when I really planned to do it!!

Well, spinning in class is far preferred to spinning in circles.  You can have the kids home all summer and run CAMP MOM.  I’ve done it.

  1. WEEK ONE:  We relaxed, we bonded, we went to the movies, the beach, played in the balls, trampolined, swam in the pool.  We did chemistry and math while we cooked and we made play dates with friends.  We went to the grocery store and shopped together.  GREAT times!
  2. WEEK TWO:  It rained.  We played balloon tennis, we played board games, we had friends over, we decorated cupcakes, we ate lots of junk food, we read about characters of Greek mythology, we cleaned the house together (as if it was a game).  GOOD times!
  3. WEEK THREE:  Weather improved but now the storm was in the attitudes.  Kids saying, “We’re bored, no one home to play with, our friends are all at camp…”  I never felt the need to entertain my children 24/7 but it was hard to co-exist, entertain, and enrich three very active boys and stay on a budget.

Of course, as they got older, I was no longer a stay at home mom.  Instead of being Camp Mom to my three boys, I became Camp Director.   And needless to say, the budget was much bigger!!

There is great benefit in planning a summer that allows the kids to be away from you, so that you get some time, and they get some independent time.  But alas, you have waited till the last minute of summer planning.  So, here are your options:

  • Day camp – lots of choices for those 12 and under.
  • Sleep away camp – available to all kids between 6 and about 14 years old – many choices, prices, locations, personalities and activities.
  • Teen camps - for middle and high school students, age appropriate but get to do all the general activities from sports to dance to water skiing to sing around the camp fire.  But without the little kids around.
  • Middle School and High School Programs:
    • Outdoor Adventure – hiking, biking, sailing, kayaking, canoeing — the great outdoors
    • Community Service - travel with a purpose and teach English, develop sustainable environments, be part of a medical team, and more
    • Travel – seeing the world or seeing someone else’s neighborhood all opens the eyes of young and impressionable teens.  Traveling young establishes a taste for travel for life.
    • Language learning and immersion – Whether the language is Mandarin, Spanish, French or Portuguese, your teens can learn while living.  No better way to improve than living the language.
    • Improved Academics - If your teen is having trouble with a class, needs help in developing study skills, leadership development, SAT/ACT Prep, or special needs assistance, there are excellent summer programs.
    • Study Abroad – Any class you want can be taken for credit or for enrichment, while also experiencing a few weeks or a full summer overseas.
    • Pre-College Programs – So much to gain from learning what it’s like to be at a big college, small college, in a dorm, taking classes, eating in a school cafeteria (AND NOT GAINING THE FRESHMAN 10)…. Classes for enrichment, for college credit, and all over the country/world for that matter.
    • The College Prep Summer Plan - LET’S TALK.  Two to four years of summer and school planning and coordination designed to help your teen prepare for decision making when it comes to college direction.

But now, in order to plan the 13 weeks of summer that the children are out of school, you better get going.  I am sure you know by now that a Camp and Teen Consulting Expert is the only way to handle this situation quickly, efficiently and effectively.


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.

Specialty vs General Camp

by Karen Meister

Over the past ten years, I have spoken to hundreds, maybe thousands of parents.  Typically, I speak to moms who either are the driver behind sending their children to camp or they are the implementer of the decision that both parents have made.  So here is a typical conversation.  My son, he is the oldest of three, is 9 years old and he is an amazing …..  fill in the blanks.  Let’s use tennis as the example because since I am a tennis player, it is easy to talk about, and familiar to many families.

The conversation continues… I really want him to focus on his tennis, he is showing tremendous strength in the sport, and I don’t want him to lose his skills over the summer by doing arts and crafts and wasting his time on other sports.  If we wait any longer for him to concentrate on his tennis, he is going to be left far behind.  What do you think?

Well, now that my children are in their 20′s, I was that parent many years ago wondering what to do with my “talented” children.  I was also that child who had parents that directed me and my siblings through the summertime investment of camp, BOTH general and specialty.  So our story…

In 1995, my two boys pictured at left, were die hard tennis players.  For career day, Shane dressed up as Agassi and Adam dressed up as Sampras.  Their uncle toured the world playing on the pro circuit and their mom (me) was a competitive tennis player.  So “going for it” in the tennis world was not so far-fetched in their minds.  I sent them to one week specialty camps, they played after school several times a week, and Adam was invited to participate in an intense USTA youth development program.  At the time of this picture, Adam was the ripe old age of 9 years old and really believed that he could be the next Pete Sampras.

And yet, when it came time for them to go to sleep away camp, I opted for a camp that had good tennis instruction but had every other sport, activity, and gave them exposure to as many different activities as possible.  At camp, they did play a lot of tennis.  But they also played a lot of flag football, went on long distance mountain biking trips, learned to water ski, kissed a few girls, and shot a rifle (I know not everyone is into that).  The three boys (the youngest was 5 at the time of this picture) all played high school tennis, all have tennis as a part of their lives whenever they choose to pick it up again, and have great memories of their camp days and camp friends.

When my brother and I were kids, however, we went to general camp when we were 9-12 years old.  But when we turned 12 and 13, we then went on to specialty camp and spent 6 weeks playing tennis at a very intense level.  We both competed in tournaments and at 16, I rediscovered other sports and other things, and my brother began to focus more heavily on his tennis.  He traveled the world playing professional tennis in the ’80′s and I on the other hand, still hope to be a competitive tennis player into my 80′s.

There are many roads to take for your children, and many sacrifices we make for our children.  There is no correct answer as to when and/or if it is the right time to help your child focus.  But know that 9 years old is very young, and the aptitude they show at 9 does not necessarily mean they will have the fortitude to stick it out for the long haul.  Single-minded dedication is hard, long and often times, lonely.  Only the very few can handle it.  And those who choose the path of focus are those that we get to watch, for example, at the Sony this coming week.

If you are still searching for a summer camp for your children, or want to discuss the pros and cons of general vs specialty camp for your family, now is the time to start the conversation.  Let me know your thoughts and we can work on it together.


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.