Jason Middleton, a dad of two from Queenstown, loved summer camp so much as a kid he’s been going back with his whole family for the past three years.
Middleton has been attending “family camp” at Camp Pecometh in Centreville — the same camp he went to as a kid and worked as a counselor. The memories he made and lessons he learned there were invaluable, he says, so he wanted his kids, ages 5 and 3, to experience camp early.
“Camp heavily contributed to where I am today,” says Middleton, who is in enterprise information techology and cyber security sales for the intelligence community. “I wanted to show my support for the camp, and also get the kids ready to go.” He also wanted his wife, Janese, to experience camp.
Many summer camps now offer sessions for families to attend together. About 200 camps accredited through the American Camp Association offer 700 family camp sessions each summer.
“While most ACA-accredited camps are exclusively youth serving, our research suggest a growing trend in family and adult camps,” says Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association.
Some family camps started as a way to gradually introduce camp to kids who weren’t quite ready to spend time away from their parents.
“We started it because we felt as if there were some families who were uncomfortable with kids being at camp by themselves. This gives them a chance to experience camp together,” says Jack Shitama, executive director of Camp Pecometh. “But there are also some kids who want their parents to experience camp.”
Family camp can also simply be a great family vacation, Rosenberg says.
“Many adults are looking to camp as an alternative to the resort vacation destination,” he says. “They use camp to explore new interests and get back in touch with activities they may have loved as children.”
Whatever the reason, the ACA believes camp is a valuable experience for all ages, he says.
Many Maryland camps set aside specific weekends or weeks for families to stay and experience camp life, such as Camp Pecometh, Camp Letts in Edgewater and Sandy Cove in North East. The camps offer various options for accommodations, so families can pick based on price and what kind of experience they want.
At Camp Pecometh, families can choose to stay in rustic cabins or opt for hotel rooms in a conference facility on the property. Another option is to bring tents or RVs and camp on the grounds.
“It all depends on budget and comfort level,” Shitama says.
For Middleton, family camp is all about experiencing life at summer camp, so the family stays in rustic cabins with no air-conditioning or bathrooms.
“It’s kind of like going to a campground. It’s not what kids are used to today. They’re used to air conditioning and other things,” Middleton says. “We want to make sure our kids don’t grow up demanding those sorts of things out of summer camp.”
A day at family camp
Families who attend camp can expect to eat big meals with other camping families and participate in activities from arts and crafts to horseback riding.
Sandy Cove offers activities for all ages during its five week-long family camp sessions.
“At Sandy Cove, family camp is totally different,” says Stephen Weaver, executive director of Sandy Cove Ministries. “It is geared intentionally for the whole family and resembles more of a resort vacation than a kids’ camp.”
Families can participate in a wide range of games, programs and activities, including zip lines, rock climbing walls, pontoon boats, moon bounces, pony rides, parasailing, fishing, sports, and indoor games like table tennis, pool and air hockey. This is in addition to fitness classes, crafts and swimming in an outdoor pool.
Activities are planned for all ages, from infants through grandparents. Grownups can even find time for themselves while their children or grandchildren are off having fun with kids their own age, Weaver explains.
Family camp is multigenerational fun, agrees Andrew Mason, executive director of Camp Letts, which holds family camps over Memorial and Labor Day weekends. Many grandparents come along with their kids and grandkids for the weekend, he says.
“It’s an opportunity for families to enjoy camp life as a family unit,” Mason says. “We run all the activities for traditional summer camp. … Some are more kid-friendly and some are more adult- friendly. Some are more athletic, and some are more arts and crafts based.”
While family camps try to give parents an idea of what summer camp is like for kids, plenty of activities are geared toward adults or older children, such as water skiing and archery.
At Camp Letts, a day at family camp is scheduled in 90-minute blocks. Activities throughout the day include horseback riding, paintball, arts and crafts, and more. Families can choose from these activities or opt out (unlike traditional summer camp for kids), Mason says. Everyone gathers at times during the day for big meals and bonfires, as well as square dancing and competitive kickball games.
“It’s a good time for families to reconnect,” Mason says.
Ready for family camp?
Camp directors agree that any family can fit in at family camp. All ages are welcome — even infants. Some camps, like Sandy Cove, offer child care so parents and older kids can enjoy activities not suited for younger children. Other camps ask parents to be responsible for watching their kids.
Price of family camp varies and depends on the type of accommodations. At Camp Letts, camp costs $225 per adult and $130 per child. At Sandy Cove, camp costs about $720 per person for a week, but first-time campers can register for half price. At Camp Pecometh, the cost ranges from $75 to $180 per person, depending on accommodations. Children are at the low end and cost even less the more you bring.
“There is a camp experience for families with children of any ages and a variety of family budgets,” Rosenberg says. “It really depends on the family and what is best for them.”
Find a camp for your family
For details on family camps, check the websites:
Or visit the American Camp Association website, acacamps.org, and search for family camps by state in the “Find a Camp” resource.
By Kristy MacKaben