Summer camp planning — it’s a whole subuniverse within social media groups, forums and even blogs. With things in flux up until the last minute this year, we gathered some tricks, tips and advice from local summer camp parents and super-planners. “My pre-COVID plan had a spreadsheet and the goal to have summer sorted before spring break,” said Jane Snyder, mom of two in the Foster-Powell neighborhood and Girl Scout troop leader, who also stresses the importance of registering for camps early.

• Schedules are being published at different paces and later than usual. So be flexible and be patient, but be ready to secure a spot! 

• Book the camps your kids want the most, first. Keep in mind that camps for the first week after school gets out and the last week before school starts tend to fill up the fastest. Niki Billsborough, a mom in Southeast Portland, recommends securing those weeks early.

• Plan for smoke and air-quality issues in August by looking at indoor-camp options.

• Coordinate with friends in an effort to send kids and their buddies to the same sessions. Some friend groups have even created shared calendars to keep track of where certain friends are going and when. “I’m trying to coordinate with friends more to help make up for that lost time with close relationships,” said Lori Dunkin, who last year created a massive spreadsheet of camp options to keep it all organized.

• Consolidate summer camp information in one place to include costs, websites, weeks available and when registration opens. “I make a spreadsheet and keep notes for the year and for the following years,” said Jamie Squid, a single working Portland parent. “I also include if payment is required ahead, or can be broken up.” Consider setting reminders in your calendar so you don’t miss registration, as well as for the last day you can cancel. 

• Be prepared for camps to shut down abruptly or be canceled at the last minute. Some camps that were go-tos for flexibility and last-minute registration, such as Steve and Kate’s, are eliminating single-day options this year in an effort to keep kids in the same squad, or cohort, and minimize mixing. Lauren Light, Portland director of Steve and Kate’s Camp, tells parents to expect things to be a bit different for most camps this summer. “We’re implementing consistent groups to minimize mixing, as well as bringing activities to the campers instead of having them go to the activity,” said Light.

• Include your kids, especially teens and tweens, in choosing their camps. 

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