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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Find right summer camp online

By Kim Komando

School is almost out and it's time to think about summer camp. Picking the best and safest place is difficult, given the thousands of choices. So why not let the Internet help?

If you have bad memories of Camp Leaky Roof, you'll be surprised to learn what's out there today. Yes, there are traditional camps with activities like canoeing, swimming and arts and crafts. But there are a slew of theme-oriented camps as well.

Before you start searching for a camp, check the National Camp Association (www.summercamp.org). It suggests that you make this a family decision.

Is your child ready for a residential camp? Or should you start with a day camp? Decide what you and your child hope to gain from the experience. Discuss any special interests of which you may not be aware.

The National Camp Association site offers recommendations for camps. You'll be asked to list the types of camps you like. However, there are no recommendations for day camps.

Summer Camps (www.summercamps.com) lets you browse both day and overnight camps. It breaks them down by adventure, tour and travel, sports, art, academic, technology, special needs, health and fitness and military. Each category has a list of subcategories to further refine a search.

For example, say your son loves baseball and wants to hone his skills. Click on Baseball and Softball Camps listed under Sports Summer Camps. Summer Camps lists facilities throughout the world (but mostly the United States and Canada), along with descriptions. It also includes pertinent information such as a link to the camp's Web site, type of camp (day or overnight), whether it's boys, girls or coed, and the cost.

But the list of camps, especially for popular activities, could be too extensive. Use the search function to narrow down the location, price range, type (day or overnight), religious affiliation (if any) and gender.

Other Web sites that offer this type of information include CampPage Summer Camps Guide (www.camppage.com), Camp Search (www.campsearch.com), and Peterson's Summer Camps and Opportunities (www.petersons.com/summerop).

Undoubtedly, sending your child halfway across the country (or the world) can be a frightening experience for both of you. Elegant Web sites and glowing testimonials from former participants and their parents may not be enough to soothe frayed nerves.

Ask the camp if it's licensed. Some states require licensing. To be licensed, camps must meet certain health and sanitation standards, number of campers per counselor, building codes and other criteria. Licensing isn't the best indicator of how well a camp is managed. Besides, requirements vary from state to state.

The American Camp Association (www.acacamps.org) offers accreditation that exceeds licensing requirements. It collaborates with organizations like the American Red Cross and American Academy of Pediatrics. Its Web site has a searchable list of accredited camps.

Choosing the right camp is the biggest step. The Internet can help you once your child is there, too. Forget packing your children's bags with stamps and stationery. Most camps (even the nontech ones) offer e-mail. Some have gone further by including webcams for virtual visits. That should help ease lingering concerns on your part.

Contact Kim Komando at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.