You’ve planned the ultimate summer camp adventure to the US, but now what? It’s time to prepare your camp counsellor essentials and start packing so you can have the best time. There are some things you will want to make sure you pack, as well as items that you might be able to acquire when you get there in order to keep your luggage light for travel.
More teens are returning to the workforce following the pandemic. This summer, more than 25,000 people are heading off to summer camp to work. Make this your summer by knowing all the essentials for the perfect camp counsellor job!
Are you ready for a summer adventure? AmeriCamp can help you take care of the documents and travel plans. Check out our guide for all the essentials you need to have a great summer.
A Normal Day at Summer Camp
What happens at summer camp, anyway?
While many summer camps offer a variety of experiences, they all have fairly similar structures when it comes to a daily itinerary. A summer camp is designed to provide a great time enjoying the arts and the outdoors. You will have group time, activities, mealtimes, and even some alone time if you need it.
Here is what a typical day at summer camp might look like:
- Wake up and get yourself and your campers ready for the day
- Head to breakfast and fuel your bodies for a day of adventure
- Spend the rest of the morning engaging in group activities
- Take a break and rest while you enjoy lunch
- Take a quick afternoon break for quiet cabin time and relaxation
- Head back out to afternoon group activities
- Refuel your body from the day’s adventures with dinner together
- Enjoy some evening fun with the entire camp (s’mores, campfire songs, dancing, and more)
- Put the campers to bed
- Take quiet time for yourself and rest up for the following day
You will often engage in staff meetings at the beginning or end of your day. How this works will depend on the camp. Your camp will provide you with a schedule to set your expectations and keep you on track as a summer camp counsellor.
Let’s check out the camp counsellor essentials you’ll need to face a day like this!
Camp counsellor Essentials to Pack
The first thing you need when packing your camp counsellor essentials is a checklist! A thorough checklist will ensure you know exactly what to pack and what will be provided or available when you get to the US.
We can help you with a basic checklist to help get you started. Plan to pack things from each of these categories:
- Personal Documents
As you plan your clothing, pack normal clothes, as well as camp-specific clothing. While at camp, you may experience a variety of weather patterns and outdoor scenarios. Packing to be prepared for the outdoors and activities is important. Come prepared for rain and cool evenings.
Your camp will provide laundry facilities so that you can wash laundry in between camp sessions and prepare for the next group of campers. In between camp sessions is a great time to clean up, reorganize, and prepare for the next week of camp.
Pack enough clothes to get through a full week of camp. You may also need some backup clothes in case you get wet, muddy, or dirty and need to refresh during the day. It’s going to be summertime, so you can expect warm weather, but pack a jacket or sweater for cooler evenings.
Build your complete essentials checklist with our handy guide, including:
- Several summer shirts and t-shirts (6-8 is recommended)
- Casual shorts and sport shorts (2-4 of each)
- Swim clothes and swimsuits (2-3)
- Walking shoes and casual shoes (2 pairs of tennies and 1 casual)
- Socks and undergarments (10 pairs of each)
- Hoodie or jacket
- Perhaps a rain jacket
- Pants or sweats for cool nights (1-2 pairs)
- Flip-flops (for the showers or the water)
Your packing list may look different than this, but this can help you make some decisions. As an international staff member, your camp will provide bedding for you in most cases. They also typically provide towels and toiletries.
Accessories are the most forgotten items when people are packing. It’s the extra items that are essential to your summer camp experience, but also the last ones we pack. Remember we’re talking about essentials so feel free to leave the Nintendo Switch at home. Pack essential accessories that meet your needs.
Here are a few ideas:
- Mobile phone
- Phone chargers
- Plug adapters for charging cords
- Hat or baseball cap
- A watch
- Reusable water bottle
- Oher essentials
You can bring additional accessories as well. Being prepared with these items will ensure you have the things you need at a USA summer camp.
Most toiletry items you can pack in your luggage, or you can purchase when you get to the US. Be sure to check with your camp to ensure you will have the option to go to a nearby Walmart or store that carries things like shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, and deodorant.
It’s possible some of your toiletries will need a refill before the summer is over, so plan for the expense of purchasing as needed.
These are what you are most likely to need:
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Feminine products
- Makeup as preferred
- Hair products
- Lotions or perfumes
Don’t forget the sunscreen! You will be spending a lot of time outside, and sunscreen will be important to protect your skin from the rays. You might even go home with a great tan!
As an international traveler, you will carry important documents with you on your journey. We recommend that you keep all important documents with you at all times during travel. Put them in a carry-on bag or purse so that you have them should they be needed. This will also ensure they don’t get lost during travel.
You will most likely need to be able to present many of your identifying documents as you travel. You will have things like your visa and your passport, but also may have camp documents to carry. Keeping your documents organized and with you at all times is very important. We recommend a file or similar tool to keep your documents organized and together.
Important documents you may need include:
- Passport and Identification documents
- J-1 Visa
- DS-2019 form (visa paperwork)
- SEVIS receipt
- A copy of your camp contract
- Flight information and tickets
- Insurance cards
- Necessary medical forms
Thanks to digital technology, you may not have to have a printed copy of your camp contract or your flight information. Most of the time, these will be available to you digitally. You will want to make sure that you can access these things in case they are needed. Work with your AmeriCamp contact to ensure you have all of the documents you need readily available to you.
What Happens if You Forget Something?
The most forgotten items for summer camp are:
- Extra shoes and socks
- Rain jackets
- Water bottles
- Bug spray
- Phone chargers
- Personal items
If you happen to forget something, don’t panic! Should you forget something essential, AmeriCamp provides support to all camp counsellors. You can use the helpline to reach out and we will help you take care of your needs.
The AmeriCamp program provides a 24-hour helpline for you as well. If you run into an issue, reach out to us right away and we’ll figure it out together.
Make a list of the things you need and head to the store with your camp sponsors. They will be more than happy to help you in any way they can. They want to welcome you and make sure you are comfortable and taken care of for the summer.
Aside from personal memento-style items, everything is replaceable. Avoid panicking, and let’s get you the items that you need.
What NOT to Pack as Camp Counsellor Essentials
While there are a number of non-essentials that you can and should pack, there are also some items to avoid. Consider your packing choices carefully and avoid items that may end up stolen, lost, or confiscated.
Most camps will provide you with a locker or a small safe where you can store valuables, but it’s a good idea not to overpack these items to avoid any issues.
In most cases, these are the types of items you will want to avoid packing if you can:
- Extra electronics
- Valuables (jewelry and expensive items)
- Most food items
- Strong perfumes
- Glass or breakable items
- Unnecessary accessories or clothing
- Hazardous equipment or materials
Try to leave these things back home where they are safe and sound. In terms of food items, it’s ok to bring some of your favorite hard candies or snacks; just be careful to only bring non-perishable items. It’s much better to leave food at home and rely on the camp or a local grocery to provide for your eating needs.
You may choose to pack one nice outfit in case you get the chance to go out or celebrate, but we recommend not using a lot of luggage space on unnecessary accessories for clothing. Do your best to stick to the basics for summer camp needs.
Top Tips for Summer Camp Counsellors
This may be your first time being a camp counsellor. There are a lot of details to know, but many of your responsibilities are simple. We will help with planning and preparations so that you can have a wonderful summer adventure.
Whether you’re a returner or a new counsellor, you may benefit from these camp counsellor tips:
- Get to know your schedule and adjust to it ahead of time.
- Participate in and lead activities, and have fun with them!
- Show your campers a positive attitude, even if you feel stressed or upset.
- Jump on the opportunity to learn new skills at camp.
- Offer support and encouragement to your campers and your camp peers.
- Have a good mix of creativity, honesty, work ethic, determination, confidence, and empathy. These are the makings of an excellent counsellor.
- Allow summer camp to build on your strengths and independence.
- Take the time to travel after camp is over if you can.
Feeling Nervous? That’s Ok!
It’s normal to feel nervous before you jump into a new adventure like being a summer camp counsellor. Take heart in knowing that you are not alone. We will be there to support you every step of the way. You’re joining a camp family, and those fellow camp counsellors and staff are also going to support you during your journey.
Try these steps to help overcome your nerves:
- Know that you are not alone.
- Remember: it’s a new experience with new scenery.
- Stay busy and enjoy the fun!
- Put your skills to work.
- Take in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Know You Are NOT Alone
There are hundreds of other staffers and counsellors feeling the same way you are. Nerves are a normal part of life. You and your camp team will be there to support each other, and those nerves will soon be forgotten!
Experience New Scenery
This is a new experience, which will bring you new scenery. It’s so exciting!
Heading off to summer camp will bring you an experience like no other out there. The landscapes, the campers, the friendly faces, and the adventure are going to be amazing.
Stay Busy and Enjoy the Fun!
Once you get to camp, life will become a flurry of activity. You will be busy making friends, leading groups, and enjoying days full of fun activities. There certainly won’t be a dull moment. And you will be so active that when you go to bed, you will be too tired to be nervous or homesick.
Put Your Skills to Work
You’ve got skills, and summer camp is the perfect place to show them off. Imagine how great it will feel to share your skills with others. You will be a benefit and a valuable asset to your camp. Show off your talents and let others appreciate what you have to offer.
Enjoy a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience
Camp counseling really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Your camp experience will be in your memories forever. Come back to summer camp again the next year and create new lifetime experiences every time you join us.
Soak it in and enjoy the experience ahead of you.
How to Become a Summer Camp Counsellor
If you’ve come this far, you have already discovered how to become a summer camp counsellor. The process is simple, and we’re here to help you every step of the way. If you’re curious and gathering information, this is one opportunity that you want to be a part of!
If you’re interested in being a camp counsellor, follow these steps to get started:
- Check out the details of the AmeriCamp program
- Apply for an AmeriCamp position
- Work with us to find the best placement
We have a 99% success rate when it comes to placing applicants. We want to help you find the camp that will be the perfect fit for your interests and your skills.
AmeriCamp is Here to Help
The summer camp counsellor experience is a great opportunity to see the world, develop your skills, and put in some work on your resume, too. Not only do you get to work at summer camp and have an adventure, but you also have the option to travel for up to 30 days after camp is over.
Spend 9 action-packed weeks earning money, making friends and enjoying summer activities. We’re here to help at every step of your journey.
Here’s how we help:
- Guide you through the application and interview process
- Place you with the best camp
- Ensure you earn a salary
- Provide you insurance
- Guarantee meals and accommodations are provided
- Secure sponsorship of J-1 Visa
- Offer 24-hour helpline
Start Preparing for Your Summer Adventure!
These camp counsellor essentials will prepare you to make the most of your summer adventure. Use our guide to ensure you have everything you need.The most important thing to remember is that this is an adventure! Let us help you plan your summer camp experience. Apply today!