Days Off at Summer Camp
Camp veteran Ellie shares her advice of how to spend your days off at summer camp.
Although I LOVE camp (in case you hadn't gotten that vibe yet!), I am always very much in need of my day-off when it comes around. Days off spent at home in the UK don't even begin to come close to a day off in the USA, and there are SO many different ways to spend your day. Some people like to spend their day relaxing and recovering from a hectic week, but I like to make the most of my 24 hours of freedom!
A lot of my Twitter followers (follow me @how2survivecamp if you don't already!) have been asking questions about days off, so let's tackle some of the most frequent:
How often do you get a day off?
The majority of camps allow you to have one day off per week, and that will usually be the same day every week.
For example, last year at camp I had every Tuesday off. This can vary between camps though, so check your camp contract for clarification on how many days off you get over the summer.
How long do days off last?
Days off usually last 24 hours - for example, my day off will begin at 7.30am and end at 7.30am the following day - but again, this can vary from camp to camp.
Who do I spend my day off with?
A group of other Counselors will have the same day off as you, and you usually have some say in who you get to spend the day with. Although you can't choose everyone who shares the day off with you, camps normally allow you to nominate at least one other person to have the same day off. Don't worry, you won't be alone!
How do I get around on a day off?
Camps sometimes allow Counselors to use camp vehicles on days off, providing they cover the cost of the fuel used. My camp hires vehicles from a local company, and then loan the vehicles out to us on a day off for a fee. American Counselors often take their cars with them to camp, and are usually happy to share (provided your plans fit in with theirs, of course!). Public transport is often not an option at camp as, unless you are based in the city, it is practically non-existent!
What can I do on my day off?
There are so many different ways you can spend your precious day off, but here are a few of my favourites:
Visit a local lake/beach.
One of the most popular ways to spend a day off is topping up the tan and cooling off at a local lake (preferably not the same one your camp is on!), or heading to the beach if you are lucky enough to be placed at a camp near the coast. This is personally one of my favourite ways to spend a day off, as it allows me some much needed time to relax and re-energise ready for another crazy week ahead. Pack your swimsuit, a picnic and a good book for a perfect day off!
Head to the Mall.
As well as a self-confessed camp-a-holic, I am also a serious shop-a-holic! American malls are SO much better than the ones here in England, and a mall trip makes for a great rainy day off (yes, sadly it does sometimes rain in the USA too!). American malls are usually full of cheap branded clothes, fast-food, cinemas and fun shops like M&M World - something for everyone (even the boys!). Make sure you leave some room in your suitcase for all the extra things you buy while you're at camp!
See the sights.
If you've got itchy feet, and are desperate to get out and explore on your day off, what better way to spend it than seeing the sights? My camp is located in Connecticut, and I am lucky enough to be surrounded by some beautiful state parks, such as Kent Falls, and historic buildings, such as Yale University. Do some research before you head off to camp to find out what is in your local area, and ask returning Counselors when you arrive at camp if they have any sightseeing suggestions.
Explore your local town.
There are usually tons of ways to spend a fun day off in your local town. My first stop is usually Walmart/Target, where I can spend HOURS wandering the aisles (how often do you get to go to a store where the GUN aisle is casually located next to the cleaning products?!) or picking up treats (a.k.a bribes) for my campers. I usually like to check out my local Goodwill Store - the American equivalent of a supersize charity shop - for a few crazy camp outfits, and stop by the local ice-cream shop for a quick snack. There are often many different ways to fill your day off; such as a game of bowling or mini-golf for some friendly' competition with your fellow Counselors, or a visit to the trampoline park (if a week at camp hasn't left you exhausted!). If you get hungry, check out one of your local diners for a true American experience!
Head to the City.
Although this is not my preferred way to spend a day off (far too tiring for my liking!), some Counselors like to head into the City for the day. The closest cities to my camp are either NYC or Boston, and I have known others spend the day seeing the sights and going to sporting events/concerts, such as watching the Red Sox baseball team at Fenway Park. If you don't have a lot of time to travel after camp, spending your day in the city can be a good use of a day off.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am always more than ready for my day off when it comes around. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to spend some time doing a big, fat NOTHING on your day off - you deserve it! Whether it's hanging around camp trying out some of the activities, catching up on some sleep or writing letters home to your loved ones; make the most of this time to re-charge your batteries. Spending a day off at camp is also great if you are on a budget, or are trying to save as much money as possible for those post-camp travels!
How much money will I need for days off?
How much money you spend on a day off completely depends on which of the above activities you choose to spend your day doing! If you're looking to save money on days off, think about spending the day hanging around camp or chilling at the lake, where you may only spend a small amount of money on snacks etc. during the day - I usually spend no more than $20-$30 on this kind of day off. If you are planning on heading into the City, costs quickly add up - I usually end up spending around $60-$100 on travel, food, tourist attractions and of course, shopping!
Days-off are rare and precious - make the most of them and make the right decision in the day for YOU. Although you share the same day off as other Counselors, don't feel pressured into spending your day traipsing around New York City etc. if you are exhausted from a hectic week at camp! Although camps often encourage you to get away on your day off, your camp Director doesn't want you running out of steam mid-week. Take time catching up on some much needed R&R (that’s rest and relaxation, not rock and roll!) ready for another crazy week at summer camp!
When Ellie isn't living it up at summer camp she runs her own summer camp website, How to Survive Camp.