The Ultimate Guide to Working at Summer Camps in America

13 April 2024

Travel Tips Working Holiday

Your Ultimate Guide To Working At Summer Camps in America Plus FREE Essential Packing Checklist

Working at a summer camp in America is an incredible experience. Every camp is unique and offers so much! You get to discover the USA and breathe in fresh outdoor air while getting paid for it. Win win!

Hopping across the pond and diving into work overseas can be daunting though. We get it. Before you get overwhelmed with questions like, ‘What do I need to pack?’, ‘Will I make friends?’ and ‘How do I choose a camp?’ check out this Ultimate Guide to Working Camp America Seasons.

Preparation makes for the best trip. Let us help you get all your gear in order so you’ll know you’re on the right track. This guide covers everything you need to know to prepare for your best summer yet. Are you ready to redefine yourself, make memories of a lifetime, and get out to America?

Defining USA Summer Camps

First, let’s understand what spending a summer in an American Camp looks like. These camps offer diverse experiences. They range from traditional camps in the woods to specialised programs focusing on everything from sports and arts to STEM education and outdoor adventure. 

Whether it’s the classic image of roasting marshmallows around a campfire or engaging in innovative educational activities, there’s a camp to suit every interest and passion.

Working at a USA Summer Camp is different from attending one. As a camp counsellor, you will have a role to play in the organisation and operation of the camp. That may be more behind the scenes or delivering activities to the happy campers (often American kids enjoying their summer break).

Where can I go in the US?

Summer camps are spread across the American landscape. You could opt for the rich green forests of the Pacific Northwest or shoot for the sunny East Coast shores. Wherever you choose, you will have that locale’s unique blend of activities and experiences.

Some of the most popular Summer Camps in America:

What will the work be like?

Working a Camp America experience is more than just a job—it’s an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of young campers while embarking on a personal journey of growth and discovery. 

As a camp counsellor, you will be pivotal in creating a safe and supportive environment for campers. You will guide them through various activities, fostering friendships and facilitating memorable experiences. From leading nature hikes to teaching arts and crafts, counsellors wear many hats and must be prepared to adapt to the ever-changing needs of their campers.

5 Benefits of Working at a US Summer Camp

The rewards of working at a summer camp extend far beyond the picturesque scenery and the thrill of outdoor adventures. You can discover why you should work at a summer camp in the USA. Here are some quick-fire benefits to get you started:

  1. Develop valuable leadership and communication skills
  2. Build self-confidence
  3. Cultivate resilience in challenges 
  4. Acquire a unique understanding of diversity
  5. Make lifelong friendships

Choosing The Best Summer Camp In America For You

Selecting the right summer camp placement is crucial to ensuring a fulfilling and rewarding experience as a camp counsellor. It’s all in the research and prep stage. Spend time here, and you will thank yourself later when you are having a blast in paradise.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Camp

  • Camp Type

Consider what type of camp aligns with your interests, skills, and personality. Traditional camps offer various activities, while speciality camps focus on specific areas such as sports, arts, or outdoor adventure. Think about where your passions lie and what type of environment you thrive in.

  •  Location

The location of the camp can significantly impact your experience. Do you prefer the tranquillity of the mountains, the serenity of a lakeside setting, or the excitement of a coastal retreat? When choosing a camp location, consider factors such as climate, accessibility, and proximity to amenities.

Remember, you will get days off to explore some more. Think about where you want to go!

  • Age Group Preferences

Consider the age group of campers you are most comfortable working with. Some camps cater to younger children, while others focus on teenagers or adults. Think about your past experiences working with different age groups and choose a camp that allows you to make the greatest impact.

Research and Apply

Once you’ve identified the camps that align with your preferences, it’s time to start the application process. Programs like Camp America offer a convenient platform for researching and applying to various camps across the US. Alternatively, you can contact individual camps through their websites or contact information.

When you apply, you need to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Highlight your skills and strengths that will benefit the camp. Prepare to be flexible on dates and roles. Sell yourself and show them how excited you are to be part of their team.

General Requirements:

  • 18+ years old (due to visa and insurance requirements) – although you can start the application process before you turn 18
  • Available to travel before the camp start date (May-June)
  • Have a clear DBS Police Check
  • Be fit and healthy
  • J-1 Visa to allow work in the USA

Prepare a polished resume highlighting relevant experience, skills, and qualifications. Tailor your cover letter to each camp, expressing your enthusiasm for their program and why you’d be a great fit as a counsellor. Be proactive in following up on your application, and be prepared to participate in interviews.

Interviews and Next Steps

During the interview, be authentic and enthusiastic about your desire to work at the camp. Highlight the strengths and experiences that make you a standout candidate. Show them the energy and drive that you can bring for the summer.

Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions. Quiz them on the camp culture, staff expectations, and support systems in place for counsellors. Make sure they are the right fit for you as well!

Successful? Fantastic! Let’s get packing.

Not this time? Don’t worry. There will be other opportunities out there for you.

Camp counsellor leader with group in summer Camp America

Travel Insurance For Working Holiday

Ensuring you are fully covered when taking a working holiday in the US is super important. This will give you peace of mind that your medical costs (and potential repatriation back to the UK) would be covered if you suffer an injury at work or in your leisure time, alongside all of the other benefits of comprehensive travel insurance cover.

Our working holiday policy offers you:

  • Cover on a wide range of jobs whilst away – make sure that you choose the right Work Pack for your plans
  • Up to 2 years of cover away from the UK
  • Full comprehensive benefits of a standard travel insurance policy whilst also covering you to work

Make sure you read through the work packs in detail and choose the one that matches your trip! Want more information? Contact us, and we will be happy to explain the policy.

Essential Gear and Equipment: FREE Packing Checklist

Being well-prepared with the right gear and equipment is essential for a successful and enjoyable trip. It’s time to pull out the suitcase and get packing! But of course, the big question is, what do I need to take to the USA for three months to work in a summer camp?

We’ve got you covered.

FREE Packing Checklist

Screengrab and save these comprehensive packing checklists to ensure you have everything you need:

Underwear (x10) Hoody/sweater PJs Sleeping bag
T-shirts (lots) Shorts A nice outfit Alarm clock
Swimsuit/shorts Sports leggings Toothbrush Waterproof watch
Trainers Socks (x5-10) Shampoo/Cond.  Sunglasses
Flip flops Raincoat Body Soap Suncream
Camera Bug spray Journal Home comforts
Travel adaptor Day bag Documents US Dollars

Don’t be tempted to pack the following:

  • Hair dryer/straighteners – just leave them at home; you’ll have too much fun to worry about styling your hair!
  • Laptops/expensive gadgets – it’s a risk not worth taking. If you opt to take them, ensure you protect them with gadget cover on your insurance.
  • Too many clothes – you will probably end up wearing the same clothes repeatedly. There will be laundry facilities, so use them instead of weighing your bags down.

5 Packing Tips For USA Travel & Camp

  1. Pack practical and versatile clothes suitable for outdoor activities. Layers are good!
  2. You can always buy toiletries when you’re out there. We recommend having a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner to save on carrying lots of bottles.
  3. Research the climate and prepare accordingly.
  4. Take a two-pronged American travel adapter.
  5. Take appropriate clothing – remember you are working with children!

How To Have a Successful Camp Experience

Working at a summer camp has some challenges. However, you can certainly make the most of your time here by approaching it with an open mind and a positive attitude!

Working at a summer camp requires flexibility, patience, and resilience. Prepare yourself mentally for the job’s demands and camp life’s potential ups and downs. Reflect on why you want to work at a camp and set realistic expectations for yourself. Remember that challenges are opportunities for growth and learning.

Establish trust and rapport with your colleagues and the campers when you get there. Creating a positive and supportive environment is essential. It will take time to get to know everyone individually and show genuine interest in their interests, concerns, and feelings. But you can start on the right foot by being approachable, empathetic, and supportive. Arrive with a friendly smile and embrace every moment.

Lead by example and embody the camp’s values. Show respect, teamwork, and environmental stewardship, and others will follow. Encourage campers to embrace diversity, express themselves creatively, and challenge themselves to try new things. Foster a spirit of cooperation and collaboration among campers and staff and create opportunities for meaningful connections and friendships to flourish.

Self Care & Personal Wellbeing

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of camp life, but it’s important to prioritise your own well-being too. Make time for self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, journaling, or simply taking a moment to breathe and relax.

Stay hydrated, eat nourishing meals, and get plenty of rest to keep your energy levels up and avoid burnout. Recognise when you need a break, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.

While camp life can be busy and demanding, finding balance and making time for fun and relaxation is important. Use your downtime to recharge your batteries, connect with friends, and engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfilment. Take advantage of the opportunities for personal and professional growth the camp environment offers, such as training workshops, team-building exercises, and leadership development programs.

Wrapping Up

Now you have all the information you need to start your adventure in one of many summer camps in America. Are you ready to have the best summer yet?

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