Your Summer Camp's Opening Day is Critical

First impressions at your camp

Your staff are The Guardians of the Mission

Your staff are The Guardians of the Mission

Both sets of your clients will start making decisions about summer 2015 within minutes of arrival. Campers will feel more connected when the rigors of registration, swim tests, lice checks, nurse visits, orientation and tours are balanced with fun, engaging activities.  Parents will be impressed when your systems work smoothly, there are no lines and staff are welcoming, personable, knowledgeable and efficient.

That being said, I get the most push-back on suggestions to improve Opening Day.  For some reason, that day is so steeped in tradition, that the routines cannot be touched. 

Minor modifications can make a huge difference. 


  • Scrutinize Your Opening Day Script.  Separate the events into three tracks that run from entry to departure for the adults and arrival to bed time for kids.  One track should be for campers arriving with parents, a second for campers arriving by bus and the third for parents after their camper is absorbed into the group.
  • Ask the Tough Questions and Consider Better Options. Is each track element intentional and efficient?  Which elements can parents do on their own and which require camper involvement? Are staff members sufficiently trained to make the welcome process sincere, engaging and personalized?  If you have stations, can you avoid lines by having a Coordinator directing folks to the most open stations?  Can you stagger arrivals?  How much time do you allow parents to 'unpack' and watch their kids before they are expected to depart?  How do you say 'goodbye' to parents and what do you give them to explain your communication process during the session?
  • Focus on Three Items.   Can there be an express line for parents who submitted all their forms on time?  Camps that have done this have had more compliance about forms in subsequent years. How do you merge bus campers with campers who arrived with parents? How soon are campers really engaged in an exciting, fun activity for which swim tests and lice checks do not qualify?

There are at least two or three items from above that you can EASILY implement to make Opening Day a more positive experience for Parents and Campers.  Please don't put them off for next year, do it now, monitor the difference and then you can fine tune for 2015.


Need an objective perspective on any aspect of camp?  Give me a call at 310-451-1876 or email

(Note from Travis:   We are so thrilled to be posting the always brilliant HINTS from camp consultant Joanna Warren Smith!  If you don't already you should sign up to receive theses HINTS in your email - in the right-hand column of Joanna's website: