April 30th, 2017.

With just 9 days to go until I head to the U.S., and a hectic scheduele during my last few days in England, I decided to make a start on packing my suitcase ready for my departure next Tuesday. If you have already read my Summer Camp Packing List post, you will already know what kind of things have made their way into my suitcase, but I thought I would show you all EXACTLY what will be going to the U.S. with me next week.


My suitcase is designed by Tripp, and I purchased it from Debenhams last year. It is large enough to fit all my belongings in for the 5 month trip to the U.S., but lightweight and sturdy enough to be dragged through the woods at camp!

If you have read my previous posts, you will already know that I am heading straight to 10Australia this year after camp. In my previous Summer Camp Packing List post, I discuss whether you should take a suitcase or a rucksack to camp with you. Well, this year I am taking both! A suitcase is great for camp, but a rucksack will be much easier when I am trekking around Australia in September, so the first thing I packed in my suitcase was my rucksack!

I am generally a super organised person in life, and I am no different when it comes to packing. To make life easier, I use packing cubes and travel bags to make life easier when I arrive at camp. The blue floral packing cubes/laundry bags were from Ebay, with the rest of the travel bags being from Cath Kidston (I am slightly obsessed!).

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The bags are really useful for keeping things together, such as my 17 month supply of contact lenses! Also if you’re a fan of spray deodorant like I am, bear in mind what I said on my Summer Camp Packing List post about how expensive it is in America! I don’t take many toiletries, as I prefer to save my precious weight allowance for other things, but I usually take enough deodorant to last me the summer.

Next comes clothes… I am a notorious overpacker and I know my boyfriend is going to go crazy when I arrive next week with this many clothes! I like to be prepared for all occasions, so have clothes for camp, clothes for days off, clothes for before camp begins (and it’s a bit chillier!)… I could probably clothe the whole camp (ooooooops!). 7.jpg

First I packed some of my camp gear that I have collected over the last couple of years, along with the lovely new items Camp Leaders sent me in the post this week. You will be given staff shirts to wear at camp when you arrive, but I like to take a few oldies with me to wear during pre-camp/staff training so I don’t ruin any of my clothes when getting camp ready for the campers arrivals!

This was followed by tops, bottoms, dresses, jumpers, pyjamas, bikinis, underwear and shoes! As you will see from the pictures below, I have gone SLIGHTLY crazy (oops again). As I said before, there are clothes for all occasions and a girl can never have too many clothes, right?!

There are a few things that I will be using over the next 10 days that haven’t been packed yet, such as make up, a hairbrush, my retainer etc., but I will be finding a way to squeeze those in too come next Tuesday!

 

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Primark shorts and sports shorts make great camp shorts!

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For days off and formal banquets at camp. 

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Don’t forget to pack a waterproof! When it rains in America, it really RAINS!

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Pack at least one pair of warm pyjamas! It can get chilly at night during the first couple of weeks of camp. 

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I love to wear sports bras or cute bralettes at camp instead of a normal bra! It can get so hot and uncomfortable during the summer wearing a normal bra, and ain’t nobody got time for that!

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Plus my beloved Crocs of course (which are already at camp!). 

I also managed to squeeze in a few fancy dress pieces to wear around camp during themed days/events. I already have lots of fancy dress items at camp from previous years, so I have tried not to go overboard (for once) with outfits this year.

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Finally, it was time to start to pack my hand luggage. I always take a small rucksack with me as my hand luggage item, as I don’t really want to be wheeling two suitcases and a rucksack makes for a great day bag on a day off.

In my hand luggage, I put things such as my laptop, iPod, glasses, sunglasses, jewelry, GoPro, adapters, torch, chargers and my Australia travel guide (thanks Amy!). I am travelling with Thomas Cook to America this year, and hand luggage bags can weigh up to 6kgs. Make sure you check with your flight company the limits on baggage allowance to avoid additional fees at the airport!

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The final addition to my hand luggage (and probably the most important of all!) is my travel documents; including train tickets to the airport, my passport, visa documentation, flight details, my social security card (only applicable if you have worked in the U.S. previously – don’t panic if you don’t have one!) and finally my international driving permit. This is something I haven’t mentioned before, but I highly recommend you get if you plan on driving in America this summer. You can get them from selected Post Offices, and the permit costs just £5.50 for a whole year. Although it is not a compulsory requirement to have on in the U.S., some hire car companies insist you have one, along with your U.K. driving licence, to rent a car.

So, that’s me all packed and ready to go! Now I can’t leave the house for the next 10 days as I have no clothes left to wear… just kidding, the amount of clothes I own is ridiculous really. I’m off to spend some quality time with my family, starting with a trip to visit my sister in Leeds followed by some time in North Yorkshire with the parents. Have you started your summer camp packing yet? Camp will soon be here!

Happy packing!

Ellie.

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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. Day’s 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!

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A lot of my Twitter followers (follow me @how2survivecamp if you don’t already!) have asked 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!

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My first year nomination was Grace, who I made great friends with during staff training.

How do I get around on a day off?

Camps usually 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!

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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 a 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.

Chill Out.

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!

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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 (thats rest and relaxation, not rock and roll!) ready for another crazy week at summer camp!

 

 

Victoria Wilkinson.

Ellie here! I’ve had lots of requests for post-camp travel information about Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Unfortunately, I am yet to venture over to the east coast of Florida but luckily for you lot, I know someone who has! If you have read my Florida travel diaries (find Part 1 – Orlando and Part 2 – West Coast Road Trip here if you missed out!), you will know that I spent 2 weeks in Florida with my sister after camp last year. After I returned back up north, she went ‘ridin’ solo’ (sorry in advance, Jason Derulo is 100% my guilty pleasure) on to the east coast to top up her tan. Over to Ria…

As part of my month long post-graduation treat, I decided it was time to venture out of Europe and where’s a better place to start than America? After my west coast Florida road trip with Ellie, I headed solo to Fort Lauderdale and Miami seeking for further sunshine, relaxation and of course –  partying! Solo travelling is great for me as I can be a little selfish and do all the things I want, when I want, whilst meeting new friends from all over the world along the way. I’d previously travelled around Europe on a coach with Contiki and been to Tenerife solo, both of which were extremely successful and have given me some amazing memories! You soon come to realise just how essential selfie stick is when travelling solo!beach

After leaving Ellie in Orlando to board her flight, I took an $8 Megabus (an excellent way
to travel for savvy travellers like myself) from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale which took around 4 hours. Despite the crazy driver, it allowed me some time to catch up on some well needed sleep post-road trip. When I arrived, I quickly realised that Fort Lauderdale was beautiful! I stayed in a hostel called Hotel Deauville ($120 for 4 nights) which was great and had its own pool, however I came to realise it was more of a pit stop than anything else- I didn’t find a lot to do there except from head to the beach.

Turtles nest on Fort Lauderdale’s beaches, which would have been amazing to see, however I sadly didn’t spot anything during my stay. I’ve since learnt that you can book a turtle trek to either see turtles nesting or hatching (nature depending of course!).

Everyone at the hostel seemed to be older, long-term residents apart from a girl called Marina. Marina and I seemed to hit it off straight away (both being as crazy as each other) and decided to venture into the city to explore. We found some pretty impressive and expensive looking yachts on the Riverwalk, and (best of all) a Cheesecake Factory. I was in heaven. As all the bars in town were shut (presumably due to it being a ‘school night’) we headed to the local dive bar where we stumbled upon a karaoke event. Whilst the locals’ drunken rendition of the American national anthem was great, I decided Fort Lauderdale wasn’t for me and decided it was time to head on to Miami.


The next day I used Lyft (like an Uber, but you can share with other people who are heading in the same direction) to take a taxi from Fort Lauderdale to the SoBe Hostel and Bar in Miami (around $120 for 6 nights), which cost around $25. Straight away I loved the feel of the hostel. It offered a free dinner (hardly Michelin star, but I was happy to save money on food!) and had a social event every night, giving me plenty of opportunities to meet new people. Miami was much more of a party-place, and we often pre-drank in the local hostel (to save money!) and paid around $10 to get into a club. If you’re a girl, you’re in luck! The clubs in Miami often gave out free drinks for the girls inside the club (take advantage girls as the guys were forking out around $25 PER DRINK!). The girl I had met in Fort Lauderdale, Marina, was staying at HI Miami Beach, a modern hostel in Miami Beach. All the local hostels in Miami seemed to group together for club nights which was perfect, as I met so many other people this way. My favourite club night in Miami was a place called Nikki Beach.

During my days in Miami, I generally headed to the beach to relax and work on my tan. My favourite beach in Miami was South Beach (also known as SoBe), as it is a huge stretch of beach so there is plenty of room for everyone to sunbathe and the water is beautiful and clear. You can walk along the pier and catch great views of South Beach and Miami City.

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The view from the Pier.

When I wanted to get around Miami, or to travel to Marina’s hostel and the main part of South Beach, I used the amazing 25 cent South Beach Local Bus (which was a God send in the Miami heat!).  I would recommend this to anyone as a cheap way (and cool) to get around whilst visiting Miami!

My favourite place that I went to in Miami (aside from the beach, of course) was Wynwood Walls. I met a girl named Bianca and a few other guys at the hostel who had hired car, so I tagged along with them to visit the walls. The creative graffiti designs are amazing, however the pieces are all scattered around and none of us were particularly up for running around in the midday Miami heat!

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During my stay, I found time to head to the huge Aventura Mall for a break from the heat (the air con is America is the BEST!) and some retail therapy. The mall has a great selection of shops, and it also has a cinema. I went with a friend on iPhone 7 release day, and ended up spending around 4 hours queueing outside the Apple shop – something which I definitely will NEVER EVER be doing again.

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The Apple queue!

Miami is probably my favourite place in the world (so far!), although I’m sure the people that I met there play a huge part in that. I would definitely recommend it on anyone as a destination for their post-camp travels, as it is a a great place for both relaxation and partying! If you’re worried about travelling solo, Miami is full of solo-travellers and is a great place to meet like-minded people.

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Happy travels!

Ria

 

 

24 Hours in NYC.

During my first year at camp, I found myself (along with thousands of other Camp Counselors!) flying into the city that never sleeps – New York City. Although I was super excited to get to camp, the shopaholic in me was also SUPER excited to be in New York for the first time and the opportunity to see some of the sights was too good to pass up…

Most camps have some kind of social media group/page which allows their Counselors to introduce themselves, ask questions and find people who are flying out on the same day to travel with (if you’re not already part of a group, message your Director who will be able to point you in the right direction!). I found a group of other Counselors from my camp who were all flying out on the same day as me, and we decided that it would be cool to spend the night together in NYC before catching the bus to camp the following day.

We booked a studio apartment in Times Square through Booking.com which worked out around £37 pp for the night – pretty cheap for the location! Although it was pretty small, it suited our needs as we weren’t planning on spending much time there, and prepared us perfectly for a summer of sharing a room!

As soon as we arrived at our apartment (around 3pm), we dumped our luggage and changed into clothes more suitable for the NYC heat (SO hot in the summer!). We then set off on our whirlwind tour of the city. We visited Times Square, ate at Olive Garden, saw the One World Trade Center and the beautiful September 2011 memorial fountain.

We walked along the Hudson River, through Battery Park to the Statten Island Ferry terminal in lower Manhattan- and here’s my NYC TOP TIP! The Statten Island Ferry is FREE and takes you right past the Statue of Liberty! The journey takes about 25 minutes each way, and is a great way to see the Lady Liberty without spending a penny! By the time we arrived at the ferry it was quite late, but you get some great views of the NYC skyline at night from the ferry too.

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The next day, we were awoken early by the crazy NYC traffic in Times Square. We decided to make the most of the day before catching our scheduled Peter Pan bus to camp. Our first stop of the day was Port Authority bus terminal, to purchase our bus ticket and leave our luggage for the day. With the purchase of a ticket, we were able to leave our luggage in storage at the bus terminal for up to 24 hours – but check online that this is still the case if you decide to do this!

It was another hot, humid day in NYC and our first stop of the day was the Empire State Building, followed by a trip to Grand Central Station and the ‘New York Palace’ Hotel. As a HUGE Gossip Girl Fan, I was so excited so see some of the famous buildings from the programme (and secretly hoped that Serena would be at the top of the stairs in Grand Central or Chuck Bass would walk out of the Palace!!). We also found the time for a spot of shopping (I found myself headed straight towards PINK!), and in typical tourist style, purchased a knock-off version of an I ❤ New York t-shirt (which I am currently wearing as I write this!).

After all that walking, we treated ourselves to a slice of American Pizza. There are so many pizza shops in New York that we were literally spoilt for choice, and it’s so cheap!. This was my first experience of American portion sizes – the slice was literally as big as my HEAD (which is definitely alright by me!).

We finished off the afternoon with a walk through Central Park and a quick rest by The Pond before heading back to Port Authority to catch the bus to camp (dressed in our new ‘I Big Apple NY’ t-shirts like the cool kids we were!).

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Now I think back, we were 5 complete strangers who literally knew NOTHING about each other agreeing to spend 24 hours together in NYC. Pretty crazy, really! But it was one of the highlights of my first summer at camp, and my favourite trip to New York so far.

If you’re heading out to camp soon, or flying to New York, reach out to your fellow Counselors and see if any of them are up for a NYC trip – it’s a great opportunity to see the city, do some shopping and make new friends before you get to camp!

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Life in the Cabin.

The majority of camp Counselors will find themselves sharing a cabin with a bunch of campers (usually around 10-14 kids per cabin, depending on age) for the ENTIRE summer. Although the campers in your cabin may change around from session to session, for two whole weeks (or however long your sessions last) this group of kids literally belong to YOU – it’s a HUGE job, but someone has to do it!

First let’s start with the basics; what a cabin is. Basically, summer camp cabins are glorified wooden sheds crammed full with bunk beds, trunks and campers! Here is a picture of one of the cabins at my camp…

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And a photo of the inside of the cabin (before everyone has moved in for the summer!).

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This will be your home for the next 8 weeks, so make it your own! Decorate the cabin with bunting, flags, photographs… anything to give it that ‘lived in’ feel. You can pick up decorations, such as bunting etc., from Walmart/Target once you arrive at camp, so don’t feel you have to waste room in your suitcase packing these!

So now you know what a cabin is, let’s find out who will be in it…(besides you!!).

Most camps offer Counselors the chance to choose an age group that they would like to be in a cabin with for the summer. Unfortunately this cannot always be guaranteed (especially if a lot of people all want the same age group), but Directors will put you where they think you are best suited, so don’t be too disheartened if you don’t get given the age group you have requested.

Personally, I have always chosen the intermediate age group (age 10-13). Both of my summers have been spent with girls of this age, and I can’t imagine having anyone else in my cabin! They’re old enough that you can joke around with them, but young enough that they still follow instructions and go to sleep at night! There are pros and cons to all age groups but for me, intermediates are the way forward (and lights out at 9.30pm on a night is OK by me!).

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Cab 7 ❤

In addition to the campers, you will also have at least one other Counselor in the cabin with you – don’t worry, you’re not alone! You and your Co-Counselor quickly become the ‘Mum and Dad’ of the cabin, and it’s your job to deal with any issues that arise – which could be anything from homesickness to a camper being bullied.

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My 2016 Co’s!

The list of responsibilities that come with the role of Cabin Counselor is endless, but here are a few of the main ones:

  • Getting the campers out of bed in a morning on time.
  • Making sure they put on clean clothes, wash their faces and brush their teeth/hair.
  • Ensuring they eat healthy, balanced meals (or that they are eating at all!).
  • Helping them to make their beds and tidy the cabin.
  • Getting them to their activities on time.
  • Assisting them writing letters home.
  • Making sure they shower! (don’t let them fool you!).
  • Ensuring they put their dirty clothes in the laundry (some of these might seem simple, but they are definitely easier said than done – especially with teenagers!).
  • Making sure they have friends, and are getting involved in camp activities.
  • Discussing any issues/problems they may have in the cabin.
  • Dealing with homesickness.
  • Taking them to the nurse/infirmary if they are unwell/if you have concerns.
  • Making sure they are getting enough sleep at night (there is nothing worse than an overtired camper!).

And this list is just the start! If you’re not already, start preparing yourself for an entire 8 weeks of all of the above plus crazy talent show rehearsals (it’s important your cabin are the BEST!), blocked toilets and nightly ghost stories…