Diabetes Camp Packing Tips and Checklist

by Leighann on July 3, 2017

Summary: Here are a few diabetes camp packing tips that I have picked up over the years as well as a checklist of items you might not think to pack.

Diabetes Camp Packing Tips

As we prepped Q to go to diabetes camp this summer, I made a mental note of some of the tips and tricks that we have learned over the years. I think this is the 4th or 5th year that Q has attended diabetes camp!

Of course you will receive a packing list (and a list of what not to pack!) and instructions from the particular camp your child will attend, but here are a few things to think about.


It’s easy for kids to get homesick, especially if they are younger or this is their first time away from home. It’s great to remind your d-kid that you are thinking about them by sending mail. Ask for the camp address and how you should label letters so that they get to your kid. I like to send at least the first couple of letters the week before camp to make sure they get there on time.

Have each family member, grandparents, and even best friends write a letter so that you can cover each day. I write the day of the week on the outside of the envelope so they know to give her one each day. At my daughter’s camp, they get mail during quiet time in their cabin in the afternoon and it’s nice to feel included.

Though most of the time Q is too busy to write us or we receive her camp letters after she’s already back home, I send some stationary with her that is already stamped and is already addressed and ready to go.

Drop Off

Expect drop off to take an hour or more. Be patient. There is going to be a long line and it is going to be hot. Eat lunch before you go and consider bringing a bottle of water.

If your kid has attended camp before, it’s fun to wear the previous year’s camp t-shirt on check in day.

Don’t be surprised if your kid says “Okay, bye, you can go now!” the second that they are checked in. Conversely, younger or first time campers might be teary-eyed. It’s okay to leave them, the counselors and staff are prepared. Reassure them that they are safe and loved. Q cried every single night at bedtime the first year she went to camp because she was homesick…but that didn’t keep her from having an awesome week. In fact, she didn’t want to leave when we returned to pick her up.

Packing Tips

Though we use a suitcase for her clothes, we usually pack the bedding, pillow, and a favorite stuffed animal in a laundry basket. At the end of the week Q is able to throw everything back into the basket.

Get a shower caddy from the housewares department or back-to-school college aisle for the toiletries your kid needs daily. It’s easy for them to carry it to the shower/restroom. Though I’m not guaranteeing that kids actually have great hygiene at camp!

Bring one towel for swimming and another for showers.

Even though it’s hot during the day, it can get cold at night. Pack warm pajamas or sweatpants and a sweatshirt that can be layered.

The camp Q attends has a dance on one of the last evenings. It’s camp, so it’s not like they need a ball gown! But we do pack a sundress for her to wear so that she can dress up. Boys can bring a nice shirt, a polo, or even a tie.

Cabins usually aren’t air conditioned (if they were, it wouldn’t be camping!). We purchased a small fan that can clip on to her bunk so that she can have her own source of cool air.

Label everything. Your kid will probably lose some things and you might even find random clothing in the laundry bag. But labeling everything with your kid’s name gives it a better chance of coming back home.

Packing tips recap:

  • Laundry basket
  • Shower caddy
  • Two different towels
  • A nicer, but not too nice, outfit
  • A small clip-on fan
  • Addressed and stamped stationary
  • Label everything

Items you might forget:

  • Sunglasses (we forgot them last year!)
  • Flashlight…don’t forget the batteries
  • Swim goggles
  • Quiet activities, such as a sketch book and pencils, playing cards, or a novel
  • Camera (one you won’t be too upset about losing or ruining, in past years we have purchased waterproof disposable cameras, but might consider an inexpensive digital one)


Your child is going to be just fine. Think about the ratio of medical staff and counselors to child. A d-kid has way more resources at camp than at home! They might do things differently (Q hates that they use urine ketone strips and that she has to walk all the way to the bathroom to check every single time she’s above 200 mg/dL), but they have a system worked out to care for 100+ kids with diabetes.

More Info About Diabetes Camps

Thinking about sending your child with type 1 diabetes to camp? Read the excerpt from my book Kids First, Diabetes Second about “Diabetes Summer Camps.”

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