Here are a few diabetes camp packing tips that I have picked up over the years and a checklist of items you might not think to pack.
We are diabetes camp veterans, and here are some of our tips.
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 it’s 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 him one each day. At my son’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 his camp letters after he’s already back home, I send some stationary with him that is already stamped and is already addressed and ready to go.
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 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. At bedtime Q was homesick that first year … but that didn’t keep him from having an awesome week. In fact, he didn’t want to leave when we returned to pick him up.
Though we use a suitcase for his clothes, we usually pack the bedding, pillow, and a favorite stuffed animal in a laundry basket. At the end of the week, Q can 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 for layering.
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 or tuxedo! But we do pack a nicer outfit for him to wear so that he can dress up. Boys can bring a nice shirt, a polo, or even a tie. Girls can bring a sundress or cute shorts outfit.
Cabins usually aren’t air-conditioned (if they were, it wouldn’t be camping!). We purchased a small fan that can clip onto his bunk to have his 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 stationery
- 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 sketchbook 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 children. 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 he has to walk all the way to the bathroom to check every single time he’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.”