Trip Coach: March 13, 2007

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David LaHuta, Assistant Editor of Budget Travel, answered your questions about family camps.

David LaHuta: Hi there everyone. I'm here to take your questions about family camp so fire away!

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New York City: Can you suggest a family resort with kosher food withint a 3 hour drive of New York CIty?

David LaHuta: You're in luck! Try New Jersey "Y" Camps in Milford, Pa. It's under a two-hour drive from New York City, and it serves three Kosher meals a day (with vegetarian options available). The camp caters specifically to Jewish families so you can also expect optional Jewish services on Friday evening and weekend mornings as well. It's a wonderful program with lots of options--in addition to three weekend family camp sessions in June, August, and September, the camp also runs grandparent and single-parent weekends too. For more information, go to njycamps.org or call 973/575-3333.

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Boulder, CO: I've got two adopted sons from China. I love them with all of my heart but I'm concerned they might not fit in with the other kids. Are there any camps for families like mine? Terri

David LaHuta: While I'm sure your concern is genuine, I can assure you that the vast majority of people who attend family camp are an accepting bunch. That said there are specialized camps for families like yours (and luckily, a handful pretty darn close to Boulder). They're called Colorado Heritage Camps--ten separate properties in the Rockies and Denver for families with multicultural and internationally adopted children. Each camp focuses on a specific culture from African/Caribbean to Vietnamese. And not only will your kids be surrounded by other adoptive families, but the teachers and counselors who lead daily activity sessions are also of the same ethnic background (you're even fed culture-specific lunches!). It's a great camp and one I'm sure your family will love. For more information, check it out at heritagecamps.org or call 303/320-4234.

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Norwich, NY: Summer is a busy time for our family of 4 (sons aged 11 and 8). We own a business and find it difficult to get away for a full week. Are there family camps in the northeast that run for a long weekend?

David LaHuta: Fortunately many camps recognize the time constraints put on a typical family and the northeast is not without its options for a fun long weekend. About a three-and-a-half drive from Norwich is a camp called Club Getaway, in Kent, Ct. It's a beautiful property in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains and this summer it's offering two family camping sessions, both just two nights long: Aug. 20-23 and Aug. 24-26. The kids will love the camp's great waterfront activities (water trampoline, anyone?) and you and your significant other will enjoy wine tastings and more. For more information, check it out at clubgetaway.com or call 877/746-7529. Another option near you is YMCA Camp Hi-Rock in Mount Washington, Mass. From Norwich, it's just over three hours by car, and in addition to a family camp week in August, the camp offers family weekends year-round. For more, go to camphirock.com or call 413/528-1227.

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New York, NY: What's an often overlooked question that parents should ask a family camp?

David LaHuta: An important question to ask a family camp--heck, any camp for that matter--is whether or not it's accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA). Camps accredited by the ACA meet 26 health and safety standards and are usually handicapped accessible, so if that's a concern for your family, remember to ask. That said, there are some great camps out there that aren't ACA accredited so don't count out a specific camp just because the ACA hasn't given its stamp of approval. In those cases ask for referrals from other families, and if you're near by, a site visit doesn't hurt either.

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NY, NY: What's the biggest mistake parents make with family camps?

David LaHuta: Probably the biggest mistake parents make is not considering family camp at all. I've heard it from plenty of folks for lots of reasons, "But I don't want to sleep on a cot and drink bug juice!" What people should know is that you don't have to. There are many camps out there that have hotel-style accommodations and serve great (sometimes gourmet) food. About a two-and-a-half hour drive from New York City is Frost Valley camp in the Catskills, with tons of lodging options for the most finicky of families. There's a B&B-style castle that was once a private estate, lake-view hotel-style rooms, cabins, and more (for more info, check it out online at frostvalley.org). The point is there's a camp out there for every family!

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NYC: Which of the family camps you visited was the coolest?

David LaHuta: Last summer I spent a week at Camp Seagull/Seafarer in Arapahoe, N.C., and I was so surprised at the amount of families who flew in from out of state just to attend this camp. Is it cool? Absolutely, and everyone who got on a plane to attend knows it too. If you and your family enjoy water activities, there's no shortage of things to do: waterskiing, tubing, motorboating, and a fabulous sailing school. But what I liked most about it was its staff. They're an incredibly competent (and likeable) bunch and they all took great care to make the kids feel comfortable, safe, and secure. Not to mention they're incredibly encouraging, which is just what you need when you're eight-years-old and faced with a 60-foot climbing wall...

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Winfield, IA: I would like to know if their are camps for seniors. I am on a budget.

David LaHuta: There are plenty of programs for adult and senior campers, many with a slant toward academics, religious studies, and even sports and adventure for agile campers. A good place to start your search is website called Grownupcamps.com which lists camping opportunities for adult travelers. You also might try asking if a specific camp has a special senior weekend. Best of luck!

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Chicago, IL: My wife and I have ten kids. Will we be able to stay in our own cabin together? Or will we have to split up--which we always have to do on vacation! Chuck

David LaHuta: Have no fear. Lots of family camps operate as regular boys and girls camps during the summer, so they've got huge cabins that normally sleep 20 to 30 at once. During family camp however, most camps put one family in a cabin, so you and your family should have more than enough room to enjoy a fun weekend together. Just be sure to ask about the size of a camp's cabins before you book as many camps offer a wide variety of lodging options.

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Ames, Iowa: What do you like most about family camp?

David LaHuta: There are so many factors that make family camping a great option for your next vacation. Of course, it's affordable. A typical family of four can spend $1,000 or less for an entire week and that includes activities, accommodations, and food. Good luck finding that at Disney World. Another reason I love family camp is there are plenty of opportunities for families to spend time as a unit in addition to branching off and doing they're own thing. There are times when the kids get to run around with the other kids while the adults can sit on the porch, sip a cool glass of ice tea, and read a book--so it's the best of both worlds. Not to mention camping is fun! You're giving your kids the opportunity to try something new in an encouraging and safe environment. Trust me, they'll thank you when they get older.

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Port St. Lucie, Florida: What are some good resources if I'm trying to find a camp for my family?

David LaHuta: Fortunately there are lots of great resources to help find the right camp for you. One good place to start is kidscamps.com, a fairly comprehensive source for family camps and children's camps in the U.S. and abroad. If you're looking for a camp with "Christian values," then look no further than the YMCA. Its website, ymca.net, links to camps in all fifty states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. For fun outdoorsy programs in the northeast, the Appalachian Mountain Club offers some great family camp programs on its website, outdoors.org. For camps accredited by the American Camping Association, visit acacamps.org. And of course, don't forget my annual story on the country's All-Star family camps at BudgetTravelOnline.com.

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San Diego, California: My kids love learning. Are there any camps that have educational programs?

David LaHuta: Two new camps made our All-Star list this year and I picked them for that very reason. Near your hometown is a fabulous camp on Catalina Island, aptly named Catalina Island Camps. It's hosted by famed oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau, who teaches evening presentations about his work with the Ocean Futures Society and leads nature walks, tide-pool exploration, and scientific snorkeling trips. For more information go to catalinaislandcamps.com or call 800/696-2267. Another option (although a little further from your home) is the family program at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colorado, where you can excavate Pueblo Indian artifacts alongside archaeologists and learn Native American history. It's a fabulous program and perfect for any kid (or adult) who likes getting their hands dirty. For more check out crowcanyon.org or call 800/422-8975.

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David LaHuta: That's about all the time we have for today. Thanks to everyone who submitted a question and happy camping! DL

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