What is a residential camp?

Have you ever wanted to go on a sleepover that lasted more than 1 night, or a holiday with your friends but not your parents? Residential camp is your home away from home! Residential camp is a place where you can make amazing memories and lifelong friends, try new activities and gain more independence being away from home, all whilst having the best time of your life! If being away from home sounds a bit intimidating, you can be sure that at a residential or ‘sleep-away’ camp you will always have a great support network. There will always either be someone else who is at camp for the first time, or you may even already have friends at camp if you went last year. You will always have someone to turn to for support and guidance whether that’s your roommate, your friend, your activity leader, your evening staff or your fellow campers! Everyone had to be a first-time camper at some point. When thinking about whether you would like to go to a residential camp, there are lots of different things to think about, which may affect which camp you would like to go to or which programme you want to join.

How long are you happy to be away from home?

All over the world, different camps offer different residential or overnight camp programmes. If you are fairly new to the idea of camp then you may want to find a camp which runs ‘taster sessions’ for the weekend, however, most camps will run for a block week or two weeks as a minimum, giving you the opportunity to arrive at the weekend and then do activities for one or two weeks before returning home.

Can I stay all summer?

Yes, there are camps where you can book for up to two months, which is the entire summer session! This, of course, will all depend on your age. For most summer camps, you need to be at least 7 years old to stay overnight and you can keep coming to camp as a teenager too. Often campers will start with shorter sessions and return for longer sessions as they get older. Some camps even offer a programme to allow you to train to be staff, often called worker-in- training or counsellor-in-training so the fun never stops!

Will I be homesick?

Campers do sometimes feel homesick and this is perfectly normal, it is a new environment and a new experience. Naturally, your staff will understand that sometimes you may feel homesick at some point throughout your stay. Most importantly, don’t hide this from your staff!, they are there to help you and most camps will have a dedicated staff member who will be there to assist you with this.

How is the day structured?

Morning: For all camps the day will start with breakfast, and then you will begin your first activity for the day. This could be a language lesson, map work, art-work, water sports, building a camp fire – the list goes on and on! Each camp will have a different rota of activities and can let you know what a normal day at camp will be like. Afternoons: Normally, around 12pm you will all group back together from your activity group to have lunch, and then after lunch, you will go for your afternoon activity. Again, this activity will depend on the type of camp you go to. For example, if you had a French lesson in the morning, during the afternoon you may go to play sports, to mix the day up. Evenings: In the late afternoon we have free time, which allows the campers (and staff!) to relax before dinner. After dinner, you will have one more activity before bed, whether that’s a talent show or bonfire. Weekends are a little different, most camps will have this as their changeover period. So depending on when you have new campers to meet and get to know, this might change the activities slightly for that day. At Altitude, we encourage campers to help to choose an activity for the day at the weekend. Maybe you had a favourite place that you would like to revisit!

Will it feel like school?

When you come to camp, you are on holiday! So regardless of the programme you choose, your staff will always encourage you to learn through fun, whether that’s games or exciting activities. Most summer camps which are in an outdoor setting will encourage you to spend the entire time outside as long as the weather allows it! Even at our language camp we promote speaking as much as possible in comparison to writing and reading, this then allows the teachers to take the children outside to learn in fresh air. You’ve probably just finished a term at school when you come to camp so we know you’ve probably been inside a lot recently!

How do mealtimes work?

Every camp will provide 3 meals a day, and snacks too. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will tend to be served at your base camp or ‘mess hall’ as some camps like to call it. If you are lucky enough to have day excursions at your camp you may also have the opportunity of picnic lunches or BBQ’s – you haven’t really been to camp if you didn’t toast a marshmallow over a camp fire! All camps will make sure that you are sitting with the other children and that you are not sitting alone. This is your opportunity to meet new people so make the most of it! At Altitude, we are an international camp welcoming campers from all over the world with different first languages, so we make sure that English is the main language spoken around the table. This makes sure that all children feel involved and are not left out due to language barriers. To give you an idea we have lunch all together at our day camp chalet, here we provide a healthy and nutritious lunch served with a large variety of different options in a hot and cold buffet style. Like all camps, we cater to all dietary, medical and religious requirements.

Can I have my phone or Ipad?

At Altitude, and as a general rule at most camps, we are a ‘no technology summer camp’. Before you panic – think again! We find this encourages children to be completely focussed on having FUN and making new friends. Therefore, not relying on or being distracted by social media/what’s happening on their phones.

Will I always be very active at camp or do we have time to relax?

Most camps including ours will have designated ‘free time’ each day. This is where you can switch off for a while, relax, phone home, write letters to your family, play games or catch up with the great book you’ve been reading. We understand that a day of camp can be very exciting and full on, so this time allows campers to rewind and reflect on their day. During free time at our camp we allow teenage children (13yo +) to go into town with a small group of their camp friends. We have strict procedures in place to allow for this and we also make sure we have the parent’s permission before camp to allow you to do this. This allows our eldest children to have more independence at camp.

Come and see for yourself!

Once you’ve chosen the destination and type of camp that you want to go to, you’ll soon find that as soon as you leave camp at the end of summer, you’ll be counting down the days till the start of the next year.  

When can I start summer camp, and when does it end?

June! Summer camps are based around school summer holiday dates. Therefore the majority will start towards the end of June and then finish mid or end of August each year.

Are there camps running in fall, winter or spring?

Camp all year sounds great, doesn’t it?! Some camps do offer programmes all year, which are often targeted at school groups who will visit the camp for a week or weekend during term time, and also for the usual school breaks in October and March/April too. However, most summer camps operate just during the summer months as this is when the longest school holidays are, and when children can make the most of the great summer weather at camp. At Altitude, our ski school offers group ski and snowboarding day camps which follow a similar structure to the summer day camps and run from 9am – 4pm each day, and include either ski or snowboard lessons with one of our amazing instructors in the morning and afternoon, with a hot lunch included. Most of our summer camp leaders work as instructors in the winter too, so you may end up having the same staff member as summer!

How long can I stay at camp for?

You can sign up for different length summer camp sessions while camp is running. Camps usually offer shorter sessions for younger or newer campers, and campers who have been going for years normally opt for longer sessions or maybe even the whole summer! The dates you can join for different length sessions may be set by the camp, and it is best to stick to these if possible, because it means you join camp on the same day as other campers and can all get to know camp and each other together, rather than joining in the middle of a session. Another big factor determining how long you can go to camp for is how old you are. If you are under the age of 6 or 7, depending on the camp, you’ll most likely only go to day camp. Usually this will be a minimum of a week sign up, but you can go for longer too! Other camps, usually those with only residential programmes, offer weekend camps to young children. This is like an introductory camp and gives children a chance to try camp before committing to a week or two week overnight session. At Altitude, we offer a perfect transition for children into residential camp. We offer a day camp which follows the same structure to the residential camp right up till 4pm, the children can try this first for a week to see if they like day camp first, and if they do, sign up to join the residential camp next year, or even the same summer if we have space!

What length camp session shall I sign up for?

There are some important points to consider when you are choosing how long you would like to go to camp for.

How long am I happy to be away from home for?

Camp will tend to run in weekly, 2 week long, 4 week long, or even full summer sessions. This means there is a huge variation of time you can go to camp for. Maybe you’re going on a 3 week holiday, and you would like to do 2 weeks of Camp and then 1 week with your family. Maybe it’s your first time and so you would like to try for a week to see if you like it, or you already know that you LOVE camp so you know you want to spend the whole summer there with your friends!

How long do I think it will take me to settle and adjust to camp life?

It can take a while to settle into new surroundings, therefore if you think it’ll take you a couple days to settle in then maybe 2 weeks or more of camp is perfect for you so you can make the most of your time at camp.

What programmes will the camp be offering during the time I would like to go?

Camps tend to offer their programmes on rotations. For example we offer a 2 week rotation, therefore the most common is for children to come for 1 or 2 weeks, this way they will never repeat the same activities.

The camp I want to go to offers 2 different programmes that I would like to try, what should I do?

Book for 2 weeks or more! This way you can try the first week following one programme and the second week following the other.

If I like the 1st week of camp, is there an option for me to extend?

If there is space in your group and chosen programme then sure! We would love to welcome you again. Bear in mind though, during peak weeks the groups will most likely be full so it’s worth for parents to check this before you come.

If I am home sick, what kind of support will I receive?

There will always be a pastoral care team on hand to help you. Therefore make sure you tell a member of staff at camp, and they can help you through this.   All of the above are questions that you should take time to consider the answer and also important to discuss with your parents. If you have any doubts it’s important to ask the camp staff questions so that they know the best way to help you achieve your goals at camp! But remember, you are going to camp for YOU! So it is important that you make the right decisions so that you can make this the best summer of your life!   Camp is the best place to make new friends! Year after year, children make new friends at summer camp, and there are many returning campers who like to book into the same camp session together each year. Camp can be an exciting, fun holiday away from your parents, which you get to enjoy with your new friends.  

How do i start making new friends?

There are many different ways for you to make friends at summer camp. The first one is to introduce yourself – your new best friend could be sitting next to you already! You won’t be the only one whose first day it is at camp, there will always be another camper in the same position as you, why not introduce yourself while you’re waiting for everyone else to arrive, and team up with them! I know it can be scary to introduce yourself to someone but you can do it!

How will camp staff help me to make friends at camp?

Your camp counsellors or team leaders will organise games and activities for you to get to know each other and make new friends straight away. Your very first day activities will be playing team building and ‘get to know you’ games or, another term for them which you may hear is ice breakers, this will be common for most camps! The staff here are helping you settle in to camp and are encouraging you to get to know them, and each other too. We add in extra challenges to help you remember your camp mates and new friend’s names! You may play these with your new bunk mates for residential camp, or in your activity groups for day camps. Mountain games in the Swiss Alps

What if I don’t have friends to go to activities with at first?

Camps like Altitude have set programmes, so everyone is doing the activities together in their group, and you don’t need to worry about this! Some camps you will get a free choice of activities, and maybe you don’t know anyone who is going to the same one as you from your cabin! Don’t worry, as soon as you get to an activity, the staff will make sure you’re involved in whatever they’re doing that day. Activities at camp usually involve working or playing as a team, so by joining in with activities you will make friends. At Altitude, you will be in a group of other campers of similar age with your own camp leader and tend to stay with this group at camp. For example, if you go to an activity like shelter building, you’ll soon find that you need to rely on your fellow campers to complete the activity. It’s way more fun to do these activities in a team! Swiss Summer Camps - Kids using a map together

What if I can’t remember everyone’s names?

Camps come in different shapes and sizes, so for really big camps, you might not know everyone’s names, and that’s OK! You don’t need to worry about not knowing everyone, because you will know the others in your dorm or bunk room, and you will know campers who are doing the same activities as you, or those you meet during mealtimes! For small camps like Altitude, you will usually end up knowing everyone’s name especially if you’re a residential camper, as everyone does activities together in the evenings. If you’ve forgotten someones name, just ask them, and they won’t mind telling you again!  

What if I speak a different language?

Don’t worry, at international camps or language camps, this the case for lots of campers. When campers come from all different countries, it has the added advantage that you can make friends with other children from all over the world! But if there are children from all over the world, what if they don’t speak the same language as me? Well, it’s hard to have a conversation with someone if you’re all speaking different languages! Many camps will take this into consideration when they are designing their groups/programmes. For example, at out camp we have children who speak a whole range of languages but we encourage all children to speak English together so that no one feels left out. If you don’t speak English and want to go to a camp in a different language you may find one near your home, or if there is a language that you’ve always wanted to learn, you can see if there is a camp which has lessons in your chosen language. There are also lots of camps who offer language programmes, if there is a language that you want to learn you may be able to do this at summer camp!

How can I help my child to prepare to make friends at Camp?

Encouragement is key! Put yourself in your child’s shoes; going to a new camp, especially for the first time, can be really scary.  However, once they’ve gone for the first day and made new friends to enjoy activities with, they’re going to feel more independent, and be so proud of themselves! Talk to your child, find out how their feeling about it. Words of encouragement and helping them get over any pre camp nerves will definitely help prepare them and make them feel more confident.   Come to camp and you’ll have made new friends before you know it! You may be wondering whether to send your child to camp, and whether summer camp is right for your child. We believe camp is beneficial to every child and answer a few questions about our own camp including who comes to summer camp, what age children start, and where they come from in the world.

What age do children go to camp?

The age that children can go to summer camp will vary from camp to camp, and this also will be defined by the activities the camp offer. At Altitude, we have 3 different camps which children can join. This allows us to open the camp to a large variety of children of different ages, and we accept children from 3 – 14 years old. Many camps will accept children at school age, so from around 5 or 6 up to 18 years old.  

Can my pre-schooler join summer camp?

Yes! We welcome children from as young as 3 years old to our half-day mountain adventure style programme. This is an age specific programme which we call the ‘Marmot Camp’ for children between the ages of 3-5 years old. This is a morning-only camp, where the children come ready to leave for an activity at 9am. We will then all go in our van to an activity whether that’s pond dipping, swimming, camp fire building, mountain art, shelter building, the list is endless! After our activity we will come back to camp and re join the other campers for lunch, after lunch it’s home time at 1pm. Kids camp Switzerland pre-school age

What ages do children join day and residential summer camp?

Once your child is 6 years old, they can join full day camp which run from 9am – 4pm, and when they’re 7 years old they can become a residential or ‘overnight’ camper. Both these camps are open to children right up to the age of 14 years old. We will still split up the camp into different age categories for activities, as we understand a 6 year old and a 14 year old are very different so will then handle the activities in different ways. Day camp schedule consists of a morning activity, lunch and then an afternoon activity before home time at 4pm, and residential campers get to enjoy an evening programme as well as the adventure of staying away from home with their new camp friends and staff.  

Are all the children at camp from Switzerland, or do children come from elsewhere?

At our summer camps we welcome children from all over the world. We have children from Switzerland who may be local or from Expat families, as well as children from countries such as Hong Kong, Russia, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Italy, Canada and France just to name a few! Even though the children’s native languages all differ, we ask that all children attending our camp speak English so that no one feels left out. There are summer camps all over the world, with different target audiences, and some may be international camps such as our own, whereas others may be more local. Many camps in America and Canada tend to mainly have campers from the major cities around them, and may be based on a school campus or have pick up points in local cities. This will then attract local children as it is seen as a camp which has easy access for children to get to. If the camp is linked to a school and they market themselves within the school, there is likely to then be a large number of campers attending the camp who also go to the school. If you find a camp which you like the look of and it seems to follow this set up, it may still be worth looking into. They may also have a programme to welcome international children.

Is summer camp right for my child?

We think so! Summer camp can bring great benefits to any child, and there are so many different camps out there we are confident you’ll find one to suit you. There are different types of camp, as well as different programmes on offer; for example if your child doesn’t like the idea of staying away from home yet, opt for a day camp programme! Across the board, you can easily find many camps which have based their activities round core subjects like athletic camps, adventure camps, art camps including music, water sports or academic programmes. Most camps won’t require your child to have any knowledge or experience in the activities that they’re going to participate in. For example, at our mountain adventure camp we find that allot of our kids haven’t tried a high ropes course before they come to tackle it with us. However, you will find that your camp mates and staff will always be there to help and encourage your child and you will find that they come away having learnt so much! Across the world there are countless numbers of summer camps, these come in various shapes and sizes, such as sports or language camps, and from camps with 50 campers to 500 campers! You could be looking for a camp local to you or an international camp, or you may need a camp which caters to your child’s specific needs. Choosing the right camp can end up being an overwhelming experience! To help, we have chosen what we believe are 10 important questions to ask yourself when you are choosing the right summer camp for your child.  

1. How big is the camp?

Just like adults, children will respond differently in different environments. It is important to consider the size of the camp when choosing a camp for your child. Do you think they will enjoy themselves more if they are in a smaller camp, where they will be able to receive more 1 on 1 attention and get to know everyone easily? Or do they feel confident around people whether they know them or not, and therefore would be happier in a larger camp where they can meet lots of new people at each activity?  

2. How many returning campers are there ?

This is usually an indicator of whether campers enjoy camp. If there is a high number of campers going back each year, then naturally you can tell they are doing something right! The campers also get to know each other really well during their time at camp so it can be nice for children to have friends who they can come back to camp with year after year, especially if you’re looking for camp to become a part of your child’s summers for years to come. However, if it’s your child’s first time at camp, you may also want the reassurance that other children are going for the first time too, so that it wont be too ‘cliquey’, so a balance is usually best!  

3. Where is the summer camp based?

The location of the camp will greatly influence the atmosphere surrounding the camp, for example, is the camp based in a school or park? Based in a school may make it feel more like ‘summer school’ to some children, or if the base is in a rural location such as the mountains or by a lake this may feel more adventurous. In this scenario a question to ask yourself would be, will my child spend the whole time in the park or school, or will they venture outside of this? Take a look at the camp programme and where activities take place to help answer this!  

4. What is the camper to staff ratio like?

In a similar way to asking about the size of the camp, it’s important to ask what their staff to camper ratios are like. If you think your child will need extra attention for specific needs, then it is important to make this is known to the staff on booking. On average most camps should have a ratio of roughly 8-10 campers to 1 member of staff for children 6 years and over. Below this age it should be closer to 4-6 children to 1 member of staff.  

5. Will my child be allowed to take their phone or ipad with them?

The majority of summer camps will discourage children from taking their smartphones or ipads. We have found that children will focus more on the activity that they are doing if they don’t have access to their phones. This will also help encourage children to become friends with one another, and have fun without relying on technology or worrying about their phones. Children will find once they are at camp, that even if they had their phones, they wouldn’t have time to use them! This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to contact your child whilst they are at camp, they may have options to write you a letter or if they can take phones, use their phones or a camp phone at free time to contact you. Not having access to their phones at all times also means children are less likely to feel home sick.  

6. Who can I contact at camp for information on my child?

It’s good to check your options for contacting staff while your child is at camp. The camp director will most likely always be on hand if you need them. All camps will have an emergency contact number and most likely, the director or a manager will be on the other end of the line to help you. You may also want to ask who the person responsible for your child’s welfare is whilst they are at camp, so you know who to talk to for an update, or if you have any worries or concerns. Make it known to your child that they can always talk to camp staff about anything they need help with, a big part of going to camp is independence and learning to deal with day to day issues by themselves, of course with the help of staff when they need it.  

7. Are there transportation options for my child to come to camp or do I need to take them?

This will vary between camps. If the camp is local to you and most campers are coming from a similar catchment area, there may be a camp bus going from certain locations to take the children to the summer camp. If it’s a day camp, this may be an option each day. There is also almost always an option to drop off your children directly at the camp. For international camps, usually the camps can arrange to pick the camper up from the airport and then take them to the camp; children often fly as unaccompanied minors with airlines and are collected from the airline by camp staff directly. They may fly alone if they are old enough (usually 12 years +), or with a parent or guardian. It is important to think about how your child would react and if they would be comfortable travelling alone by plane and bus to camp. If your child in nervous, it might be easier for them if you travel with them.  

8. What is a typical day at camp like?

Again, varies for every camp, whether it’s a day or residential camp, and then if you’ve chosen an academic camp, an adventure camp, a sports camp or something else! Most camps follow a general structure where campers do a morning activity, group back together for lunch and then go off for their afternoon activity. This may be a set programme, or campers may have a choice of different activities they can do. If they are at day camp the children would most likely then go home at around 4pm or 5pm, if they are residential the kids would then follow their evening programme.  

9. Do the children get free time at camp?

Free time can be when some of the best memories are made, hanging out with your new friends at camp, playing, chatting and having the time to rest, imagine and relax. Ask yourself what your child’s normal routine is like, are they a ‘go go go’ kid, or do they need to take things a bit slower and rely on some quiet time each day to relax and reflect on their day? Depending on the answer you may wish to look at what facilities children have at camp for use in free time, or if you can sign them up to extra activities. If you feel like time to relax will be an important aspect to their day then you might want to leave these activities out, so they have some time to themselves or with new friends.  

10. What group will my child be in?

Children will mostly always be grouped together by their age. Younger ones will tend to learn different skills at a slower pace to older children, therefore it is more enjoyable for everyone if they are split this way. This also goes for children’s interests and personalities.   There are hundreds of questions which I’m sure will cross your mind when choosing a camp. We get this! We always make sure we answer any queries and concerns prospective parents may have, no matter how many this may be. We always recommend to research your chosen camp so you know what to expect. Ask your child if they have questions too, as ultimately they will be the campers!                             Summer camps are a fantastic way for children and teenagers to spend the long summer holidays and provide a supervised programme away from home. Campers can learn new skills as well as building resilience, self-sufficiency and independence. For over a century, summer camps have been a big part of summer culture in the United States, and in recent decades summer camps in Europe have become increasingly popular too, with more parents and children enjoying the huge benefits a summer at camp can provide.

What Makes A Good Summer Camp?

Mountain games in the Swiss Alps There are so many summer camps in Europe to choose from, it can be hard to know which are the best camps, and to make a decision on where to send your child or teenager. You might be sending your child to camp for the first time, looking to send them to a different camp to have a new experience, or they may have outgrown their old camp.  Trust If you are looking at a residential or overnight camp abroad, you may not even visit the country the camp is in, let alone the camp itself, so you want to have a great deal of trust that your child is in good hands. This starts from the booking process; make sure you’re able to ask any questions you have and feel reassured that you have good communication with the camp. Activities Take a look at what activities the camp offers, how these are structured and if there is a range that appeals to your child. The idea of most camps is that children will learn new skills from the activities and try something different, so it doesn’t always have to be things they’ve done before! Unless you’re looking specifically for an academic or summer school programme, try and stay away from things your child feels is too much like school.  Activities should be interspersed with rest or down-time through the day to relax, have fun with new friends and give you a call or write a letter to let you know how they’re getting on! Experienced Staff It’s important to ensure that kids are well looked after, supervised and feel safe in order to make sure they get the most out of their camp experience. Staff should be experienced with children of the age group they’re working with, first aid qualified, and enthusiastic and motivated to work with children. Older children and teenagers, in particular, will often view their camp counsellors or activity leaders as role models, take advice from them and want to hang out and spend time with them, so a good camp has staff that feel the same. Fostering Independence & Responsibility Preparing for camp - kids getting out a van being greeted by a team member The original idea behind summer camp was for children to develop self-sufficiency, independence and build confidence away from their traditional school and home environments. This is still an important part of all summer camps today, and a good camp should allow children to forge a strong sense of self, confidence in their abilities to adapt to new environments, try new things and make new friendships, the value of which can’t be overstated as they face challenges in growing older. Small things such as a sense of achievement on trying something new, helping clearing away at activities, taking responsibility for their own possessions, or choosing the best outfits for activities all form part of this. 

Activities at Summer Camps in Europe

Depending on where in Europe the summer camp is based and what facilities the camp has will determine what activities are offered to the campers. Some camps will be city-based, some beach-based or some in the mountains or by a lake. 

Sports

International-summer-camps-europe Camps in Europe offer a variety of sports, with tennis, football, rugby, swimming, basketball, golf, volleyball, climbing, high ropes courses and biking all forming big parts of many camp programmes. Most camps will offer a programme on a rotational basis so children get to try new things, or some specialised camps may offer specific training to kids looking to build up their abilities in tennis for example.

…and more sports

Water sports are a big one for activity camps in Europe, and the warm summer months make for perfect weather for swimming, sailing, water-skiing or wakeboarding, kayaking, paddle-boarding or even learning to surf. If you’re after a camp that offers watersports, make sure it’s located by a lake or on the beach and that all activity leaders are fully qualified in their chosen activities.

Games & Outdoor Activities

Activities at adventure camps include those that many associate with camp, that are devised to get kids outdoors and into nature, fostering a love for the natural environment. Many European countries are very proud of their outdoors, and inspiring the next generation is part of their goal. Activities can include things like orienteering, hiking, ropes courses, climbing, mountain biking, canyoning, rafting, fire building and more. 

Excursion Days

summer-camps-europe-day-trip

Day trips, days out and time to explore are often great parts of a camp programme. For camps with large campuses, this may be reserved for older children going on expedition days, or trips to the local towns or cultural sports. For those in more central and accessible locations, visiting different locations is likely to be part of the every day camp programme, some locations nearby and some further afield. 

Speciality Camps

Don’t forget about speciality camps, especially if your child has a particular passion or hobby they’d like to improve and meet like-minded kids. This includes things like dance, technology camps such as space or robotics, music camps and more. 

Learning A Language At Camp

Language camps for children, teenagers and even families are offered in most European countries, due to the diversity of the languages spoken on the continent. Visiting a country to learn the native language at a camp is a fantastic option for many kids, who may need to learn the language as preparation for a family move to a new country, for school or an upcoming university place, or simply to improve their skills. 

Why Learn A Language At Camp?

Visiting a country to learn that language, visit famous sites, learn about the food and culture as well as interacting with locals can be an inspiring and motivational way to learn a new language. Students also have the opportunity of experiential learning, speaking to native speakers, learning their language by interacting with other children in their new language or using it in shops and everyday life in the country they are visiting. 

Types Of Language Camp

Language camps often offer different programmes. This can differ from camps with language classes in the morning, and activities in the afternoon, right through to intensive language camps. There may be options within the camp of how many hours of language lessons to sign up to, or this may be fixed for each camp.  A language programme is recommended especially if your child has no experience in a language, as full immersion may be a bit intimidating and trickier for camp staff to manage, especially with older children. Interspersed with fun more traditional summer camp activities such as sports, games, and free-time with friends, a language camp can be a fantastic option for many children. 

Intensive Language Camps

Some camps may offer intensive language training, mainly for older children and teens, which focus on language training, again, often combined with language immersion. This is often best suited to those going through exams at school or college in that language who want focused language tuition rather than a summer camp experience. These camps are likely still to offer some activities or trips, but don’t have a focus on more ‘traditional’ summer camp activities. 

Language Immersion Camps

To have an immersive language experience, your child may not even need to attend a camp with a specific language programme. Have a look at the language the camp is run in and the language the staff will be speaking. You may decide you want to send your child to a summer camp without specific language classes but instead run in the language they need to learn or improve, where they can learn a language by assimilation and experiential learning. Europe is the perfect place to do this, as camps are often run in the native language of the country, and international camps are often run in English. 

Best European Countries For Summer Camps

Every country has something different to offer, so to narrow your search we’ve put a few of our favourite countries and regions below.  Switzerland Summer

Switzerland

Famously mountainous Switzerland is a huge draw for visitors year round! Adventure camps here get to make the most of the mountains, glacial lakes and incredible landscape. Ideal for language camps, Switzerland counts amongst its national languages French, German, Italian, Romansch as well as English being widely spoken in the international community. Its accommodation and food standards are very high due to the clients it caters for. 

Our favourite region: Valais for its incredible mountain resorts, and Vaud for it’s amazing lake-side beaches and water sports. 

France

France has it all, from coastal regions to famous cities. It’s a great option for those looking to learn French, and is filled with culture, great beaches and famous landmarks. It can be a cheaper alternative to some other countries, still with the amazing alpine regions, and love for the outdoor European lifestyle.  Our favourite region: Paris is a bit hot for us in summer, so we prefer the Cote d’Azur for its great beaches and summer glamour, or Biarritz for language and surf camps.

Germany

An obvious choice for those looking to improve their German skills, but the country also has its share of adventure camps too. There tends to be less choice of camps in Germany, as it hasn’t risen in popularity in the same way as other camps in Europe, but there are still some great adventure and language camps to choose from.

Our favourite region: Bavarian forest for outdoor adventure and wilderness exploration.

United Kingdom

Very popular amongst locals for day camps, and for those abroad for the famous cities of Oxford and London for learning English! There are also some great activity camps scattered across the country, but the weather is a bit less dependable than most of Europe in the summer! Accommodation is often a bit more basic when looking at residential facilities, but this varies between companies. 

Our favourite region: Oxford for incredible architecture and history and world-class English camps, or Cornwall for its incredible ice-cream, beaches and cliff-top landscapes. 

Spain

More popular for language courses, and camps with watersports, Spain can get pretty hot in the summer months! A lot of the language camps are city-based, meaning less outdoors available to kids and ‘real camp’ feeling, but food and immersion into the wonderful Spanish culture are unparalleled elsewhere for Spanish learners, and camps offer great value.  Our favourite region: beach and adventure camps in Puerto de Santa María for a mix of languages, sun and sea! 

What is a Summer Camp?

Summer camps are a fantastic way for children and teenagers to spend the long summer holidays and provide a supervised programme away from home where campers can learn new skills as well as building residence, self-sufficiency and independence.  For over a century camps have been a big part of summer culture in the North America, and in recent decades they have become increasingly popular in Europe and Asia too, with more parents and children enjoying the huge benefits a summer at camp can provide.

Are all summer camps ‘sleepaway’ camps?

Residential camps - kids playing volleyball Residential, sleepaway or overnight camps are usually what people imagine when they think of summer camps, an exciting summer away from home for the kids, perhaps even in another state or country. Usually, residential camp options begin from the age of 6 or 7, and camps accept participants all the way up to age 17 and beyond, depending on the camp you are looking at.  Some camps also offer day programmes, so children can enjoy camp but still spend time with their parents in the evening. This may be a good option for parents who want to make the most of school holiday time with their children but are working during the day, those who are considering camp to provide extra activities for their children during a family holiday, or for those with younger children who may not yet be old enough for overnight camp.

What will my child do at camp?

Summer Camp Climbing Activity Generally, camps offer a mix of sports, activities, crafts and day trips for campers. Often summer camps have an outdoor focus, and encourage children to stay active, outdoors and try new activities they may not have had the chance to before.  The idea of a summer camp has diversified over the years and some camps now specialise in certain activities; for example some camps are more academic-focused and include language programmes, summer school, technology or science programmes, or some may offer training in specific sports such a tennis or football camp.  Other camps especially for older children may be based in the wilderness and teach older teens outdoor survival techniques, build their own camp and develop orienteering skills.  Whichever camp you choose for your child, they all have the goal of allowing children and young people to learn new skills outside of home or school, alongside their peers, and explore who they are in a supportive and safe environment. 

How do I choose a summer camp

There are many options available for those looking to send their child to a summer camp, in countries all over the world, so it can be hard to know which option to choose for your child. What makes a good summer camp experience can depend a lot on your own specifications for camp, including the locations you are looking at, the activities, and the goals of summer camp for your child. 

Where should I send my child to summer camp?

Firstly, you may want to take a look at the location of the camp. There are camps available in many countries around the world, with the biggest concentration in Europe, America and Canada. You may want to choose one close to home, or a camp in a country you will be visiting as a family that summer, and incorporate the camp as part of that trip. 

City, beach, lake or mountains? 

summer camp location mountains Once you know where you want to send your child, take a closer look at whereabouts the camp is based; some camps are more accessible, located in or near a town or city for example, or some are located in more rural environments, in the mountains or by a lake for example. Camps range from having a permanent purpose built campus where all activities will take place, to having a base and activities taking place in and around the local area, so take a look at the camp set up and decide what works best for you. 

What type of summer camp should I choose?

The biggest part of choosing a summer camp is the programme and activities!  Camps offer many different programmes as we have mentioned, so this will play a major role in choosing the best camp for your child. You may want to send your child to a camp offering lots of outdoor adventure activities, especially if you usually live in the city, and find it hard to prise them away from their phone or tablet during term time.  You may look at a programme which includes things your child loves to do, or conversely things they haven’t tried before to enable them to broaden their horizons. Specialised camps may be an option for you if they have a particular sporting talent, or if your child plays an instrument or you are wanting them to improve their language skills. 

What else should I look for in a good summer camp?

Once you’ve worked out what kind of camp you would like to send your child to and where, there are a few things you can look out for in a good camp. 

Learn more about the staff

Summer camp experienced qualified staff One important thing to look for is the staff to camper ratios. You want to make sure camps have small groups, and that while children are encouraged to be independent, there is always someone there to supervise them or for them to seek advice or help from. Other things to look for are that the staff are all first aid qualified, that they have experience working with children, how old they are and also be important to you if they have specific qualifications in the activities they are teaching. 

Where will your child be sleeping? 

Take a look at the accommodation too; camps range from traditional ‘american style’ cabins offering bunks with outhouse style facilities, to more modern cabins, large dormitories, or higher end accommodation in boarding school buildings. Does this meet your expectations for camp? What are the food options, are these healthy with enough options for your child, and catering to any dietary requirements or allergies? 

Free time is important too! 

How much free time is built into the camp programme? This is an important part of summer camp, especially residential camps, where kids get to bond with their new friends and relax and unwind, often the best memories are made at these times! Make sure free time is included in the camp programme.  If your child is older, you can sit down and discuss the options with them, so you are both comfortable that you are choosing the best camp option for you.   

Why consider International Summer Camps?

Camper Enjoying the Moountains

What is an international summer camp?

International camps differentiate themselves from summer camps designed for children local to the area, as they attract children from all over the world and create an international environment. Each camp session will have children and young people of different nationalities, different religions and different mother tongues, who in their normal day-to-day lives would not have the opportunity to meet and forge new friendships. This brings new benefits over other camps who are targeting those who live nearby, where campers will usually be from the same country or state, or even the same city and schools.  

What advantages do international camps have?

There are huge advantages to international camps if your goal is to improve your child’s language skills. English is often used as the main language, so camp will offer an immersive experience in the English language, or you may choose to choose a camp in a country where it has a language course in one of the national languages. They will also be fully immersed into that country and culture, which can be a hugely beneficial and motivating experience when learning a language. 

Who goes to an international summer camp?

Everyone! At an international camp, campers will make friends with others from a mix of backgrounds and cultures, and in doing so will expand their horizons. If they go to an international school or boarding school this may be a familiar situation to them already, but as children are visiting camp for a much shorter period, they have even more diversity.  International camps can often have the advantage that children are coming from all over the world, and therefore there aren’t big groups of friends who already know each other, and it can be easier to integrate and make friends. 

What do International Summer Camps Do?

International summer camp - group of kids and teachers jumping in the air Many international summer camps have a focus on language, as that can be a big draw to sending your child abroad for their summer adventures. In Europe, international language camps will offer courses in English, French, Spanish, German or Italian amongst others. At Altitude, we offer language courses in both English and French, as well as a mountain adventure programme where students can experience activities delivered in English but without the formal language lessons.  Depending on where they are based, summer camps may differ in terms of the activities they offer, for instance they may be based in the mountains, by a lake, or on a beach! Every camp will have a different range of programmes and activities, but many involve adventure activities, sports, cultural visits and trips as well as arts, music and drama.   

Best International Summer Camps

We’ve taken a look at some of the best international summer camps, based on some of the criteria you may have when choosing a camp for your child.  Best international camp for first-time campers  What to look for:  Camps which have lots of new campers each year, smaller camps, and small camper to staff ratios with experienced staff where you know your child will receive lots of attention and support. You may want to choose a camp closer to home, or a day camp if your child is younger and you want to be on hand.  Our suggestions:  Altitude International Summer Camps in Verbier, Switzerland, our own camp, is great for first-time campers, as camp sessions are small with a maximum of 50 campers, and offer a flexible programme where campers can come for the day only to experience camp for the first time, and maybe join the residential programme next year! 

Best camp for older teens 

Altitude Camps Blog - group of teenagers performing on stage What to look for:  A camp with a programme specifically for children of their age group eg.15-17 years, activities that interest your teen, camps that encourage independence, leadership, self-sufficiency. Camps that only accept older teens can be better if it’s your teen’s first time joining that camp, as they tend to avoid cliques and friendship groups if kids have been attending the same camp for a long time.   Our suggestions:  Global Youth Village : Run as a not-for-profit agency and based in the beautiful blue ridge mountains in Virginia, this camp is for those aged 15-19 who want to learn how to change the world. Their camp offers a programme of learning about leadership, community responsibility and sustainable development issues.  Teen Camp based in the state of Maine in the USA, this camp invites only teenagers aged 13-17,and has a big international cohort of campers too at around 30%. It offers a programme, actiities and schedule specifically designed for teens.  Best adventure abroad camps What to look for:  For those looking for a real adventure or holiday, camps can offer this too! These will likely appeal to more adventurous older children and teens, but look for those with a well established programme and experience operating in the countries they are in to make sure the programme will run smoothly. Our suggestions:  The Road Less Travelled: there’s some serious adventure packed into the programmes offered by this company, in exciting locations all over the world from the Ecuador to Norway to Tanzania, for active, adventure seeking teens.  Active Travel : Based in France, Active Travel Camp is essentially a holiday for teens aged 11-16, visiting three different locations over three weeks. Places are limited to only 45 per session, so sign up early! 

Best first camp for younger children (3-5 years) 

Kids camp Switzerland pre-school age What to look for:   A camp with a programme adapted for younger children, shorter days for those under 5 years, camps that splits children by age and ability level, experienced counsellors.  Our suggestions:  Altitude Camps ‘marmot’ programme offers a half day specialised programme for those aged 3-5 years, and a day camp only option for those age 6 years before they can join the residential camp.  The International Montessori school offer a great programme of summer camps for young children in the UK, with different themed for each week, open to all children whether they are attending an international Montessori school or not.  Best camp for learning languages & speciality camps What to look for: Depending on the age of your child you might be looking for different things; for younger children with some experience of the language, doing an activity or adventure camp and being fully immersed in the language with no formal lessons can be the best way! For older children wanting to work on their language skills, an immersive language camp including formal lessons so they can also practice their writing and reading is usually best.  Our suggestions: Alpadia offer language camps all over Europe for ages 8-17 years, learning French, English, and German. Language lessons are 20 hours per week, plus other activities in the afternoons such as swimming, games or sports.   Village Camps offer a huge selection of specialised camp programmes including those specialised for languages, performing arts, sports leadership. Offerings depend on country, age and programme, but they are based in Europe and Canada.  Each summer, thousands of new and returning staff set out to far flung corners of the world to work on summer camps during the long summer holidays. If you’re thinking about working on a camp for the first time, or perhaps you’re thinking of applying to work on our camp in Verbier, you might be wondering what camp life is really like for staff. We caught up with one of our own camp activity leaders Caitlin who works on our international camps in Verbier, to ask what she thought were the biggest pros of working for a summer camp. Over to Caitlin, for her top 10 reasons to work at summer camp!

1 – There is never a dull moment!

The enthusiasm we see from our campers fuels us for the day! At summer camps, campers are offered an amazing range of different activities, day trips and evening programmes, some of which may include activities or games even you may not have tried before training week. The children are never bored, and you are also joining in with doing different activities each day with them, so neither are you! You also may find you become very passionate about the activities. For me, I take our 3 to 5-year-old campers pond dipping which they absolutely love. It doesn’t feel like work to me. You’ll need to bring with you lots of enthusiasm and energy, though!

2 – A unique working environment

‘Step into my office’ is what you could be saying whilst accompanying your campers at the ropes course, building a campfire and toasting marshmallows, trying to see who can catch the biggest frog at the pond, watching the pure excitement on your campers faces as they reach the top of the climbing wall, or challenging your campers to a game of mini golf. The list goes on. Not everyone can say that about their day at the office!

3 – All camps are different, so there’s one to suit everyone!

Depending on the camp you work at, it may be big, small, or somewhere in between. I worked in a camp in Canada where we had hundreds of campers and therefore over a hundred members of staff. There are many camps around the world that are set up like this; they have a main campus, often attached to a lake, and will do all of their activities on their campus with all staff and campers living on-site. A lot of the staff were previously campers too, but they all tend to have a group of new staff from abroad as well each year. This is a great way to really understand the summer camp community as you are around people with so much experience that you end up taking a lot away as well as meeting lots of new people. It can also be a great opportunity to find people to travel with after camp has finished for summer. At Altitude, we will only have a maximum of 50 children at camp therefore you grow strong relationships with not only the rest of the team but your campers too. We find this benefits not only our campers, but also our staff, and our returning staff numbers are very high. Right from the start we already know everyone’s strengths and who the best people are to run certain programmes, or manage evening activities. We don’t have a campus, but instead do our activities in Verbier and have day trips to the surrounding area, so you will also be getting out and exploring the Swiss Alps along with your campers. Every camp is different so check out their set-up, their programme and whether it’s live in or out, so you know what is expected of you.

4 – Work in incredible locations around the world

Adventure summer camps are a break from the city lifestyle for many children and so often camps tend to have their bases close to rural areas. There are summer camps all over the world, and working as a camp counsellor or activity leader can take you to so many different places and you can use these opportunities to earn some money and explore that bucket list country you’ve always wanted to go to! We are incredibly lucky with our location at Altitude Summer Camps, we are located in the wonderful mountain resort of Verbier, Switzerland, nestled in a sunny region of the Swiss Alps. Our camp is based in a quiet neighbourhood called Patier, walking distance to both town and the mountain forest. There are numerous benefits to us being based here, and the adventures can begin right on our doorstep!

5 – Build on your teaching skills and experience at camp

It’s a good idea to research the kind of camp you want to work at based on what you bring to the table. For example if you want to go to a water sports camp because this is where your skills and qualifications lie, then you would be looking for one that has access to lakes and offers activities like kayaking or water skiing. If you want to teach at a music camp, then you need to find a specific camp offering these activities. You can find camps focussing on mountain adventure, arts and crafts, language skills, religious camps, the list goes on. If there is a skill you want to focus on then research it!

6 – You’ll learn something new every day

Summer camps may only last during the summer months but the skills that you gain last a lifetime! There are opportunities to learn about your camper’s culture, maybe they’ll teach you a couple of words in their home language or you’ll learn a new skill through the activities that camp offers. You always tend to walk away from camp having learnt almost as much as the campers themselves!

7 – Build incredible leadership skills

Whether your camper is a residential or day camper we (the staff) effectively take sole care for the children at camp. You’ll soon learn that your campers will lean on you for guidance, advice and mentorship. So naturally your leadership skills will grow.

8 – You’ll become adaptable

Not every group of children will be the same! Every group will have different interests, hobbies and personalities therefore you can adapt the programme and make each activity yours to match the campers that you have. Being adaptable to the group that you have will guarantee that your campers have a memorable experience. With new staff come new ideas, and we are always open to hear how you think you could add variety to our activities. For example – maybe you have a different idea on how we can deliver our building campfires session, or new campfire recipes we can try with the campers.

9 – Explore your hidden talents

Due to most camps being able to offer such a large variety of different activities there is an opportunity for you to explore new activities which you may find you love! Our programmes are on a 2-week rotation so every day is a new activity. – we can’t wait to see your talents.

10 – You’ll feel privileged

Wherever you choose to work in the world, we are very lucky to be in a outdoor environment. You can learn so much from your experiences and you can take so much away from it. At Altitude, we are a group of companies, the main two being our winter ski school and our summer camps. I personally work for both, and can say that it’s a great opportunity to link the campers I am with every summer to the children I teach in winter! After many years of the same children, we have built up a great relationship, it’s quite special! It also allows you to work in this environment for the same company year-round, so you end up having a long-lasting group of friends which in this situation can be quite rare! These are only some of the many benefits there are to working at a summer camp and we would love to welcome you so that you can see for yourself! If you’re interested in applying to work at summer camp, send through your CV and a covering letter to info@altitude-camps.com. Due to permit conditions, we can only accept applications from those with a valid Swiss work permit or a Swiss or EU passport (this now excludes UK residents). Applicants must speak English as this is the working language of the camp. We accept applications for activity leaders, qualified English teachers or qualified French teachers.

10 questions to ask your camper on the way home

Camp can be an exciting time for children and all campers, especially those on residential programmes, often find a new level of independence. Whether your camper is about to start their first day camp or is an old-hand at residential camp already, they are experiencing a world that is quite different to their normal lives at home or the familiarity of school. Your child will have experienced a lot over the camp session, from participating in new activities, exploring new places and learning life lessons about cooperation and friendship. They will have absorbed so much that when they see you again, sometimes it’s difficult for them to know when to start in telling you everything! Altitude International Summer Camps - young boy smiling Here are a few questions you can ask your camper to get the conversation flowing and learn a bit more about their camp experiences.  
  1. What was your favourite activity at camp this summer?
 
  1. What activity did you try for the first time at camp that you would like to do again?
 
  1. Tell me about your favourite staff member, why were they your favourite?
 
  1. Tell me about 2 new friends that you made at camp?
 
  1. How are you going to keep in touch with your camp friends from this summer?
 
  1. What did you do this week to help someone else out?
 
  1. Where did you go on your excursion day each week?
 
  1. What was your favourite food at camp, did you try anything we don’t have at home?
 
  1. When did you feel most proud of yourself at camp this week?
 
  1. What was your favourite game at camp and can you teach me how to play it?
  Your child will love sharing some of their experiences, stories and games with you once they get started! You will be surprised about how much normally untalkative teenagers will have to tell you once they start remembering some of the things they did at camp, and some of these may even turn into new hobbies they want to keep going once they’re back home. The world is your oyster when it comes to summer camps and if we look specifically at day camps (a camp where you don’t stay overnight) you can pretty much choose anywhere in the world to head to. Likwise, you can probably “do” most things you can think of, there are many camps out there all with different concepts and focuses. Ultimately, what camp to choose and what you do when you’re there depends on your requirements and your budget. Day camps are often booked alongside a family holiday, with the whole family traveling somewhere for vacation and the children attending camp in the daytime however for some families, the camp is the biggest priority. In this case, they may first find the right camp and then work out the rest after. For example, some families choose our day camp specifically for its language programme of adventure programme, and then work out plans for the rest of the family once this is booked, something we can help you with too. From accommodation to airport transfers to concierge, we can assist you with all elements of your trip. Our camps in Verbier are available from 1 week up to 7 weeks so you can spend as little or as long as you like here with us!

Who can I expect to meet at a day camp?

Here at Altitude, we are based in the mountains so as well as local Swiss kids, we also welcome expats and tourists. This makes for a very international environment, with many nationalities, cultures and religions each week, a great experience for children! Kid playing with a racket in the sand

What do I do at camp and what are the classes like, will it feel like school?

Summer camp shouldn’t be too focused on the academic side as its main agenda. Summer camp should give kids a feeling of escapism, a new environment, a sense of fun, and a way of discovering new exciting activities. If a camp promises you that your kids will excel in say their language skills within one week, it’s likely going to feel like school and may not be what you are after so just bear that in mind! Here at our summer day camps, we aim to provide a fun and positive environment where kids can meet others from around the world, experience the mountain environment, get out in the fresh air and enjoy a sense of challenge and achievement. We very much focus on encouraging children to gain confidence, independence and to learn leadership and teamwork skills as part of their experience. All whilst having fun! Whether children choose our adventure camp or language camp, the aim is to learn through fun and play, to stimulate their minds, and to make them feel that they WANT to learn without even realising that they already are. We are as active as we can be with our mountain adventure camp being run outdoors every day, (so long as the weather is dry) and even our language camps focus on conversation as much as possible, to ensure the kids don’t feel like they are writing and reading too much. We even spend some sessions outdoors in the fresh air with our language campers, just to teach the kids in a different way and to avoid that school like feeling. Likewise, language lessons are always only in the morning, the afternoons are always spent enjoying sports and excursions so that kids can get a mix of language learning as well as being in the outdoors and keeping active.

What activities will I do?

Our campers will all enjoy a mix of sports and excursions including activities such as tennis, swimming, ropes courses, crazy golf, climbing, hiking, hockey, football and more! Language campers will then also develop language skills whilst our mountain adventure campers will also take part in activities such as fire building, raft building, rocket making, orienteering, shelter building and survival skills. You can find out more about our activities available here. Altitude Camps - Blog - kids smiling and having fun

How is each day structured?

On a Monday morning, we welcome everyone to camp, double-checking their dietary/medical needs, camp choices and emergency contact details as they check in. Our team will give a short welcome talk before we head off for morning activities. For our language campers, they will head off with their language teachers for their first session which runs from 9am-12, with a short break in the middle. Our mountain adventure and marmot campers will head with their teachers, for their first activity of the week, often involving some ice breaker games to get to know everyone. At 12pm, all of our campers will head back to base for lunchtime and then come 1pm, our marmot campers will head home and our mountain adventure and language campers will enjoy sports and excursions until 4pm when they go home.

How do meal times work?

Our summer camps run Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm and we include a nutritious and freshly prepared lunch every day, this takes place between 12pm-1pm and campers will all meet together at our base for this. Our team of chefs provide fantastic meals with hot and cold options available, all in a buffet-style providing children with a choice of healthy food each day, catering to all dietary, medical, and religious requirements. On a Wednesday, children will take an excursion so on this day, they will take a packed lunch with them and we will prepare this freshly that morning.