7 Tips for working at American summer camps

OK, so having worked at 3 summer camps in the States over the years and having unforgettable times, meeting unforgettable people and seeing unforgettable things – I want to impart onto you some of the hard earned knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years…

working on an american summer camp

1) If it’s your first year ever doing summer camp then I can stress strongly enough GO THROUGH AN AGENCY. Yes they will charge you (exorbitantly at that – around $500 AUD i think), yes you’ll initially begrudge the fees but I promise you – you won’t regret your decision. From visas, to flights, to people at the airport waiting to pick you up, to having courier services from JFK airport to your camp direct – they are professional, efficient and helpful. At a time when it’s pretty scary to be moving to the US for 3 or 4 months, they ensure you can concentrate on making friends and having fun while they take care of the red tape. I recommend BUNAC and CAMP AMERICA – both have been in the industry for decades, google them and you’ll have a host of resources.

2) Choose your own camp if you have preferences: This is a huge tip, which most people never hear. Do you want to work on a special needs camp, ADD camp, disadvantaged kids camp? (incidentally, I have worked on all 3 of those cams and true, it’s more tiring than other camps but it’s also much, much more rewarding). If you feel you want to work on a wealthy camp, or a day camp, or a city camp then do your research, identify the camp you want, contact them and explain you are with an agency but you would like to work with them. Explain to Camp America/BUNAC your situation and they will, very easily, hook you up with your camp of choice.

3) Want to work on camp with your mates? Believe it or not, this is very easy – in fact, lots of the camps love it because it means you’re much more likely to stick it out if times are tough. 2 or 3 of you can work at the same camp no problem. One thing though, my mates and I never did this, we went to our own camps, made new friends and met up after camp – i’d recommend that as often when you travel with existing friends you lose the incentive to throw yourself into meeting new people, naturall – up to you.

4) Do you want to do something specific throughout camp – art, sport etc? There are generally two types of counsellors at every camp: General counsellors – where you are with the kids throughout the day at their various activities and participate in all events whether it’s swimming, football, arts and crafts. The other type is a Specialist Counsellor – where you are for example a football specialist, you deal with all the different bunks of kids throughout the day and tutor them all on football.

5) Choose a flexi-ticket return flight: This is essential… ESSENTIAL! You can either book a fixed date flight home or a flexi ticket for an extra 100 quid i think, where you can come back anytime within a couple of months at a weeks notice. Choose the flexi ticket. I promise you will make the most amazing friends and you WILL want to travel around the US, eat super-sized macdonalds and take photos on Liberty Island and you’ll regret not having the flexi ticket when all your new friends do! I made this mistake the first time, i certainly didnt make it again.

6) Don’t have experience? Don’t worry – they will still employ you i promise. Remember though – that football coaching you did with the U12′S, when you helped the kids with homework, you old babysitting job – get these on your CV, make them sound infinitely more impressive and before you know it camps will be fighting to give you a job!

7) Too scared to make the jump and sign up? DON’T BE! Everyone is in the same position as you and within a week you will laugh at your hesitance and be glad you didn’t miss out on this awesome experience. Sign-up and go!

time off from summer camp

time off from summer camp

kids at camp

kids at my second camp

Camp is a great way to experience the US, you’ll meet new friends, improve kids’ lives, live in a new country, all of which will change your mentality forever. Ever since I went on a few cheap holidays as a kid I knew traveling was the lifestyle for me, and know I’m finally living it. Happy travels!!

16 thoughts on “7 Tips for working at American summer camps

  1. Catherine

    I am a student in university. Can I apply to work in summer camp if I have two daughters aged 12 and 6? Is it possible? I’d love to do it and let my daughters have the experience too!

  2. Emma Davis

    Not sure if anyone can help, I’m a mum with a 11yr old and I fancy working at a summer camp in USA while she attends camp too,I’m in UK, iv seen this is possible for mums that are nurses however it doesn’t seem other camp jobs have this ‘perk’
    I work with children and have 6 weeks off every summer.
    Any help would be appreciated

      1. Alli

        [email protected]

  3. Jeffrey Toale

    This sounds amazing!
    Now I just need to find resources that are the opposite of yours Johnny. I’m an American that would love to work at camps in Ireland, England, Scotland, England, and Wales. That is, if they have the same sort of summer camps as the US.

    Does anyone have experience with this?
    If so you can message me on Facebook @ the name I’ve posted under. 🙂

  4. Jo Skeats


    I’ve worked at a summer camp in Upstate New York the past two summers two and fully agree with everything here! Sign up now!

    Johnny, Where in NY were you?


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  6. Jen

    What wonderful tips for working at a summer camp! I work for iD Tech Camps and we hire over 800 summer staff to work for us every summer. We recommend our international staff using BUNAC and the flexi-ticket is also a great tip because my staff often make friends they want to travel with after camp. If you or your friends/readers are interested in instructing at a technology summer camp please apply at iD Tech! Our campers learn to develop an app, learn to code, create a video game, make a movie, or build a robot. Weeklong day and overnight summer programs for ages 7-17 held at over 80 prestigious universities nationwide including Stanford, Princeton, and others. Small classes (8:1 max) for beginner to advanced students. Visit http://www.iDTech.com/jobs

  7. Lucy

    Your blog was very informing to read, thank you! I just submitted my application to CampLeaders.com and hope to get a response back from them soon:) Just a couple of questions.. When you worked at camp did you have any days off at all? Do you get to leave the camp site aswell on days off/after curfue? Also if you ran out of personal supplies are there normally shops or even cafeterias that you can purchase items from there? These are the questions i’ve been trying to find on the internet. Hope you can help me out with!!

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