Day Camp or Overnight Camp? Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Deciding between day camp or residential (overnight) camp is one piece of the decision for families. Camp is an experience and not limited to a singular location. Campers can develop the same skills, both hard and soft, whether they’re sleeping away from home or returning to their own beds each night. While there are differences between day and residential camps, above all else, the most important outcome of this decision is finding the right fit for your camper and family.

This begins with knowing your camper. Many overnight camps begin taking campers between ages 7-9 years old. However, some children may be ready at 6 and some others may not be ready at 10. While there is no clear, linear checklist to determine whether day or overnight camp is right for your child, the following questions can help guide that conversation:

• What is the primary reason for wanting to go to camp?

• Has your child ever spent multiple nights sleeping away from home?

• What’s your budget for camp?

• Can your child bath and dress themselves independently?

• How far away from home do you want your child’s camp experience to be?

• What activities are important to your camper’s experience?

These questions can help begin a dialogue with your family about which camp experience is the best fit for you. The choice of day versus residential camp is one important aspect of the overall decision. But even then, make sure you follow up with those potential camps. Talk to directors. Ask for tours. Ask for references. Do your due diligence. In the end both you and the camp want this summer to be the first of many and the beginning of a great relationship.  

For more information about camp and the benefits of the camp experience, contact the American Camp Association or visit