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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Review: Sign up for Camp Website- New Program Helps You!

One thing I dread each winter/spring is thinking about camp. Where to send the kids? What are the options? How much do they cost?

Now there's a new website that helps you figure this out - it's called SignUpForCamp.com, and it was started of the Bay Area. I was eager to check it out! Here's my review.

How it works:
I registered (includes putting in names/ages/grades of both kids). I pulled up camps within five miles of my home, and came up with 32 entries. It shows them all on the map. More than 400 camps are listed in the Bay Area (including overnight camps which are further afield), which site founders say is head and shoulders above all other website offerings (to be honest, I haven't researched other camp compilation websites).

For many, it lists the camp, location, dates, hours and price. The last three categories are blank for a lot of them, at least in my neighborhood.

For the camps with complete listings, you can get to the camp sign-up links on the camp website. And you can coordinate sessions between your kids (and potentially with friends too). You do not actually sign up for camp on the signupforcamp.com website - you follow their link to sign up on the individual camp's website.

To fully see how the site works, you might want to register for an account (easy and free), which allows you to save camps, register for camps, submit reviews and ratings and lets friends/family see your camp schedule.

What I found:
Out of the 32 listings for my 5 mile region, I found most of the camps listed that my kids have attended through the years (plus many I recognized and a few new-to-me ones). Ironically, I did not find the main camp I send them to every year - our city's recreation center camp, which is one of the best bargains around. And the place I get my babysitters! BUT there is a spot on the home page for parents to suggest a camp. And camps can ask to add themselves and get a free basic listing.

I went partially through the sign up for camp process. Here's a link to one camp page, which includes photos and details of each week's camp. If I'm logged in, it will tell me which weeks both kids can attend, and which weeks are only open to one kid. I'm not sure if it will list when the camp session is full or just what's typically available per the child's age.

The cons:
If the camp doesn't pay a listing fee, there are no detailed listings, which isn't so helpful to parents. The site also does not give you website address or live link for these camps - only, it seems, the ones you can sign up for. Which isn't user-friendly for parents. If it's listed, you'd hope for at least a link to the camp website.

How they make money:
Users should know that camps can pay a fee which affects their placement on the search page. And the camps listed on the home page are a result of payment as well. Not a bad thing, just something users should know. With a fee, the camps can can list some photos on the site, which is helpful to parents. The camps with detailed session listings paid to have them there. So for those who haven't paid, the site is not as useful to the users. The founders note that as of this week, they'll have 100 paid camp organizations, with 200 paid locations on the site.

What Signupforcamp.com covers:
The website mostly just covers the Bay Area for now (and some in Philadelphia/Delaware region). It covers day camps and overnight camps. If you don't live in this area, there's still potential that this site could cover your area in the future.

The Bottom Line:
Signupforcamp.com has a lot of potential and is a great resource to see what camps are out there. It just launched and has a capable leadership team. I know this because I used to do some work for the founder, when she was at another company. If more camps signed up and paid for listings - or the website featured more detailed camp info without paid listings, it would be more useful to the parents. If nothing else, I loved having a list of camps pop up, when entering zip code and the distance to search range.

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