Summer Camp USA | Camp advice | JENZA (2024)

Hey everyone! I’m Zoë a 19 year old from beautiful Aotearoa, New Zealand AND this year's JENZA summer camp roadtester. Come June i’ll be heading off on my second year working at the amazing YMCA Camp of Maine and I couldn’t be more excited.

To get you (and me) extra hyped, i've put together a camp bucket list to give you some ideas of things to look forward to over the summer and a few personal ones too that will show you a sneak peek of the kind of fun that's involved when you're there. Feeling inspired? I encourage you to make one as well and see how many you can tick off along the way!

Tie dye something

Tie dyeing is a summer camp staple and it's often offered at rec time for campers and counsellors alike. Got a boring old tee you don't love anymore? Get tie dying!

Run a camp morning meeting

Every morning a counsellor (or sometimes even camper) gets up on the stage of the amphitheatre in front of the whole camp to share an inspirational story, quote or read a poem etc. Last year I did a morning meeting about smiling and although it was slightly nerve wracking I’m really glad I did it. It was good to get out of my comfort zone (camp is the best place for this!)

Write and send a letter

Camp is a technology free space for the campers and counsellors only have limited access. This means that everyone writes good old fashioned letters with stamps and everything! It’s such a fun part of camp and I can’t wait to send a letter home about all my adventures.

Ride on a yellow school bus

Need I say more? A quintessential American experience of course. Bonus points for a photo peeping out the window.

Go to a sports game

Last year during staff training we went to a baseball game and the atmosphere was so fun. Plus, seadog biscuits (give them a google) are the best food ever!

Sunrise swim/paddleboard

The fact that this is possible most mornings is pretty special. There’s nothing more peaceful than the lake at sunrise. It’s so beautiful and serene and a moment of silence before camp is filled with the infectious energy of 200 kids.


No explanation needed. Campfire singalongs and s'mores are a must.

Perform something at closing campfire

At the end of every session we have a closing campfire where people perform skits and songs and magic tricks etc. My favourite thing to be a part of is the counsellor song.

Try all the American food

I cannot wait to have chick fil a and Dairy Queen again but also try a bunch of other options I missed out on last time.

Summer Camp USA | Camp advice | JENZA (4)


Zoë van der Wees

JENZA Summer Camp roadtester 

It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Our roadtesters trial and shape every JENZA experience to make sure it serves our travel community first. Because if it didn't fly with them, it's not going to fly with you.

"It was good to get out of my comfort zone (camp is the best place for this!)"

Experience an American cinema

The sheer size of the SMALL drinks and popcorn blows my mind.


Camp is kinda in the middle of nowhere so there’s hardly any light pollution which means the stargazing is absolutely phenomenal.

Walmart and Target

A right of passage.

Get a camp tattoo??

This one’s not set in stone but could be fun right?! Just don't blame me if you're parents aren't too happy about it.

Learn another friendship bracelet pattern

I can do the basic ones: staircase, candy stripe and chevron but I want to learn some slightly more complicated ones.

Keep up with a journal

I say this for every trip I’m going on and I do the first few days and then give up. But this year I’m determined to keep a record of things somehow, maybe I’ll do a video diary instead and just do weekly catch ups, another thing I really want to have is a quotes book because some of the things kids say are so out of pocket.

And some personal ones...

Island swim

At my camp one of the activities that is sometimes offered during rec time is an ‘island swim’ where, as you might have guessed, you can swim out to some of the close by islands. Despite being a lifeguard and spending almost all my time at the waterfront last year, I never got to participate in one so I am determined to do it at least once this summer.

Get ice cream from Fielders Choice

This is another thing which I have no idea how I didn’t manage to do last year but I WILL TRY IT this year.

Go to mosquito island

Ok I know this doesn’t sound very appealing…but I think the name is worse than the reality. Mosquito Island is owned by camp that the older campers, and those who take ACS(advanced camping skills) camp on overnight. While on the island they cook over a campfire (making s’mores of course), camp in tents, go swimming and get to experience and appreciate the nature we are surrounded by. It’s also in a way a little retreat from the chaos of camp. I can’t wait to go and experience it for myself (and hopefully the name doesn’t live up to the expectation haha).

Rellik at least one person

Rellik is a game the counsellors play, kind of confusing to explain but basically in order to get someone out (or Rellik them) you have to hit them (lightly don’t worry) with your left shoe and say Rellik while being in a designated area. Last year I didn’t manage to Rellik anyone so I’m hoping to get at least one person out this year.

Win an ice cream party

Ok, another ice cream one for the list but for good reason. One of the go-to prizes for winning something at my camp is an ice cream party! AMAZING right?! One way this is usually won is by having the cleanest cabin during the session. Every day the unit leaders score each cabin out of 10 and whoever has the highest cumulative score at the end of the two weeks wins an ice cream party.

I feel like there are SO MANY MORE things I can’t wait to do this summer but this is just a snippet of things you can start to get excited for. Some of the ones above might be camp specific but the majority of them are easily transferable and you’ll most likely have different traditions at your camp too. So i’ll finish off with a question…what’s on your summer camp bucket list?

Summer Camp USA | Camp advice | JENZA (2024)
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