I’ve been a Ramahnik, since 1987. Each summer, I’d take two airplanes and a 90-minute unairconditioned school bus ride to get to Camp Ramah in New England from Birmingham, Alabama. (Camp Ramah Darom didn’t exist back then). My mom had one packing mantra she shared with us, “If you can carry it, you can bring it.” While she saw this as a deterrent, I saw it as a challenge. I mastered the ability to zip overstuffed duffle bags, tote a wheelless trunk, and balance a boombox on my shoulder. And each summer once I arrived, I managed to drag everything from the kikar (field) 300 yards to the tzrif (bunk) all by myself. Our parents wanted us to learn to be independent, but I’m not so sure that’s what they had in mind. This summer, I’ll be sending my three kids to Camp Ramah Darom. Our oldest Murray will be going for his 4th summer, while our almost ten-year-old twins Oscar and Ruby will be going for their 2nd. I’ve evolved my mom’s mantra to be, “If you can carry it IN YOUR BACKPACK, you can bring it” and have learned to stick to the packing list. Along the way, I’ve also come up with some packing Do’s, Don’ts and Duh’s. Here are my top tips to share with you:
I find that the more aware my kids are of what’s going into their bags, the more likely they are to bring home those items. That being said, manage expectations that some clothing will be left behind. But don’t worry, chances are you’ll end up with a bunk mate’s bathing suit or two by mistake. BONUS!
Don’t let your kid have free range with labeling their clothes with a Sharpie.
Yikes, those customized clothing labels can get pricey and a Sharpie is always an affordable alternative unless writing initials turns into a permanent graffiti tag. One of the best alternatives I found was customized self-inking clothing stamps. I found some on Amazon for under $14. Make sure you order the ones that are meant for clothes (versus paper).
Put toiletries in Ziplock bags so they don’t leak.
Last summer, I was happy to see Murray brought home the rest of the Old Spice 3-in-1 I sent him with inside the Ziplock bag it came in. I was more surprised to see that it had literally never been taken out of that bag or opened. When I questioned whether or not he had actually showered for an entire month, he told me “Mom, I was going to bring my shampoo into the shower, but there was already a buffet of shampoos to choose from so I used a little bit of everyone else’s every day.” So side DUH: Remind your kid to use their own toiletries.
Pre-address and stamp envelopes.
Whether you or your kid(s) do this beforehand, I highly recommend pre-addressing/stamping envelopes, especially to people like grandparents. My kids see all the envelopes every summer as a to do list of people they need to write. I also had them decide how many letters they wanted to send and was surprised about the hefty amount. Also remember to send extra stamps, stationery, and an address book.
Don’t let your kid bring gum.
I know there’s a list of contraband not to bring, but most people think gum is innocuous. I was surprised to find out there’s actually a line item on Ramah’s budget to get rid of gum stuck around the campgrounds. Let’s help Ramah avoid a sticky and pricey situation.
Teach your kid how to change batteries.
What do you mean this fan doesn’t have a USB drive? Can’t I just watch a battery tutorial on YouTube? I’d like to say these are questions my kids asked when I taught them how to change the batteries in their fans and flashlights, but instead, I just didn’t even bother. I actually forgot to send them with extra batteries as well. So don’t be me. Show your kids how to change batteries, send them with extra ones and make sure if their battery-operated item needs a tiny screwdriver to open it, send them with one.
Want more packing advice? Here are tips from other Mom-Pros.
About the Author
Amanda Goldstein Marks is a quirky and endearing stand up comedian, content creator, and super (tired) mom. She co-hosts Sis & Tell Podcast with her sister and fellow Ramahnik Alison Goldstein Lebovitz.