First and foremost, summer sleepaway camps and summer day camps are different, and many have policies around tipping ("yes please" or "no thank you"). Also, a bit of history, in the "old days," of summer day camps, kids would go to one day camp the whole summer. Today, kids are more likely to do a week or two here, a week or two there. This smorgasbord approach makes tipping more complex than in the past since kids may have lots of different counselors. Here are some thoughts pulled from past posts & previous discussions across the PSP groups and through asking camp directors.
- Ask about tipping. Some camps provide guidelines for tips, others do not. Ask the director for thoughts about tipping as well as to find out which counselors spend the most time with your children and tip accordingly.
-Some pay their staff at least minimum wage, while others use summer camp rates, making it more complicated to know which counselors and counselors in training (CITs) rely on the extra income to make the job worthwhile.
- Generally the longer your child goes to camp, the higher the tip.
- Some organizations pool tip money and distribute it.
- Head counselors have more responsibilities and are generally tipped more. That said, special counselors who take more time should be rewarded for their work.
- A nice card (made by your child) is a good way to teach your kids that appreciating people is a good thing.
- If there are specialists at the camp (art, drama, sports, etc) you might want to recognize these folks too. Think also about whether you want to show appreciation for any special bus drivers, bus counselors, and other ancillary folks.
- Some camps have salaried counselors, while others work on a low hourly wage.
- Cash is always best. A gift card to a store the counselor doesn't shop may go unused.
Either way, tips are almost always appreciated but not required. As one letter from the past said, "please remember that while tipping and tip amounts are only suggested, our staff relies heavily on the generosity of our camp families to supplement their summer income."
General Tips on Tipping from PSP Members:
"You should first look in the camp policies - many camps have a no-tipping policy. For those places it is best to tip the favorite counselors something other than money, like a nice letter from your kid. If the materials do not state a tipping policy, then you can tip and depending on the camp it may well be expected. You can always call the director of the camp to see what is historically done. Some camps that encourage tipping list the recommended amounts in their policies."
"Please tip the teens! These kids work long hours, harder than I do (in my air conditioned office), staying cheerful despite their own teen dramas and young ornery charges (I couldn't handle a flock of little ones, every day), and SOOOO many parents expect extra services ("you can take responsibility for watching my kid until the camp bus comes, right? I gotta run") - but don't pay for this babysitting help, and never tip."
"My son is a junior counselor at a local day camp and this is his experience: At the end of the summer the camp administrator distributes tip money that has been contributed by parents. Some counselors work all summer, others may work a few weeks so I assume the administrator gives out the money I an equitable way according to how many weeks they have worked and this also avoids a popularity contest between the counselors. The counselors don’t expect anything in particular but certainly appreciate a little extra money at the end of the summer. I don’t think anyone should feel like they have to tip – it’s completely optional. I can say in my son’s case that keeping a bunch of little kids excited and happy while also calm and safe is hard, hard, work. He comes home exhausted. But at his age he is lucky to have a job and to be paid anything at all."
From Camp Directors:
"We are very much one of those camps that families come to for one or two weeks so we just pay our counselors well since tipping is not generally a thing with families. "
"My counselors work so hard, and I want to encourage a culture of tipping counselors at all camps in Brooklyn."
"Families also don't tip counselors at [my camp]. We pay our counselors well and even our CITs $15 per hour. "
Rates and ideas, 2022:
- "Ultimately, tipping is up to you. How much did I value the service that the counselors provided? Can I afford to tip? If it was, and if I can, then I do. IMO, summer counselors, while obviously not as critical as teachers, tend to fall into a similar trap of being mostly underpaid for the service they provide. They are doing their best to entertain, educate, and look out for my kids. It enriches my kids' lives AND allows me the time I need to enrich and improve my own life and job. I will always provide some kind of thank you tip at the end of the program if I can."
- "My daughter did a week of camp at the Prospect Park Zoo and we sent a thank you note to counselors with $5-$10 each in it and then after 5 weeks of Beansprouts camp gave each of the four counselors $20 each.
I, too, was a lifeguard and swim instructor at summer camp (day camp) for many years growing up and one year sleep away camp and appreciated the tips greatly.
I think it’s a nice way to say thanks to the counselors and show gratitude to those caring for your kids."
- "The sleep away camp my oldest ones are in sent [suggested amounts] with the caveat to give what you want and that even a card is enough. I gave $30 to each counselor for 2 week attendance, but I tend to be one of those overtippers. This year I will give the same. For the day camps I never gave a tip, but again none of my kids saw the same counselors for more than a week and honestly the counselors they did see would switch from day to day. If I were to tip a continuous counselor I think $10 is good for a weeklong day camp. I have never received guidance on how much to tip from a day camp."
- "I'd suggest separating out day camp vs sleepaway camp. I didn't tip the counselors when my older kid did Whitebird theater camp for a week, I honestly didn't even think about it, and with covid rules it would have been difficult anyway last two years. It didn't seem like many parents did, although perhaps I missed it? It seems most parents did tip preschool counselors at CBE, when most kids are there for 4+ weeks.
Our sleepaway camp, in Maryland, already sent a note about tips (in cash, goes in a box shared with all staff), while other friends' kids are at overnight camps with an express no tipping policy they spell out."
- "We gave the counselors [for our nature camp] $25 gift certificates at REI as tips. ... We wanted it to feel relevant to the job/pedagogy."
- "I tipped our Camp Jupiter counselor $40–two kids for two weeks. So $10 per kid per week."
- "My 7 year old is doing a mix of by-the-week camps. He’s stayed at each one for 2 weeks. None of the programs has sent home any info about tipping, or even told me how many counselors, their names, etc. It’s basically a black hole of info. For 2 of the camps, the mix of adults in the room also changed from week to week. I haven’t tipped for any of these camps.
My 4 year old is in 'camp' at his preschool. It’s 9 full weeks with a consistent head teacher assistant teacher. They didn’t send home any info, but I’m tipping each of them $50 at the end of the summer."
- "I tipped Beansprouts counselors $50 each for 6 weeks worth of m-f camp."
- "My kids' sleepaway camps do not accept tips. They both sent out letters explaining their policy and discouraged tipping individual counselors. If families are so inclined; they can donate to the camps' scholarship or staff funds. Since both of my kids engaged directly with at least 10 CITs/counselors a day, I like that I can donate to a shared/kupa fund where all are included.
However, as a teen I worked at a summer day camp at a Park Slope private school for many years and made WAY below minimum wage (supplemented by babysitting & job at McDonalds) so tips were incredibly appreciated and were not pooled. Handmade cards from campers were extra special."
- "I went with $15 for the 3 counselors and $25 for the supervisor and thank you notes for all of them. My son was at the camp for 3 weeks. Hope this helps!"
- "I would say $15-$20 each, maybe less for the cit and more for the head counselor. I just give all the same bc thy are all ensuring a great time our kids but that's just me. I also find my 6 year old attaching herself to the more junior counselors anyways."
- "Head counselor $25-$50
Bus Driver $10
Bus Counselor $10."
Rates and ideas, previous years:
- "One camp suggested for a 6 week camp $30-50 for head counselors and $20-30 for assistant counselors."
- "When my older daughter went to a local Park Slope day camp, they sent home a memo with suggested tip amounts and counselor names for each group. Some might consider this tacky, but I found it extremely helpful. The counselors were terrific, and I wanted to do the right thing. They of course said that tipping was not required, and that each family should give what they could comfortably afford. If memory serves, we gave the head counselor $40 and the assistant counselors $20 each. The cash went in cards, which we handed out on the last day. I am sure that not everyone tipped, and that many gave less than the suggested amounts. I have also heard of people giving Starbucks or iTunes gift cards. Whatever you give will be appreciated."
- "We always tip the counselors on the last day of camp. My kids have been going for 3 years now. I usually get a card for each counselor who takes care of my kids (often 3 counselors for each kid). I write a thank you on one side and have my child write a thank you on the other side of the card. We usually enclose $20-30 for each counselor. We tip our day care teachers, so I consider this similar. I feel like these people are some of the most important in our lives, since they are taking care of the most important thing in my life. And they are generally not well paid, so although it is financially an extra burden after paying for an expensive camp, it just makes sense to me to acknowledge and thank them and give them a financial gift. One year I also tipped a supervisor because he went above and beyond making sure my child had a smooth transition to camp in year one."