Best Little Summer Camps Ever

It may seem early, but it’s that time of year again!  Time to start searching for the ultimate summer camp experience for your little explorer!  Experienced parents will know that you need to get applications in very early – sometimes as early as December, to find a spot at the camp of your choice. I can remember poring over materials, checking out how much time was spent on high energy activities, time out for forming memories and developing friendships, and of course – reviews on the food!

Choosing the right camp experience isn’t just a simple matter of finding the camp that has the most thrilling activities and high-energy “go as hard as you can” action filled days and nights.  That is so yesterday’s camp experience.  These days, you can choose scenery that takes your breath away and combine that with camp staffs great at integrating the (sometimes homesick) children and giving them the time and opportunity to form bonds with other campers.  Whatever your budget, whatever your child’s personality, there is something for just about everyone.

Many of today’s camps offer programs designed to inspire, encourage and help their campers overcome obstacles in their life. Some hire a very specialized, trained and qualified staff to ensure a great experience for each student. The focus of each of the following camps is unique. I hope to help you understand what to look for in a camp suited best for your child, and to give you a taste of what’s available!

Texas:

In our area, there are several camps within just a few hours drive.  Here are some of the Texas camps that I love.

Camp Longhorn

Plenty of Water Sports at Camp Longhorn

This camp, located in the Texas Hill Country, has been around since 1939.  They have a lot to do, with the emphasis on all things water.  Thousands of campers attend each year, and they fill up fast, so check them out and get your application in early! To get a feel for a day in the life of your camper, click on the link above, go to the “About” section, and click on the link for “Life at Camp”.  This camp offers a high energy experience, but they emphasize helping campers build confidence while forging lifelong friendships.

 

Camp Olympia

Camp Olympia Activities Map

Located just outside Trinity, Texas, Camp Olympia is an easy drive from Houston or Dallas, and just 90 minutes from Bush Intercontinental Airport. Sitting on the shore of Lake Livingston, they offer a huge variety of water and other sports. Everything from wakeboarding and paddleboarding to golf and soccer. They were voted one of the top 50 Summer Camps in 2014, and boast an excellent safety record.

 

Camp Champions

In the heart of the hill country, Camp Champions is located less than 10 miles outside Marble Falls, Texas. As you drive through Marble Falls to get here, you just might need to stop at the iconic Blue Bonnet Cafe’! Save room for pie!

Among the reasons they list for choosing this camp is that their counselors are diligent in helping every child succeed; building confidence and friendships. They are a tech-free zone, and don’t we all need a break from that sometimes? Situated on the shores of Lake LBJ, they offer just about every water sport your camper could want! Water skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, jet skis, even a hydrofly!

Far from being limited to water sports; when you’re ready for something a little more land-based, check out this interactive Activities Map! So much to do; how will you ever fit it all in?

Deer Creek Camp

For the camper who might want something a little simpler, more laid back with time to form bonds with new friends, Deer Creek Camp might be just the right fit. Located in the hill country near Medina, Texas, Deer Creek is a Christian-based camp with an emphasis on relationship. They have all the typical camp requirements – swimming, climbing, a zipline, a ropes course, team competitions and more. The food at Deer Creek Camp is delicious, according to one former camper! It’s homemade and makes you just a little less homesick.

Deer Creek might be especially good for the younger, first-year camper. Smaller, less hectic, and easier to acclimate. Also the counselors spend a lot of time each day with the campers in their cabin with a counselor:camper ratio of 1:4! If this sounds like a good fit, you should check them out!

Further Afield

Texas has a lot to offer, but if you or your child have your sights set on a change of scenery, you may want to check out some other options. Here are a few camp highlights from Colorado, North Carolina, Wyoming, and even one in the British Virgin Islands!

Colorado: Cheley Camps

This camp is unique in a lot of ways! The breathtaking views are sure to be the first thing you notice, but they offer so much more. Located in the Estes Park Valley at three sites, they offer programs for ages 7-17! The program for 7-8 year olds is a new 5-night camp experience in August. Cheley separates campers into 8 main units, grouped by age and gender.

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Challenging hikes with breathtaking views!

Activities range from climbing and hiking to backpacking, rafting, team sports, horseback riding, fishing and even mountain biking! Although they offer a wide variety in the daily routine, they emphasize relationship, and offer time for free play every day.

Here is a must watch video if you’re considering Cheley. Space is limited, and they fill up fast. There is a waiting list if you find your session already full.

North Carolina: Camp Mondamin for Boys/Camp Green Cove for Girls

Situated in the deep green of the Western North Carolina mountains, Camp Mondamin and their sister camp, Camp Green Cove have been around for almost a century. Both camps are situated along the shores of beautiful Lake Summit, with 800 shared acres of wilderness, and access to Pisgah National Forest for even more adventure.


Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
Walt Whitman

Activities at Mondamin range from swimming, canoeing, kayaking and sailing to mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing. Campers are not limited by age or cabin, and can choose to participate in any program offered. This is a non-competitive structure with the emphasis on learning to love adventure and the outdoors, and to learn to function within a community.

Scenic Lake Summit

Likewise, Camp Green Cove puts an emphasis on letting each girl experience camp in her own way. There is no set schedule to follow, and every camper can choose to enjoy the activities she finds most stimulating, while still building a relationship with her counselor and other girls at camp. The ratio of counselors to campers for each of these two camps is 1:5.

Wyoming: Teton Valley Ranch Camp

Inspiring views from Teton Valley Ranch Camp

Just 65 miles from Grand Teton National Park, lying within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Teton Valley Ranch Camp is 2,300 acres of wilderness, completely surrounded by National Park and BLM land. They offer programs for boys and girls ages 11-16. This camp offers programs designed to inspire a sense of adventure, and to encourage campers to reach outside their comfort zone. The experience is meant to help youth develop a deep sense of love for nature, the outdoors and to see the beauty in their surroundings.

Activities are plentiful, and include backpacking and horseback riding, fly fishing and swimming. Campers are divided into groups based on age and experience, goals and challenges. Here’s a link to the Parent Handbook. 

If you are considering Teton Valley, but need some financial help, they do offer need based financial aid. The deadline to apply for 2019 is past, but you have plenty of time to get your application in for 2020. As with several other camps in this guide, Teton Valley Ranch has limited capacity, so if you’re thinking about applying for this year, you should be sure and get your application in right away.

British Virgin Islands/Windward Islands: Odyssey Expeditions

Odyssey Expeditions is a unique learning experience and is open to students aged 13-24. Each catamaran is limited to a tight age range, of both boys and girls. Depending on the voyage, students are eligible to receive 3-5 PADI SCUBA certifications. No prior SCUBA experience is required, all they ask is that you are comfortable in the water. Each voyage offers 15-32 dives, depending on whether your student attends the two-week or three-week session. Also, there is a lab on each vessel, and there will be opportunities to engage in marine science studies. The voyages offer 2 hours of college credit.

Odyssey Expeditions Live Aboard Catamaran

Activities include, (aside from the SCUBA dives), sailing, freediving, marine biology, photography and island exploration. The emphasis for Odyssey Expeditions is on teaching leadership, how to be a good steward of our oceans, and accomplishing goals you would never have believe you could achieve!

Wherever you and your child decide to explore and experience summer camp, I hope you find the door to a whole world of adventure! Happy Camping! — Kristine

Mistakes To Avoid On Your First Buy/Sell

 

first buy or sellAre you a first time home buyer about to enter the market, or possibly about to sell your first purchase?   There are a lot of challenges, and sometimes it’s a bit nerve-wracking, but rest assured, having an agent who is responsive to your questions and fears can make all the difference.  Here are some things to think about, and ideas to keep in mind as you move forward.

1. THE RIGHT PRICE
Pricing a property is a science of its own. There are a lot of components and factors, so many small details, that ultimately lead to the value of a home.  Turning to sites that offer property estimates may give you an idea of the general market, but even the most popular (Zillow) can unfortunately be off by 20% or more, according to their own statistics.  A Realtor will study recent sales and active listings to see how your home compares and can come up with a number that matches the current market.  You do need to know your personal bottom line (how much you owe minus the cost to sell) because this can be helpful when you get ready to negotiate.

2. REFUSING TO NEGOTIATE
If you go into a sale, or purchase, refusing to make negotiations, hard-set on what you want without exception, you’re going to cause a lot of unnecessary grief and stress for yourself during the sales process.  An experienced agent can help you choose where to compromise and where to stand your ground.   If you’re a buyer, and the seller is unwilling to compromise at all, your agent can help you decide whether to stay in the fight or walk away.   If neither party is willing to make negotiations, you’ll find yourself in a contract time and time again, only to fall apart before you can finally close on the home.  A great agent can help all parties to the transaction feel like they’ve won – because at the end of the day, if you get through closing – you have!

3. REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
When you’re purchasing a home, and you want to find a deal, you may need to discuss your budget with your agent to understand about what you might expect within your price range. Sometimes it leads to a bit of compromise, but it can also help you find out what features, locations and other items on your checklist are the most important, and which items may not matter as much. I worked with a family recently who moved here from a more urban (and more expensive!) area. They started out with what I found to be a realistic list of must-haves, but after seeing only a few carefully selected homes; I was able to show them some of the best features of our area, and they have now shifted their focus entirely! You shouldn’t scrap everything you know and love, but being open-minded can sometimes yield surprisingly awesome results.

4. YOU’RE NOT ALONE, DON’T GO IT ALONE
Don’t make the mistake of trying to handle the sales process all on your own. There is a reason that the real estate profession, and the laws around it, are as strong as they are. Real estate agents are a necessity during the sales process to ensure the right steps are taken to get a home sold. Buying and selling is a difficult process that requires knowledge and expertise that comes from a professional within the industry. From contract terms and effective negotiation, to finding homes that aren’t even listed on the market, there are a lot of ins and outs un-experienced buyers and sellers may not think about. Avoid the stress of “learning the hard way” and find a professional that can give you the guidance you need to get the task at hand completed and ensure you’re happy with the outcome.

Why You Need an Agent for New Construction

Are you ready to buy a home and considering a new build? It’s not a super complicated  process, and you get to call a lot of the shots in how you want your dream home to be, but there can be considerable risk when it comes to new construction if you are going in blindly. It’s unfortunately not as trouble-free as we’d like to hope, if you don’t have the right representative by your side to help with the things that need to be looked out for from a professional’s eye. Below, we’ll dive into the many reasons you need a professional buyer’s agent representing you in the sale. They are, after all, on your side. And it’s their role to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of by the builders and their representatives in the transaction.   The best news?  Using a buyer’s agent won’t cost you a dime!  The builder/seller pays their commission in most, if not all cases.  You get the benefit without the fee.

1. HIRING THE RIGHT BUILDER
The most important part of finding an agent is having a professional’s perspective to finding a builder with a great reputation, and to know which builders to avoid.  Having an agent with a substantial network can lead you to the builder with the right plans, in the right neighborhood or area that really suits your needs and will help you achieve the lifestyle you’re seeking.

2. THE RIGHT LOT IN THE RIGHT NEIGHBORHOOD
The lot you choose to go with in a new build can either be a positive to your new home, or detrimental.  Whether you’re single with pets, or a family with children, the lot location can really make a huge impact. Especially when it comes time to selling it in the future. These are important things your agent will be able to help walk you through, so your decisions work in your favor both now and in the future.

3. UPGRADES AND PLAN MODIFICATIONS
Not only will your agent be able to ensure you get the upgrades and modifications that best suit your lifestyle, but can also guide you on the impact various upgrades may have on the resale value.  They are working for your best interest long-term, and with an agent’s guidance, you can be sure to make changes that end up benefiting you.

4. HANDLING CONTRACTS AND PAPERWORK
Many builders provide their own contract documents, drawn up for them by their lawyers.  It’s always a good idea to have someone you trust look over the terms in a builder’s contract to make sure you know what you are agreeing to.  During the building process, they may contact the builder and even the construction supervisor to check on the progress and to ensure important items on your list are double checked.  Your agent represents only YOU throughout this process.

5. NEGOTIATIONS
It is imperative in the purchasing process to have an agent that is able to represent you and negotiate for you. The building process is so much more than having the builder put in your favorite counters and floors. They will be able to get you a price that actually benefits you – not the builder. They will be able to run a comparative market analysis to ensure you are paying a fair price for the property. You don’t want to end up overpaying for the home – it could put you in a tough spot when it comes time to sell. They’ll also be able to negotiate terms around building time frame, closings costs, and so many other aspects of a contract that you may otherwise overlook.
6. BUILDER’S AGENT REPRESENTS THEM, NOT YOU
It may seem easy just to pop into an office of a new build, or a builder’s office, and use the on site agent. But keep in mind that this agent works FOR the builder, NOT for you. So they will be working to make sure the builder gets the best deal at the end of the day. By having a buyer’s agent of your own, you can ensure there is a professional on your side that can walk you through the process and avoid being taken advantage of during the transaction. They will also have a better handle on things when you hit bumps along the way. If you end up working with a builder who isn’t holding their end of the deal, they will have the power to make connections that ensure the builder holds their end of the contract terms.

Happy Building!

Kristine