For many, summer camp means a week sleeping in a cabin that doubles as a sweat lodge, spider-infested communal showers, and swimming in a scummy pond. But if you have lots and lots of money, you have options.
Typically about $5,170 for 5 weeks (plus airfare and other expenses), but the transatlantic voyage is $6,570 for 39 days (plus airfare and other expenses)
ActionQuest runs marine-focused summer camps in the world's most exclusive locations. Some of their trips include swimming with sea turtles in the Galapagos Islands, sailing through the South of France, whitewater rafting in Australia, or snorkeling in Bora Bora.
But the ultimate adventure is the transatlantic voyage on a 112-foot yacht manned by 24 high school kids. The ship leaves from Bermuda, stops for a few days each at the volcanic archipelago of The Azores, in Gibraltar, and Corsica, before finally coming to port in Rome. Of course you still have to pay for airfare to Bermuda and from Rome back to the states, plus spending money for souvenirs in all those exotic locales. But for those who can afford it, it's a small price to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or twice-in-a-lifetime if they want to do it again next summer.
$3,995 (plus airfare) for 7 days
If your little princess wants to be a real princess, she can start her training with seven days at Princess Prep in London, where she'll learn to properly smile, stand, sit, walk, serve and drink tea, as well as the importance of proper thank-you notes. Of course, she'll also learn how to curtsy should she ever run into the Queen Mum. All meals are served by Jeeves, a real British butler, while the girls discuss the lives of famous princesses, like Kate Middleton, Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii, and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
Campers stay in the Kensington & Chelsea borough, one of the poshest places to live in the UK, and tour many royal hotspots like the State Apartments, where they'll see Princess Diana's dress collection. They'll also go horseback riding in Hyde Park, tour the Tower of London, see the Crown Jewels and Buckingham Palace, and attend a night at the theater in London's West End. But being a princess isn't all tea parties at Kensington Palace. The girls will also make time to deliver cookies and flowers to a local children's hospital as part of their philanthropy instruction.
3. Camp Laurel
$10,800 + $2,400 in additional fees
Throw a rock in Maine and you'll hit an expensive summer camp. Just to name a few: Kingsley Pines ($6,995), the all-girls Tripp Lake Camp and its all-boys companion, Camp Takajo (both $10,850), Camp All-Star ($2,999 – $6,999), Camp Skylemar ($10,750), Camp Wawenock ($7,500), and Forest Acres for girls and Indian Acres for boys ($10,700). But the most expensive and most action-packed out there is Camp Laurel in Readfield, Maine.
If you're into sports, Camp Laurel boasts two baseball fields, two soccer fields, a lacrosse field, a hockey field, five basketball courts, a roller hockey arena, a beach volleyball court, a 3,000-square foot indoor gymnastics center, an 8,000-square foot indoor fieldhouse with an additional 10 basketball hoops, and 15 all-weather tennis courts.
If you'd rather spend time on beautiful Echo Lake, you can enjoy swimming, sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, tubing, and water skiing behind one of four competition-level ski boats, or cast a line off the two fishing barges.
For the adventurous type, there are high and low ropes courses, 15 mountain bikes at your disposal, and two 55-foot climbing towers connected by a zip line.
The artistically inclined have their own art studios for painting, ceramics, and metalsmithing. There's a 2,500-square foot dance studio, a full stage production starring campers, and wannabe DJ's can hone their record-spinning skills at the camp's own FM radio station.
The Equestrian Center features two 12-stall barns, two outdoor instructional rings, and a 3-acre riding pasture for the camp's 22 horses. Courses are available for advanced riders to perfect their techniques, while those who have never been on a horse can learn the basics.
The camp runs a little longer than most – from June 23 until August 11 – but by the time you add in additional fees for laundry, personal expenses, the equestrian package, and field trips, you're looking at about $265/day for summer camp. If that's too long away from home, Camp Laurel South, near Portland, Maine, offers 4-week sessions for $6,300 plus expenses.
$1,695 for a one-week session, $3,295 for two weeks, and $6,295 for four weeks
Pali Adventures in Running Springs, California is like a bunch of different camps rolled into one. Kids make their camp experience unique by choosing from any of 16 specialty activities to learn over the course of a one-week or two-week session. But this ain't macrame.
In Secret Agent Camp, kids learn combat techniques in paintball campaigns, ride dirt bikes and dune buggies, and train for covert raids on the other camps.
Hollywood Stunt Camp teaches kids how to safely jump off buildings, fake fight choreography, and swordplay techniques.
Rockstar Academy helps young musicians with songwriting skills and instruction on their instrument of choice, culminating in a CD or music video of their original song.
The Fashion Institute trains fashionistas to sew, to use patterns, sketching designs, and preparing a final collection to debut at the fashion showcase attended by everyone in the camp.
Among others, there are programs for young filmmakers, dancers, actors, chefs, watersports enthusiasts, and even those who wish to learn the flying trapeze.
$5,545 for a 3-week session
Not every aspiring star that goes to Stagedoor Manor, an exclusive theatre camp near the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, will make it in Hollywood or on Broadway. But with alumni like Natalie Portman, Lea Michele, John Cryer, Robert Downey, Jr., and many more well-known names, the camp's track record speaks for itself.
Over the course of three weeks (though most kids stick around for a second session for twice the price), young performers will take classes from professional instructors in acting, singing, dancing, television production, stage lighting, set decoration and more. Meanwhile, they're rehearsing for either a full musical or dramatic production to be performed during the last week of camp in one of eight indoor and outdoor theaters. In addition, workshops with agents, managers, and casting directors help them learn the do's and don'ts of show business, so they'll be ready for their close-ups someday.
$14,700 for 10 weeks (includes both riding trips); $8,500 for one week in Russia
Polo has often been called “The Sport of Kings.” At these prices, you'd have to be royalty to learn how to play at the all-girls International Riding Camp in Greenfield Park, New York. Not only does the camp offer polo, but young riders can also learn horse show competition skills, and more advanced riders can take on the cross-country jumping course complete with obstacles like ditches, stone walls, and log fences. The girls have riding lessons for three hours every day with various arts and crafts or sports like tennis and water skiing filling the rest of their time.
The highlight of camp, though, are the special riding trips. The first has the girls riding through Central Park in New York City, and then they spend the rest of the day being chauffeured in a limo to some of the biggest shopping and dining destinations in the Big Apple. The second trip takes campers to The Hamptons for three days of riding on the beach, water skiing, shopping, and relaxing in a luxury condo overlooking the bay.
If that's not enough, the organization also offers a one-week trip to Moscow. Riders learn from Russian trainers while staying at the 4-star Morozovka Hotel, a mansion that was once part of Joseph Stalin's estate, before making their way to St. Petersburgh to ride and stay at the Hotel Astoria. While in Russia, the girls will dine at the finest restaurants, tour historic sites, attend the ballet, and have plenty of time to soak in the local culture.