If sleep-away camp is on your radar, here are some great tips for preparing your kids to pack the trunk and hit the road.

First, for those in prep mode, here are some ideas from my national wire column:

Sleep-away camp is a great experience for many kids and parents. New experiences, adventures outdoors (or at the camp mess hall) await. Kids miss parents; parents miss kids; but great memories are formed.

With the economy in a slump, camps are definitely feeling the crunch. If you haven’t yet signed up for camp, you may still have a great chance at a spot, and possibly at a reduced rate if camps are looking to fill empty spots. Some camps also offer scholarships or paid counselor spots for older kids, so explore your options, and be creative!

Here are some quick tips for parents as you prepare your kid to get away:

1. Planning and preparation will help make the experience less anxious for kids and mom. Prepare a few weeks in advance to avoid the last minute crunch. Make a list of supplies and clothing you’ll need; count what you have; and make a shopping list for what you still need.

2. Label everything! You can use a Sharpie pen or order iron on tags, but label clearly, and you’re more likely to get most of your stuff back! (After yesterday’s trip to Target, I can add that a Silver Sharpie is a good one for your collection to label dark items).

3. Send a clipboard or hard writing surface. Rest period is a great time to write letters, but trying to write Mom on a mushy mattress is no fun. Send something your child can easily lean on to write lots of letters!

4. Start a “letter stash.” You’ll want to write frequently, but you don’t want to fall behind while they’re away because you get busy at work or home. Start pulling cute comics; sports pages; fun cards; kiddie magazines; etc., and put them in a drawer to create a “mailing inventory” in advance.

5. Create a mail supply box. Gather pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes; pens; a list of family & friends’ addresses. Put it all in a waterproof plastic shoe box that closes tight so your child’s supplies are organized in one safe place.

6. Make your own stationery. It’s easy & fun to create your own on the computer. This may even be a great activity for your child to do while you’re busy or at work. For younger kids, include lines to make the scribble easier to read!

Finally, plan some time for FUN! I like to have “Camp Mom” the week before any sleep-away camp. That way, we get as much quality time together as possible before we separate. Make a list of fun local activities you can enjoy together before your child leaves for camp, and then go for it!

When you send your kids to camp, consider sending them some homemade stationery in your next care package – something to send, and may increase letters home!