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It’s the holiday season, so there’s plenty of time to think about sleepaway camp, right? It may feel premature to start planning, but many camps host open houses and begin sign-ups as early as January. If you’re planning on sending the kids to sleepaway for a week or more, you’ll want to start mentally prepping now. Here’s what to think about before deciding:

Figure out if she’s ready.

Has she slept at a friend’s house or spent any time away from you, even for a day? Does she have friends or a sibling going to the same camp? Can she do things on her own without a lot of adult assistance? Does she want to go? There’s no perfect age to send your kids to sleepaway camp. But these questions will help you figure out if the time is right.

Figure out your budget.

Sleepaway camps are a lot pricier than typical day camps. Most camps require a deposit when you register—and often give discounts if you pay in full in advance.

Decide what kind of camp he should try.

Why are you sending him for a sleepaway experience? Does he want to hone his soccer or horseback riding skills, or is he looking to try a variety of activities? There’s a camp for almost every interest out there, plus plenty that cater to kids who like a traditional experience that offers a little bit of everything.

Go to open houses.

After you narrow down your choices, set up a visit so you can both get a feel for the camp’s vibe. Ask questions about a typical week at the camp and the ground rules to make sure it’s a good fit.

Ask families about their experiences.

Talk to friends or the camp’s Facebook group to get the lowdown on your first choice. They’ll give honest pros and cons and tell you how the camp fares when it comes to allergies, special needs or anything else on your list. You’ll also get a feel for whether it’s good for first-timers.

Find out what paperwork you need.

Find out what your camp requires and plan ahead. In most cases, you’ll need to send the results from a physical or updated records from your doctor to the camp.