Enrolled Families FAQs

When are the sessions for this upcoming summer?

Click here to view the Session & Tuition Page with information about the dates for this upcoming summer.

Where exactly is the property located?

We are located in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. The islands are approximately 80 miles north of Seattle.

Four Winds is specifically located in Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, which is one of the ferry serviced islands. Click here and zoom out to view our exact location on Google Maps.

When will forms come out? I have questions about completing forms?

Forms are released via your online Four Winds Parent Account for the upcoming summer towards the end of March each year and are due six weeks before the start of Session that your camper is attending. All forms are available online.

For more detailed information about how to complete camper forms, download the Forms Submission process PDF included below.


What happens after my forms are completed?

Once a parent completes the forms to their Four Winds Parent Account they will appear as “received.” We will manually approve each form individually and change the status to “accepted”. This process takes some time and is not automatic, so please allow for a few days for this to occur.

If there is a problem with any of the forms submitted or if anything is incomplete, we will contact you to resubmit the form in question. Please ensure to thoroughly read and complete all sections of the required forms and upload them by deadline noted above to ensure that your Camper’s information is complete.

How does my child sign up for activities?

The Activity Preference Form is included as one of the online forms in your Four Winds Parent Account. By using this form Campers are able to choose, in order of preference, four activities that they would like to pre-sign up for at Camp.

The activities are then assigned in random order from the pool of campers who have all of their forms submitted (or accounted for) by their due date. Through this process, Campers are pre-assigned for three classes and choose the remaining three after finding out more about the areas and classes offered on the first day of camp. Click here to learn more about the activities that are offered at camp.

Sometimes, parents aren’t able to submit a specific form (usually the Physician’s Examination form) until after a certain date (e.g. you’re not able to get an appointment before the forms due date etc.) and in that case, the ETA for the form needs to be communicated to us via email for it to be considered as “complete” for the purposes of including the Camper in the activity assignment pool.

Where will my child live at Camp?

One of the best parts about being a camper at Four Winds is having the opportunity to be close to and live in an amazingly beautiful natural setting!

Female campers live in simple rustic cabins or in canvas wall tents up on wooden platforms. Male campers live in canvas wall tents. In both the cabins and tents, campers sleep in bunk beds with comfortable mattresses. Typically, each cabin is comprised of between four and six campers of the same gender and grade and either one or two counselors.

Click here to watch a video with further information about living spaces at Camp.

Can my child be in a cabin with their friend?

We do everything we can to place first year campers with one friend of the same grade and gender. There’s a cabin mate request form that can be found in the Forms & Documents section of your Four Winds Parent Account. After the first year, you are welcome to make requests, but we do not make promises about fulfilling them. We fully embrace the adage, “Make new friends, and keep the old.” We’ve found that when we place the same friend group in cabins and tents together year after year that the social fabric of camp becomes cliquish and stagnant, and so we mix the kids up from year to year.

Cabin and tent groupings (and for female campers whether they will be living in a cabin or a tent) will be announced to Campers on arrival day.

What's the story with bathrooms and showers?

We have shower houses dispersed throughout the cabins and tents. The closest shower house is no more than about 50 yards (45 meters) from each cabin and tent. The shower houses have hot running water and electricity, unlike our cabins and tents. Because we conserve water at camp, showers are taken every other day. They are taken in private stalls, with a private changing area attached to each shower stall. There are also a number of gender neutral bathrooms spread throughout the Camp property.

Where do most campers and staff come from? How many campers and staff are there at Camp?

About 20% of our campers come from Washington State and 30% from California with the remainder coming from across the United States and internationally.

Numbers wise, we have 170 campers during our month long sessions and 90 campers during our Junior Session week.

Our staff members are geographically diverse with staff coming from both all over the US and overseas. Internationally, we have employed staff from a variety of countries including Australia, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden and the UK.

Numbers wise, we hire approximately 100 staff and, on average, 25 staff members are usually from overseas.

How do you select and screen your staff?

As stated above, our staff come from all over the US and the world. Many are past Four Winds campers who are extremely familiar with the traditions, program and philosophy of Camp. Other staff are new to Four Winds and find us through referrals from former staff or Camp families, through job postings online or through International Visa Sponsor organizations.

We look for dedicated, passionate staff who have had prior experience working with children and putting children’s needs above their own. Our screening process is very thorough. All staff are required to submit a detailed application form and provide three references who submit reference letters on the applicant’s behalf. Successful candidates then take part in an in depth phone or video call interview with our Assistant Director.

All hired staff undergo a full Criminal Background Check (including a state and national Sex Offender check). International staff undergo a full Criminal Background Check through their International Visa Sponsor before being interviewed by our Assistant Director.

What will my child wear at Camp?

The uniform is an integral part of the Four Winds experience for both campers and staff. We are very proud of our uniforms, which have remained the same since Camp was founded in 1927. We recognize that it may be something new to campers and we support them through this process.

Each Camper is supplied with three sets of the camp uniform (middies and bloomers for female campers and t-shirts and shorts for male campers) which are returned at the end of the summer. Female campers also wear a red colored tie with their uniform. Green ties indicate staff members, black ties Counselors in Training and white ties Helping Hands. Take a look at photos throughout the website to see examples of the Four Winds uniform.

Campers are also encouraged to bring dress up clothes for special days and activities. See the packing list below for more information.

What should my child bring to Camp?

Click here to view the detailed packing lists that have been complied for each specific Session at Camp. (This information can also be found in the forms section of your Four Winds Parent Account.)

Can my child buy things at Camp? Is there a store?

In the summer, the Camp Store is available for campers to purchase Four Winds logoed clothing in addition to toiletries, letter writing equipment, stamps and other necessities. Each cabin and tent group has a designated time to shop at the Camp Store in addition to the open time for all camper during All Camp Hang Out time after dinner.

You can add money to your child’s store account via your Four Winds Parent Account.

What is the weather like at Camp?

Weather is pretty moderate on Orcas Island in the summer overall – temperatures are cooler in June but warm up to the 80s (high 20s – low 30s celsius) daily in July and August. The evenings are still on the cooler side and it can rain at times so layers are recommended and a rain jacket is a must.

How does my child get to Camp?

Can I arrange for my child’s flight to land at Sea Tac after the prescribed time?

Our goal is to get all the children to Camp at the same time on arrival day, and have them all depart at the same time on departure day. This leaves us with a small window of time in which flights can land and take off. Sometimes these windows can present a challenge, especially for families coming from the East Coast or from abroad. If you don’t think you can find flights that land and take off within the windows listed on the travel form in your Four Winds Parent Account, please contact us as soon as possible. We’ve dealt with lots of complicated travel scenarios over the years, and we can probably help.

What about luggage?

We will send you tags in the mail for you camper’s bags. These tags help us identify Four Winds bags at the airport and are color coded so we can bring them to the right place in Camp. For siblings, it’s important to get the right tags on the right bags, or we often end up bringing the brother’s bag to Girls’ Side, and so on. This isn’t the end of the world, but it does create a delay in your camper receiving their stuff, which can be a bit stressful, especially for first time campers.

If your child is flying to Camp, things are obviously a touch more complicated than if they’re being dropped off at Camp, Woodland Park Zoo, or Skyline Marina in Anacortes. You can pay for any excess baggage fees on the way to Camp. On the way home, we’re happy to charge it to the Camp credit card and bill your account.

As anyone who flies a bit knows, checking bags with airlines is a percentages game, and with 100 kids flying to Camp with 2 bags each, it should come as no surprise that the airlines often lose one or two. If this happens to your child, we’ll make sure they have the essentials (underwear, toothbrush, and the like) during the day or two it will take to get the bag to the island. Luckily, our uniforms make this a bit easier.

Some parents choose to avoid the whole fiasco by simply shipping bags to Camp in advance. This is fine, and we are happy to store the bags for a few days before Camp begins and facilitate shipping them home at the end. Click here to view the shipping information.

Can my child arrive a few days late, or leave early?

Unfortunately, no. Over the years, we’ve found that the first few days are critical to forming group dynamics and establishing norms within the cabin or tent group, and that the last few days are essential to wrapping up a camper’s experience. The first and last 72 hours of Camp are perhaps the most important times of the session and missing them affects not only the camper that’s gone, but the entire cabin or tent group. We recognize that this occasionally presents a scheduling challenge for families. We stick to this policy because we believe it’s one of the things that makes Four Winds a truly excellent Camp experience, and we appreciate your understanding.

How do I communicate with my child?

The art of letter writing is alive and well at Four Winds in the summer. Kids love getting letters, and we encourage you to write them. It’s a good idea to talk with your child about how many letters you’ll write before Camp starts so they have a good idea of what to expect. Many parents write a letter to their child and mail it a day to before the session begins so the camper receives a letter on the first day.

In terms of what to write, we encourage you to keep your letters newsy and upbeat, especially if you are concerned that your child might be experiencing homesickness. It’s also a wonderful idea to ask questions about your child’s camp experience in letters. Feel free to call us if you’d like some more advice on this.

We also recommend that you talk to your child about how many letters they will write to you while they’re at Camp. We make sure all the campers write you a postcard on the first night of Camp to let you know they arrived safely, and we do our best to make sure they write at least one letter a week, but we can use your help on this. If you haven’t received any letters in a while, you can call us and we can remind your child to get writing.

Sometimes parents receive a letter from their child that concerns them. A camper might report a dispute with a cabin mate, homesickness, or some other problem. Please call us if you receive a letter that concerns you. Most times, we’re already aware of the issue and it’s resolved or on its way to resolution by the time you receive the letter. Occasionally, we discover an issue we weren’t aware of this way, and a parent’s call enables us to get on the problem.

If you live overseas or are traveling during the time that your child is at Camp, contact the office to arrange for your letters to be scanned and printed to your child to ensure that they receive them in a more timely manner than relying on international postal services.

Can I call Camp to check on my child?

Definitely. At Camp, we believe that people grow when they challenge themselves. Challenge is, by definition, hard. We recognize that the separation between parents and children that Camp represents is often at least as hard on the parents as it is on the children. If you need a little reassurance, just call. We’re happy to give you a report.

Please note that phones in the Office are answered between 8:30 am – 6:30 pm and again from 7 pm – 10 pm in First Session and between 8:30 am – 5:30 pm and again from 6 pm – 9 pm during Second and Junior Session (all times are in PST).

If you are calling After Hours with an emergency, the Director’s personal phone number is provided on the phone message.

Can I send packages to my child? What is the mailing address?

Yes. Generally speaking, letters are more important than packages, but a couple of packages over the course of the session can be fun. We encourage you to send non-electronic toys, magazines, games and the like in packages. Decorations for the cabin or tent for a birthday, the Fourth of July, le quatorze juillet, or Canada Day can be a great treat (Sorry, all the national holidays I could think of were during First Session.) In terms of frequency, two or three care packages over the course of the session is plenty.

We ask that you do not send food of any kind in packages. We have quite a raccoon population at Camp, and they don’t need any further encouragement. All packages will be opened in the camper’s presence, and food will be confiscated. In the past, we’ve had parents try to hide food in stuffed animals and so forth. Please don’t do this – it sends a message to kids that rules are meant to be circumvented, and while we’re quite good at finding the hidden stuff, it’s hard on both campers and staff to have to confiscate food.

Please also use the tracking information provided through the provider that you use to track your package’s arrival at Camp. Our mail sorting operation rivals many small towns, but it’s designed to get packages to the campers, not log what’s arrived. We may not be able to confirm for you that a package has arrived when you call.

Click here to view the mailing address and shipping information.

When can I visit my child?

Parents can visit their Camper/s during the middle two weeks of the month long sessions, known as the “Visiting Window”.

You must contact the Camp Office to schedule your visit to ensure that your Camper is not away from Camp on an overnight trip.

This year’s dates and further information and guidelines about visits can be found on the Visiting Your Camper page.

What if my child is homesick?

Children are at camp for a long time, and homesickness does occur from time to time; it is only natural. It’s a wonderful growth experience when children, with the help of parents and counselors, are able to overcome those feelings and have a great time at Camp. Our counseling staff members are certainly sensitive to this important issue, and are well prepared and able to give support, comfort, and encouragement to your child should they begin to miss home. If this is a concern for you, please feel free to call us at any time before or during camp.

There is one strategy that we’ve found over the years is bound for failure – we call it the “If you don’t like it after a week I’ll come pick you up” strategy. This sets up a situation where the child views the end of the first week as the finish line. Kids who know they are staying at Camp for four weeks are much more willing to let go of homesickness feelings and have fun, whereas kids who believe that they can go home in a week if they’re still homesick will try to hold onto those feelings of homesickness so they can go home. When the end of the week comes, parents are met with a brutal choice between betraying the deal they made with their child and sending them a message that they’re not capable of being away from home.

In place of this strategy, we suggest the “We know you can do this” strategy. Whenever the issue of homesickness comes up, tell your child how confident you are in them. Keep this up when you’re writing letters during the session. We’ve found that when parents are sending this message and our counselors are giving encouragement and support, some 99% of homesick kids feel much better by the end of a week or so, and are dying to come back to camp the following summer.

If you feel you must make the “I’ll pick you up” bargain in order to convince your child to come to Camp, please call us. Chances are, it’s better to wait a year to send that child to Camp.