By Elisheva Blumberg, Lubicom Staff
Are you ready for your upstate escape?
At this very moment, thousands of families just like yours are ditching the city heat for a cooled-down summer in the Catskills Mountains.
But even for the seasoned regulars, making the move can cause serious stress.
So I asked four pros who’ve mastered the art of summer in the country to share the top things they don’t leave home without.
Get your suitcases at the ready… this essential list will leave you ahead of the pack(ing).
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1. Boatloads of basics
After decades of going to the Catskills — first as a kid, then as a mom — Tzipora has packing down to a science. “Bring lots and lots of towels,” she advises. And for the kids, pack extra socks, underwear, and footwear.
“Things get wet and stay wet longer,” she says. And unfortunately, throwing a load in the washing machine is not always a simple matter…
2. … Laundry baskets — in triplicate
If you don’t have a washer/dryer in your personal bungalow, you’ll need to be on top of your laundry game.
For Frumie, seven summers with a large family in a bungalow colony means becoming all too familiar with the laundry room routine. She says, “Can you imagine how many laundry loads a family of 12 goes through in 11 weeks?”
With all the back-and-forth trips to the laundry room (especially after the 9 days, when the peaking pile of dirty clothing in your bathroom will have grown taller than Hunter Mountain) you’ll want to bring multiple laundry baskets.
And don’t forget the quarters. Frumie’s bungalow colony has coin-operated washers and dryers. That means 8 quarters just to wash and dry a single load! When you factor in change for the snack machines, you might just need a trip to the bank.
3. Dollar Tree Haul
A tip for the males: My brother, Donny, one of the many weekend warriors who burn up the NY Thruway every erev Shabbat (and then back down on Sunday), tells us how far a few bucks can go.
“When your kids haven’t seen you the whole week, a couple of trinkets from the dollar store will make a big impression,” Donny says. A wind-up toy, a box of plastic dinosaurs, a container of glitter slime — whatever you bring them will mean ear-to-ear smiles. Definitely worth the 99 cents.
4. Time for Exercise
Chany, who will be spending her fourth summer at an upstate sleepaway camp, cannot overestimate the benefits of summer exercise. “All year I have no time or energy,” she says. “But in the country, I power walk every morning for an hour and then swim for another hour. My energy levels are boosted!”
Take advantage of the fresh mountain air, the lush summer greenery, and all that extra time you’ll undoubtedly have; exercise will give you the energy — and endorphins — to enjoy every minute of your summer getaway.
5. Timeless toys
In the country, kids can spend hours exploring outdoors. But when it rains, especially when it rains on Shabbat, you’re going to need a backup plan.
Tzipora recommends stocking up on board games, crafts, and color by number projects. For Shabbos, Frumie favors “the magic of Clics,” which can keep kids occupied for hours. Other engrossing toys include Legos, Magna-Tiles, and jigsaw puzzles.
For new toys without the extra expense, swap with a neighbor for the summer.
6. A good book
Even the biggest social butterfly will need some “me” time. Pack a long book — or three — to read at the pool, or on those long Shabbat afternoons. Don’t forget to set aside a fitting book for Tisha B’Av.
7. Rain gear
The good news: the constant country rains means salamander hunting!
The bad news: Everything gets wet. Really wet.
Be prepared; every family member will need a good raincoat and boots. Stock up on extra rain gear like umbrellas and ponchos, too.
8. A healthy sense of boundaries
Whether you’re spending summer in a sleepaway camp or a bungalow colony, Tzipora’s observation is all too true: “Everyone is living on top of each other!”
“Maintaining and respecting boundaries is important,” Tzipora advises. “Be friendly, but don’t peek into your neighbor’s pots or ask her where she is going — unless, of course, you’re looking for a ride!”
9. Frozen pizza
Your time upstate is limited; don’t spend your whole Sunday waiting on line at the pizza shop. To avoid the crowds, Donny hauls up a few frozen pies, which means more time for fun with the family.
And don’t forget the toaster oven. Tzipora says, “Your toaster oven will be your best friend.” She recommends using it for grilled cheese, fish sticks, veggie burgers, and of course, pizza. Aim to keep your food prep as simple as possible.
10. A sunny outlook
The best way to survive summer in the country? Don’t think of it as “surviving” but “savoring”!
The opportunity to be away for a couple of weeks — or a whole summer — is a magnificent blessing. An optimistic mindset shift can make all the difference.
Instead of feeling that their smaller homes are a downgrade, Tzipora and Chany both see their minimalist bungalows as easier to maintain (no carpets to vacuum, less rooms to clean, no tchotckes to dust).
And despite the lack of creature comforts in the country, Chany relishes in watching her kids grow. “The kids blossom in every aspect of life. Socially, physically. They have the freedom to explore, to roam, to be.”
Hey — isn’t that what vacation is all about?