Private jets, chefs and Covid-19 tests: This luxury 'summer camp' wants to take the kids off your hands
The conversation started back in March, though, at the time, it was more of a distant hypothetical: What will happen to summer camp?
Julie Danziger, a managing partner of luxury travel agency Embark Beyond, has three kids, while Jack Ezon, the founder and a managing partner, has four. After months of remote learning, self-isolation and uncertainty, they realised their theoretical question was becoming all too real.
Some sleep-away camps have said they will reopen with strict testing and social distancing requirements, but those are not even allowed in some states. Day camps are also subject to new guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"We're in that boat of, 'Oh my God, what are we going to do if we have nothing to do with the kids?" Danziger said.
The answer the New York City-based company came up with was "Camp Embark," a venture that offers curated camp programs for families or groups of friends, private jet travel, an on-site chef and - possibly the most sought-after amenity for these times - minimal interaction with the outside world.
"This exclusive opportunity has been designed to offer comfortable settings allowing for social distancing, through private accommodations, private meals, private activities and a dedicated private counsellor," the brochure reads. "Kids will be entertained with full days of play with their personal counsellor, while parents can relax with peace of mind or work remotely if necessary."
Danziger and her team spent two weeks tracking down and examining the health protocols of more than 30 resorts, lodges, private homes, ranches and other properties in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean that could accommodate families or small groups.
Lynda Levy, a party planner who runs her own summer camp most years, has been creating schedules - either off-the-shelf or curated for families - with activities such as cooking competitions, slime making, kayaking, horseback riding or painting, depending on the location. In most cases, counsellors will be staff members from individual properties, though families can request that a dedicated counsellor travels with them.
Employees of different resorts will be subject to the health requirements at each location, such as daily temperature checks. Families can also ask that counsellors be tested for the coronavirus, and kids will not interact with guests outside their groups.
"I'm really trying to make a camp-like feel at these four-, five-star destinations," Levy said.
The experience won't come cheap. On the low end, accommodations plus coordinated activities could run around $7,700 (R130 995) a week; on the high end, that number is closer to $150,000 (R2,5m) with meals included for as many as 19 people taking up an entire ranch in California.
Potential add-ons include a private chef, private jet for the neighbourhood of $4,000 (R68 049) an hour and consultation with families to customise activities.
So far, about 20 clients have camp plans in motion, Danziger said, with the first starting next week. More are waiting to hear if the camps they had planned to send their kids to will open at all.
While Levy said parents can join their kids at any point, and additional family activities can be scheduled at night, the goal is to make life easier for those who still have to work and want their kids to have some semblance of a normal summer.
"A lot of the reason why we're doing this is so the parents can work remotely and not have to worry about their children all day," Levy said.