My daughter was 16 months old when we moved back to the Bay Area from San Diego in 2006. My wife and I were leaving behind some dear friends who hadn’t yet had their own kids. Fast forward to now: each of our families has two kids, all of whom could be siblings based on their ages (and personalities).

Three years ago, we suggested to those long-distance friends that they come live with us for a week and that the kids all attend camp together. We were thrilled when they said yes, and it’s since become an annual tradition.

This past summer, my kids were Counselors In Training while our friends’ kids were at Camp Galileo at the same location. It was so awesome watching them experience Galileo at the same site while taking away different learnings, and all having had a joy-filled, enriching, and fulfilling (read: exhausting-in-the-best-way) experience.

Watching all four kids go to camp together over the years has been a true delight. Dressing for theme days, choosing colors for wacky hair day, and listening to the chants and songs all through dinner warms my heart. Of course, camp is so fun for them. They love everything about it, but I think what they love the most is that they get to share a special experience with each other. When I asked my daughter what she loves most about going to camp together with her buddies, she told me, “Being able to experience and share something that you love with others is the best.” As an adult, it’s not hard to relate—just about every getaway with friends or family reminds me of the power of shared experience to build memories and connections among loved ones.

I recognize that our experience is a little unique. But here’s the good news: you don’t need another family to move in with you in order for your kids to go to camp with their friends! Our kids have attended camp with various constellations of local friends, too; some have been in the same age group or major, and other times just at the same site the same week. I don’t think I have to explain how wonderful carpooling is! But the benefits extend beyond carpool logistics and bring-a-buddy savings. Our kids have built memories that will last a lifetime.

All parents want their kids to feel safe, included and welcomed in environments new and familiar. Going to camp with friends can set both kids and parents at ease when trying something new. Whether it’s kids from the neighborhood, classmates, troopmates, teammates or otherwise, every kid can find a buddy to join them at camp.

We’ve got this summer’s week together on the calendar already. We can’t wait!

Chris Goetz heads up camp operations as Galileo’s COO. When he’s not preparing for camp, Chris can usually be found cheering at his kids’ extracurriculars, visiting Disneyland, or camping at a National Park with his family.