For parents inundated with summer camp catalogs, one local website provides a way to cut through the mess.
A search engine for children’s camps, classes and more, Activity Rocket aims to provide a bit of peace of mind amid swirling schedules.
When Activity Rocket started in 2011, the website (www.activityrocket.com) only included activities in Montgomery County, Md., the home of its founders Ilene Miller and Lisa Friedlander. However, last year it expanded to include Northern Virginia.
“From the get-go, we wanted to go into Northern Virginia,” Miller said. “In our area, county lines — even state lines — end up being artificial barriers more often than not. It’s all about giving parents the options they want.”
Now users to the site have the option to search more than 30,000 classes, camps, sports and more for children up to age 18. The activities are dotted around Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the city of Alexandria in Northern Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C., and the nearby Maryland suburbs.
The expansion to Northern Virginia was quickly followed by an expansion in the website’s functionality. When it started in 2011, Activity Rocket’s website only existed in basic form, allowing users to search listings but not much else.
In October 2013, a new website debuted, offering users the ability to register and pay for some activities through the website itself, to compare prices and schedules and more.
Parents can search the roster of activities by location, category, age group, start date, day of the week, time of day and more. Both mothers, Friedlander and Miller approached the construction of the website with a parent’s eye, wanting to optimize ease and efficiency.
Use of the site is free for families and businesses. Businesses can pay a monthly fee for more comprehensive listings on the site’s database and priority search results, but no business is required to pay.
“It was very important to Ilene and I philosophically not to exclude anyone, so the parents coming to the site know they have the benefit of seeing as many options as possible,” Friedlander said.
The more robust version of the site had always been the aim. The catalyst for its creation came when, after a venting session to Friedlander over the hassles of scheduling her children’s various activities, Miller sat down and booked a trip to New York on a travel website in 10 minutes.
“If I can do this, why are we still using an old, outdated process for our children’s activities and camps?” Miller said. “That was really the ‘aha!’ moment.”
This month will offer Miller and Friedlander their first test during a full summer camp season. Registration is already in full swing; many organizations started registration this week or will in the next several weeks.
Right now, the site is clocking about 7,000 monthly visitors and 3,000 registered users, but it is already starting to climb as summer camp fever sets in, according to Friedlander.
“Those numbers are doubling on themselves, especially as we see the summer camp registration season gets started,” Friedlander said. “But we think we’re ready to handle the rush.”