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What Does it Take to Organise Wintercamp?

Who Choses Where the Next Wintercamp Will take Place?
As Wintercamp is not centrally organised, it is necessary to find a new host city every year. Such a city is not simply elected, as in the awarding of the Olympic Games. It requires a group of dedicated volunteers who are willing to to organise the next event. Only if such people choose to organise the next Wintercamp a new host city can be found. However, be careful. Don't announce the next Wintercamp before careful consideration and an active exchange with former organisers and the members of the Couchsurfing Camps Facebook Group.
What Does it Take to Organise Wintercamp?
Organising a Wintercamp requires a team of people who are willing to spend months of their time for the Couchsurfing Camps community. Planning usually starts a few months before the advent. The closer you get to the end of the year, the more often you will have to meet up with your team. Make a to-do list and plan who has to do what until when and evaluate it regularly. It will help you staying focused.
The organisation can also be very stressful at times, as there are usually more factors to deal with than you could have ever imagined before. Especially when different problems arise at the same time, it is important to keep a cool head.
Communication skills:
Even if you think you have communicated everything already on your homepage and through social media, people will come constantly running to you with, asking the same questions over and over again. In that case, swallow your frustration, be friendly, and keep smiling.
While Couchsurfing doesn't allow organisers to make any profit with the event, they have to be ready to take full (financial) responsibility if anything goes wrong. Don't be scared of this fact, just be well prepared.
Organising a Wintercamp without spending money is basically impossible. Rent, insurances, security, and a sound system are only a few of the costs that have to be covered. Therefore, it is necessary to ask all visitors for a participation fee if you don't want to finance the event on your own. From this fact, many people draw the conclusion that a Wintercamp must be a commercial event. However, this is not the case. Rather, it is a fiduciary management of common expenses. Critics have to accept that organising an event of such scale without a participation fee would just be impossible.
Guidelines and Recommendations for Wintercamp Organisers
A Wintercamp can be organised in any location, but certain factors are big assets for insuring to attract enough people:
  • A host city should be easy to reach for everybody. Countries without visa restrictions, and cities that are well connected to public transport make the life easier for travellers.
  • Cheap and affordable places draw more people than countries with high prices for accommodation, alcohol, and food.
  • A city with enough hosts to be able to take as many foreigners visitors as possible lifts the pressure from the organisers to find mass accommodation for everybody.
  • A 'new' city in a 'new' country is always a good idea, as it has become a tradition to celebrate the New Year's Eve every year in a different place.
If a city doesn't fullfil these factors, don't be discouraged. In that case the organisation just takes more effort and a higher risk, but it is not impossible, as long as you are well pre-pared:
  • Start planning early. A well organised Wintercamp needs at least 3-4 months of organisation.
  • Have a small but good organizing team, possible with one experienced leader.
  • Use the help and advice from previous organizers if necessary and be open for suggestions.
  • One person needs to stay in charge. As that person is usually liable for all that could go wrong during the event, he/she should always have the last word when a critical decision is to be made.
  • Find a good and cheap location as the main venue, possibly easy to reach for everybody. If this main venue can stay open to the participants during the whole event, it may function as well as a base for workshops, sub-events and hanging out.
  • Find at least one common place for accommodation (hostel, school, gym), as staying together in one place strengthens the feeling of community.
  • Set up a pre-payment option as early as possible. The earlier you have an idea about how many people will attend, the easier it becomes for you to calculate. Also early payments will help enormously when having to book venues. Venues will be more than greatfull if you can give them an advanced deposit!
  • Avoid fixed number events. Many people sign up for an event but never show up. Other people attend but never registered beforehand. This can cause big problems, especially when third parties are involved and you needed to make commitments.
  • Involve third parties only when it is really necessary. The more you are dependent on other people, the more unforeseen can happen. The less you give out of your hands, the more you will remain in control.
  • Consider to buy an insurance to minimise your personal financial risk.
  • When it comes to money, never calculate with the best-case scenario. You should NEVER put yourself at a real financial risk. It is better to have some money left at the end of the event, and to give it to charity.
  • Find a good balance in promoting your event. Without advertisement in online groups, you won't reach enough people and might end up in a financial fiasco. If you advertise to aggressively, websites like Couchsurfing or Facebook might delete your event for spamming. Better use the power of word of mouthand ask the international community to help you spreading the word!
  • Some souvenirs as t-shirts, badges or wristbands are a must. Plastic wristbands, however, are not a good option. Here it is worth paying a bit more for cotton ones.
  • Try avoiding early morning events where it is possible. Events that start earlier than 12.00 pm usually attract less people. Day trips to surrounding areas can be an exception.
  • Maps and program leaflets help the participants find there way around as much as a group on What's App for communication.
  • Have a program with a big variety of events, such as excursions, sports, games, and workshops. If the camp is big, you need as many events as possible because you cannot get everybody in one event. Even duplicating events can be a good option in this case.
  • Don't be afraid! Remain happy and positive at all time and everything will work out in the end!
What Happens at Wintercamp?
Participating in a Wintercamp gives you an opportunity to celebrate New Year with 150-600 travellers from all over the world. You meet new people and old friends, explore new places, share travel stories, party all night long, try to win a competition, organise a workshop, etc. Every Wintercamp we took part in was always a unique experience with unforgettable moments. Read The Story of Wintercamps to get an insight in our happy memories of Wintercamps and get an idea of what actually happens at a usual Wintercamp.
Parts of this blog post are based on a "User's guide on how to organize a big event or a Wintercamp" by the unforgotten Massimo Bennardo.

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