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Travel creates amazing opportunities for Girl Scouts, whether it’s to different parts of the council, other states, across the country, or around the world. Travel helps them learn life-long skills, broadens their horizons, and introduces them to the wider world they live in. Whether it is your troop’s first trip together, or their third or fourth, there is always something new to learn through the planning process. Your troop has been talking for a while about all the things they want to do and the places they would like to see—but travelling with a group of two or three is hard enough! Managing the logistics, goals, interests, and temperaments of a whole troop of excited girls on a field trip, let alone a trip abroad, can seem daunting. But not to worry! Answer these questions as you plan, and your Girl Scout troop trip will be smooth sailing:

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What trainings are required for this trip to happen?  

For trips that are up to two nights, no additional training is required. For trips that are three nights or more, at least one adult who will be participating on the trip must take the Extended Travel Training. During this training, adults will learn the Do’s and Don’t associated with traveling with their troop. You must have a designated First Aider as well. Your best tool for helping the girls move forward on their planning is the Travel Progression Chart

Where will we go?  

This can be one of the easiest or the hardest parts of trip planning. Everyone has ideas about where they would like to go and what they want to see and do while traveling. Trying to get the whole big group of you to agree on a destination and activity can be one of the biggest learning moments the girls will have together. There is a lot of give and take, especially if your group is a larger one. Just because one girl thinks a place is where your group should go doesn’t mean it’s the only option. Making sure everyone’s voice is heard is important to moving forward with planning something everyone will enjoy. This can help ensure that the trip is something everyone agrees on and they are able to attend.

When will the trip take place?  

Once your group has decided on the “where”, it’s time to start figuring out the “when” details. Pick an ideal date and a couple of backup options, then have everyone check their calendars and save the date that works for most girls! Ideally, this will solidify the date for your troop, just in case, something else pops up during the same timeframe. It’ll also help set the timeline for preparing for your trip. If things change and one of your girls can’t make the trip any longer, be prepared to help her work through the emotions around that disappointment, as you can’t always move everything to accommodate everyone later in the process.

Pro Tip: Comparing calenders with a whole troop of Girls can be a real headache, so take some of the work out of it by setting up a poll! Using free tools like Doodle to share with the whole troop allows girls and their parents to mark all the times they are free, making finding the best time a cinch!

Who will be going?  

 Now that you know where you want to go and when you plan to travel, it’s time to find out who is serious about going. In order to move forward with plans, I highly recommend that you collect a non-refundable deposit to secure a spot. Deposits create a sense of commitment, making the event real and important on your troop families’ busy to-do lists. If your group is larger, you may especially need a solid headcount when making reservations for places to stay and/or events you will be participating in. Although there may be some troop members who won’t be able to travel with you, don’t exclude them from the planning process—travel planning is full of valuable skills they can use in the future!

What about adult chaperones?  

When you begin planning with the girls, determine the number of adults you must have and add one. If you need someone to stay behind with a girl who is ill, your group will still be within ratio. Make sure all the adults are there to pitch in and bring a skill to the trip: they are group leaders, have taken Extended Travel Training, are a first aider, a certified lifeguard, speak the language or have a special skill necessary for some of your activities. Just because they want to have an opportunity to travel with their daughter is not a reason to go. With a large group of girls you want to make sure you have enough adults to safely manage your troop, but not so many that they make the planning and organizing even more complicated!

Pro Tip: If you’re finding that you’re getting more volunteers than you need, encourage the volunteers who don’t get to go to level up their volunteer skills! Becoming a First Aider or getting their Extended Travel Training could help with your next big adventure.

How will you get there?   

Getting there is not just the travel to and from your trip. I think the planning part of travel plays an important role in “getting there”. It can be just as much fun as actually being on your trip. There are many skills to learn that will stay with your girls through their lives, including the activities you will do together to help prepare for your trip. Setting a budget, choosing your mode of transportation to and from your travel destination, figuring out where you will be staying, and creating your daily itinerary (and how to get from place to place) are all things to be considered. If it’s close by will you drive or take public transportation? Are there enough of you that it’s worth it to rent a van, or is carpooling cheaper? If it’s a little further away do you have an option to take a train? Or will you fly?

Where will you be staying? What are your options?  

Once you have your possible dates and attendees planned, you will need to figure out where your group will be staying. Will you stay at a Girl Scout camp or youth hostel? Will you stay at a local hotel? Are there discounts for larger groups? Have your girls check out reviews for the places you are thinking about. What things look like online sometimes don’t match up to what you get, so make sure to do your research or call for more information. And always double-check that the dates for the places you want to stay match the dates of your travel! Remember, Air-BNB and similar services are not allowed for Girl Scout travel.

What is our budget and how will we fund our trip?  

After you know where you want to go you need to figure out the costs associated with the trip. Talk with parents and guardians to see what they can or are willing to pitch in. The trip should be something everyone in your group can afford, so it’s likely you’ll need to figure out how to add to your budget! Remember that you must participate in the product programs in order to do any additional money-earning activities, and extra fundraising activities cannot be done during the product programs. (Please see the requirements in the Volunteer Essentials for more details.) All extra money-earning activities should be approved by the office BEFORE they take place. While these may be necessary they shouldn’t be the main focus of everything the group does. Good news though: with a large group, fundraising is often simpler because the goal is spread out amongst all your girls! 

What activities do you want to participate in/on while traveling?  

For the most part, the activities you want to participate in will dictate where you are going and what you will be doing. Again, making sure everyone has a say, no matter how large your group is, is important to creating a girl-led experience, and planning a trip that is fun for all attendees! As you begin considering different activities, please make sure you are checking the requirements in Safetywise to make sure the activities are allowed and what requirements must be met in order to do them. You will also want to make sure any vendors you will be using for activities are on our council’s current approved vendor list.  

Pro Tip: Prep yourself for your decision-making session with some action steps! Learning how to make decisions as a group will make sure everyone gets something out of your trip.

Will you be including a service project in your itinerary?  

It doesn’t matter where you travel to—giving back to the place you travel is a fantastic way to travel as Girl Scouts. Check-in with the local Girl Scout office near where you will be visiting to see if there is anything available to help with—it could be a great chance to meet up with girls from a different council or area! Is there an organization the girls are interested in learning more about near where you will be going? Check-in with them to see if they have anything planned. If you will be part of a tour group, find out beforehand if there is a project planned for the group to work on so you have the proper equipment/clothing needed.

Plan your vacation for after you get back!  

Whether your troop is big or small, a volunteer’s job is to be on duty. While you are traveling with your troop, all adult volunteers are all “on” 24/7. The girls are responsible for having fun, being engaged during activities, and making sure everything goes according to plans to the best of their abilities. For them to get that amazing travel experience, adults must be responsible for the girls the whole time. Not to worry though—thanks to the generous ratios, we guarantee you’ll have a fabulous time as well!

Talk to other well-traveled troops! 

Now is the time to use your resources wisely. Take time to talk with other leaders and girls who have traveled with their troops. Find out where they went, what they did, how they earned extra money to help finance the trip for everyone. Would they recommend a similar trip for your girls? What would they change if they travel again?  

While all of this information may look like a lot of requirements and commitment to help the girls travel, the outcome can be a pretty amazing experience. I hope wherever your troop goes and whatever they do is amazing! Please remember to share your experiences with us after you return to help other girls and troops know what’s waiting for them out there.

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Sandy Norman—Sandy has been a Girl Scout since 5th grade, during which she lived in Naples, Italy. She has been an Extended Troop Travel learning facilitator for 18 years and has loved helping other leaders learn how to travel with their troops! Sandy has also been leading council trips since 2010 and enjoys sharing her travel knowledge with GSNorCal girls and adults.