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When you hear about a traveling Girl Scout what is the first thing you think of? Do you have visions of a Senior or Ambassador troop packing their bags for an international adventure? Or maybe a Cadette getting her gear ready for a service project on a Destinations event in Costa Rica? Perhaps a Junior heading off to Girl Scout camp where she’ll have the opportunity to make new friends? Or a Brownie and Daisy troop taking a field trip together? All of these experiences are just a few examples in the world of Girl Scout Travel.
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So what exactly is Girl Scout Travel? It is any time your troop or an individual girl participates in an activity outside of a regular troop meeting. Field trips, service unit events, and council events are great places to get started. These are opportunities for girls to actively use some of the decision making, money earning, budgeting, and problem solving skills they have learned through badge work to help them explore new areas of interest. They have the chance to choose where they want to go, what they want to do, how they will get there, and how they will pay for the adventure. The girls learn just as much through planning their trips as they do when they participate in the event.
As girls get older and their skills develop, the duration and distance of trips increase. Travel can progress to bigger and better outings. Older girls have a number of different opportunities, including extended troop trips that they plan together, Destinations, and council trips. As with any activity in Girl Scouts, travel is seen as a progressive opportunity, keeping in mind the age and/or grade-level requirements for the types of trips girls can go on. Before your girls start planning their next big adventure, it’s important to know the different types of travel opportunities Girl Scouts offers and what additional training, if any, is required.
All troops can plan short trips, ranging from daylong field trips to two-night long overnight trips. These can include field trips to an animal shelter, a day of community service at a local park, or a weekend camping trip. Girls work together with their leaders to decide where they want to go and what they will do. At least one adult participating with the group is required to take the online Outings, Short Trips, and Overnights Training available on the Volunteer Learning Portal. These trips are covered by standard Girl Scout insurance. For any troop trip of three nights or longer, at least one adult participating on the trip must take the adult learning program, Extended Travel Training, which can be found through Activity Finder. In this training, adult volunteers will learn about the requirements for extended travel, including information about age requirements for the girls, what paperwork is necessary, insurance, physicals, and ways to help fund the trip. Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts can attend the training as well to help them understand the planning process and requirements, making it easier for them to be prepared for planning their trips.
Council trips are set up for Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors who have the desire to travel, make new friends, and share adventures. The only requirement for these trips is that the girls are registered members of Girl Scouts of Northern California. During the summer of 2018, Cadettes will be going to Costa Rica, where they will have the opportunity to visit a local farm, explore the rainforest by aerial tram, take a crocodile jungle cruise, tour a coffee plantation, and participate in some thrilling adventures, like kayaking, zip-lining or whitewater rafting. Seniors and Ambassadors will be going to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, China. The tour includes visits to the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, a bike ride on the ancient city wall of Xi’an, the Terra Cotta Warriors, and stops at local markets and temples in Shanghai.
Each year the location changes, so girls have the opportunity to visit a number of different places as an older Girl Scout. On the way home from a trip, the girls are given the chance to look through a travel catalog to vote on their top three choices for where the next council trips should take them. The girls traveling on the 2018 trips will have input on the trips that will be scheduled for 2022. Other upcoming trips include a Cadette, Senior, Ambassador trip to Panama in 2019, where girls will experience the history of the Panama Canal, participate in a local exchange with some students, and visit ruins, take a canoe ride on the Rio Chagres, and explore some historical sites; a Cadette trip to the Galapagos in 2020 where girls will see the giant tortoises up close, do some snorkeling, and explore the islands; and a trip for Seniors and Ambassadors to New Zealand and Australia where they’ll visit some of the popular locations in both countries and have time to set up activities of their own choosing.
Destinations are opportunities for girls to travel independently to adventures within the United States, as well as internationally. The trips are for girls in Cadettes through Ambassadors from all around the country, providing them the opportunity to meet Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from other councils and countries. Trips are sponsored and staffed by Girl Scout councils and/or international travel organizations that have been approved by GSUSA. Trips can be found on GSUSA’s website. These experiences are set up for girls who have a desire to travel independently and are able to navigate their way to the departure location for the trip on their own. This is where they will meet up with the adults and the rest of the travelers on the trip. To apply, girls need to fill out the application, including a short essay on what special skills they have and why they should be picked for one of the available spaces. They need to ask two adults who know them well to submit letters of reference singing their praises and sharing information about the skills they could contribute to the groups adventure. All applications are submitted to Girl Scouts of Northern California for processing and then sent on to the sponsors of the events. The hardest part is waiting to hear back after the applications have been submitted.
Providing the opportunity to travel has been shown to be the highest retention tool for Girl Scouts of all ages. When girls discover new places and develop communication, budgeting, map reading, and time management skills they learn more about who they are and how they fit in. They become world travelers, not just tourists.
The world is waiting… where will your girls be going? I’d love to hear where your girls plan on going in the comments section below!
What to do next:
- Visit GSNorCal.org for more information on the potential travel & adventure opportunities for Girl Scouts.
- Check out my related blog post on How Girl Scout Cookies Funded My Troop’s International Travel.
- For more helpful travel resources, essential forms, and online trainings, visit GSNorCal’s Volunteer Learning Portal.
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.