Council Troop Travel Guide
How far will your Girl Scout experience take you? That’s up to you! Traveling with Girl Scouts is a pathway to building courage, confidence, and character, as girls of all ages explore the neighborhood, the region, the nation, and the world around them. Contact us with your questions and ask for advice on your next trip – and send up pictures when you get home. Happy trails to you!
- Discuss travel opportunities and research ideas
- Choose a destination
- Develop a trip itinerary draft and state the purpose of the trip
- Submit the Intent to Travel form to the council contact person if your trip is 3 nights or more in length, or an international trip
- Research and choose lodging
- Research and choose transportation
- Rental contracts signed only by approved council staff (required)
- Certificates of insurance provided to council staff (required of all bus companies)
- Develop trip budget
- Plan and participate in troop money-earning activities, if needed; submit the Money-Earning Activity Form to your council contact
- Read applicable sections of Volunteer Essentials, Safety Activity Checkpoints, and Safety Guidelines
- Develop a troop travel agreement; collect signed copies from all girls and parents
- Create a packing list for the trip
- Collect signed Parent Permission Form and a Girl Scout Health History Form for all adults and girls
- Submit the Troop/Group Travel & High-Risk Form, with itinerary and roster, to council staff, if your trip is more than 3 nights in length or an international trip
- Purchase activity insurance, if needed
1. Girl Scout Leadership Experience
Choosing where to go and what to do is part of the fun for the girls! Throughout the planning stage, use the Girl Scout Leadership Experience processes:
- learning by doing
- cooperative learning
Support girls to work successfully in groups and accept the responsibilities of working together to make realistic, detailed plans well in advance. Even Daisies can brainstorm a list of ideas, Juniors can research admission fees and hours of operation, and Ambassadors can make airline reservations. Let the girls take on the leadership roles in planning and carrying out their trip!
2. Council Consent and Forms
Our council office needs to know of all troops/groups who are travelling in the name of Girl Scouts, when the trip involves an overnight stay that is not on GSNWGL property or camps, and or a trip that is more than three nights in length. Send the forms to our council in the requested time frame insures both adequate troop preparation and time for the proper insurance coverage to be obtained. The forms a leader fills out will provide the critical contact information needed in case of an emergency. In some cases, GSNWGL staff will be able to offer planning advice to some of the most common and popular destinations!
- For extended troop trips (3+ nights away or more), the Intent to Travel Form (see the appendix) is due three months prior to your trip. For international trips, the Intent to Travel Form is due one year prior to the trip.
- At least two weeks before your trip, complete the Troop/Group Travel & High-Risk Form (see the appendix) and submit to council staff.
3. Trip Planning and Preparation
The trip should be of interest to the girls and be appropriate for their age group. Through the planning process, the girls will practice developing plans, making arrangements, budgeting and handling money, accepting responsibility for personal conduct and safety, and evaluating and sharing their experience with others.
Regardless of the troop’s grade level, the basic steps to plan a trip are the same. Every group starts with the same questions:
- Where are we going?
- Why are we going?
- When are we going?
- How will we get there?
- What will we do along the way?
- How much will it cost?
- How should we get ready?
Volunteers will consider:
- Encourage the girls to learn as much as possible about the area where they will travel, including the people, language, culture, customs, food and activities they will be experiencing. Be culturally respectful travelers.
- Each day’s schedule includes time for eating, sleeping, rest and relaxation, recreation and personal needs. Plans consider both drivers and passengers, and the mileage to be covered each day is reasonable for the terrain expected.
- Get reservations for lodging and activities confirmed ahead of time, in writing.
- The entire itinerary is known to adults, parents, your council and the emergency contact at home.
- Check the Adult-to-Girl Ratio in Volunteer Essentials to plan for the correct number of adults present on the trip.
The adult-to-girl ratio for outings, activities, camping, and travel means a minimum of two registered, approved, adult volunteers who are unrelated, including one female, must be present for up to this number of girls:
- 6 Girl Scout Daisies
- 12 Girl Scout Brownies
- 16 Girl Scout Juniors
- 20 Girl Scout Cadettes
- 24 Girl Scout Seniors
- 24 Girl Scout Ambassadors
With one extra registered, approved, adult volunteer for every additional:
- 1–4 Girl Scout Daisies
- 1–6 Girl Scout Brownies
- 1–8 Girl Scout Juniors
- 1–10 Girl Scout Cadettes
- 1–12 Girl Scout Seniors
- 1–12 Girl Scout Ambassadors
4. Money Matters
The Girl Scout motto is “Be Prepared!” So, when big travel dreams have big costs, girls and adults work together to create a detailed, realistic budget. Remember to include such items as transportation, food, tips, insurance, recreation, admission fees, taxes and emergency funds. Advance planning really pays off.
Three ways to fund your upcoming trip
- Cookie program earnings
- Troop money-earning activities
(cookie program participation is a pre-requisite before adding additional money-earning activities)
- Fall product program earnings
Additional money-earning activities must meet GSUSA and GSNWGL’s policies and standards. These activities cannot be scheduled during the Girl Scout Cookie Program, Fall Product Program, or during local United Way drives. Money-earning activities should be age and skill-appropriate, properly supervised, and decided upon with girl input and planning. Ask your council contact person for the In-Kind Solicitation Form and the Money-Earning Activity Request Form to get approval for your fundraising ideas!
Money Handling Tips
- Before the trip, define what is a personal expense and what is a group expense. Clearly communicate with parents about the amount of personal money needed for the trip and how those funds will be handled.
- Keep troop/group travel funds in the bank before the trip.
- Plan in advance how the troop/group funds will be safely managed during the trip. Choose a person(s) to be responsible for group funds and for keeping a daily account of expenditures.
- Plan how the group will handle record keeping for non-receipt purchases. All the groups’ cash/credit/debit cards should not be kept by just one person at any time during the trip.
- Determine how to pay bills that occurred before the trip, en-route and after the trip.
- For overseas trips, most hospitals and doctors require cash or credit-card payment at the time of treatment.
Money Saving Tips
- When creating a budget and itinerary, write down the free things on the itinerary first, then add things to the itinerary based on cost. Before you know it, your trip will be filled with free or next-to-free things to do.
- One popular lodging option is to stay at another Girl Scout council’s camps! You could opt to rent the campsite or even participate in a camp program through that council. There are lots of different options! Search for a council in your destination using this handy tool: http://www.girlscouts.org/councilfinder.
- Consider inexpensive lodging other than camping. Contact other councils about a Girl Scout house/office that could provide overnight accommodations. You could also contact churches, military installations, and veteran posts, which sometimes provide halls or gyms for troops to roll out sleeping bags.
- Utilize Hosteling International (www.hihostels.com ), which offers free membership to Girl Scout troops. Some provide Girl Scout programs, like Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago.
- Contact the visitor’s bureau of your destination and ask for visitor’s guide. They often come with coupons for lodging or restaurants.
- To save money on food, look for 2-for-1 deals at local restaurants. Have the girls pack a lunch one day. Stay at a hotel/motel that provides free breakfast!
- Decide on a per diem amount for meals, to keep the girls aware of spending.
5. Personal Conduct and Equipment
Leaving the routine of the troop meeting is exciting! Be sure to set expectations of behavior for your trip in advance. For example, younger girls should talk about what good behavior looks like in a children’s museum, or a fire station, or listening to a presentation. Older girls taking a longer trip together can talk about how to resolve conflicts that arise from living in close quarters for five days in a row. Help the girls to understand their responsibilities as travelers. Everyone is briefed on appropriate conduct and safety precautions in public places, restrooms, escalators and elevators, as well as on stairs and while in transit: walking, biking, cars, buses, trains and airplanes. Travel responsibilities extend to being good guests, being open to new experiences and open to appreciating local customs and foods.
- When the group travels in uniform, all travelers should have a uniform and wear it correctly. Girls and adults are encouraged to be in uniform at World Centers and at other Girl Guide/Girl Scout activities and events.
- Be specific about what clothing and equipment to take and how to use and pack the equipment.
- Set individual limits on luggage and equipment! Each person should be able to carry her own belongings except when a special consideration, such as a disability, warrants an alternative plan.Leave all valuables at home!
6. Health and Safety
Volunteer Essentials and Safety Activity Checkpoints should be referenced when preparing for any trip. You’ll find details like the Adult-to Girl Ratio chart, accident and emergency procedures, and driver safety checklists. For most travel plans, make sure one or more adults is certified in Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED.
Include girls with disabilities. Communicate with girls with disabilities and/or their caregivers to assess any needs and accommodations. Make sure that reasonable accommodations are made for girls with disabilities. Be inspired by stories of people with disabilities traveling by visiting No Barriers USA and Wilderness Inquiry.
Collect Girl Scout Health History Forms for every girl; when the trip is three nights or longer, for adults, too. Carry the Health History Forms and a copy of the GSNWGL emergency procedures with you at all times.
Public transportation: Whenever possible, public transportation is encouraged.
Private vehicles: Every passenger must wear seat belts at all times, and drivers adhere to state laws regarding booster seats. Every driver must be an approved adult volunteer (at least 21 years old) and have a good driving record, a valid license and registered/insured vehicle. In case of an accident, the vehicle owner’s insurance is the primary applicable insurance. Girls never drive other girls. If a group is traveling in one vehicle, there must be a least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers in the vehicle, one of whom is female. If a group is traveling in more than one vehicle, the entire group must consist of at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers, one of whom is female. Care should be taken so that a single car is not separated from the group for an extended length of time.
Rental Cars: Our council has a preferred partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which has over 6,000 rental locations in the United States and Canada. GSNWGL troops receive special discounted rates at all Enterprise locations! For more information about renting with Enterprise, contact Customer Care.
Contracting with Outside Firms: Girl Scout volunteers should not sign contracts or agreements in the name of Girl Scouts. The CEO’s designee(s) must sign all agreements or contracts (rental cars, vans, charter buses, facilities, programs, etc.) There may be exceptions with some rental companies, but only with express written permission from our Council. Contact your council staff person if an exception is needed.
How do I plan a trip that includes water activities?
Many water activities require a lifeguard or person certified in boating safety to be present. If the facility does not provide a staff person meeting these requirements, troops would be required to bring a lifeguard to accompany them. See the Swimming, Canoeing, Boating, Stand-up Paddleboard, or Surfing Safety Activity Checkpoints.
- One suggestion is to look for a hotel or water park where lifeguards are already present, so you don’t need to bring a lifeguard with you. Generally, pools with waterslide features have lifeguards. Always call ahead to confirm.
- In a pool setting, certified lifeguards may be 16 years old. In other settings, certified lifeguards should be 18 or older.
Where can I go horseback riding?
Horseback riding is considered a high-risk activity and is not recommended for girls below Junior level. Our Council has approved horseback riding stables that meet our insurance and safety standards, located on our Field Trip & Travel Partners page. These are the only facilities within our Council’s jurisdiction Girl Scout troops may utilize. Approved stables may be added or discontinued during the year due to a lapse in standards. Because each facility offers a different riding experience, we recommend you call each facility to find the one that best meets the needs and interests of your troop.
How do I organize girl and adult sleeping areas on my overnight trip?
It is not mandatory that an adult sleep in the same tent or cabin as the girls. If an adult female does share the sleeping area, there should always be two unrelated adult females present. Ensure the sleeping arrangement details are clearly explained in the parent/guardian permission slip.
- One suggestion in hotels is to have adjoining hotel rooms or a suite.
Can a Girl Scout travel by herself?
Girls can travel without a troop when they participate in “Destinations,” trips sponsored by Girl Scouts of the USA. The trips vary from local (Apostle Islands, Madison) to national (Savannah, Hollywood, New York) to international (Peru, China, London). There are also a number of apprenticeships available (photography, sailing)! Lastly, there are shorter destinations called getaways, which run for fewer days and are less expensive. Dates for getaways are open to work with your own schedule! These getaways might be perfect for your troop.