Travelling abroad with Guides

WHO - WHAT - WHERE - WHEN - HOW (we'll skip the WHY!)

Basically two types of group travel abroad as Guides :
1) "Selected" groups, travelling as official representatives of the Guide Association - selected by whatever means, usually by attending a selection camp and/or interview - and usually consisting of girls and leaders from different units but within the same county or region
2) Unofficial groups - may be from one unit, District, Division, County etc., but are not OFFICIAL representatives although of course they still go as Guides.

If your group is a Selected Group, you may or may not have any say in who you're taking with you, although if the girls have gone through the rigours of interview and/or a selection camp they should be OK. One would assume that girls presenting themselves for International Selection would have some - preferably plenty of - experience of camping but this isn't necessarily so. You need to check and find out - and be prepared to run a weekend camp for them before you go so you can see for yourself and teach them the basics if needed. In any case, you will want to get to know them before you go off to foreign parts together, so a few social occasions where they can mingle and chat are a good idea - ten-pin bowling is a good "mixer" activity, and fun too!

If you're taking your own girls abroad, the getting-to-know you bit is easy, and it's up to you how you select your group.

Pretty obvious questions to ask yourself, really. Where will you be travelling to? What sort of trip - residential holiday? camp? touring? International Jamboree? "Selected" groups will usually have their venue selected for them too, as these groups are usually travelling as a result of official invitations from the host country's Guide or Scout Associations.
Unofficial groups may be travelling to popular Guide destinations (e.g. Adelboden) or venturing into the unknown. They may be camping, staying in hostels, renting accommodation or even staying in one of the World Centres. The choices are endless but the sooner you decide, the better. Ask other Guiders who've travelled abroad previously, contact all those overseas email Guide and Scout friends you've made, or search the Web for ideas (links to the World Centres here on this website)


Whichever you choose (or have thrust upon you) - to coin a phrase, "Book early to avoid disappointment." For a big Division trip where everyone is paying their own way, two years isn't too far in advance. If you have a "Selected" group to take, you're unlikely to get that much notice, but start planning the minute you're asked to lead the group!

Most Guide groups travel during the school summer holidays - and so does everyone else! So in order to get the accommodation and transport (coach, ferry or flights) you want, you need to book early. Make your initial enquiries by telephone but make sure you get confirmation in writing.


How are you going to fund the trip? Selected groups can usually apply for grants from various sources and raise funds (see below) to offset the costs and minimise parental contributions, individual groups either pay their own way or organise major fundraising drives. Whichever way you pay for the trip - make sure you don't underestimate the costs.

  • Actual travel costs - flight/ferry fares, coach hire to get to your destination, travel to and from the airport if you are flying, etc.
  • Internal travel in the country you are visiting
  • Travel insurance
  • Camp fees, accommodation etc.
  • Food if you are self-catering
  • "Treats" such as swimming baths, boat rides, days out etc. (unless they are included in a package holiday)
  • Add 10% to your estimated costs for emergencies - you can always give a rebate if you come home with money to spare, but it's infinitely preferable to running out of money while you're away.

How are you going to get there? Are you making all your own arrangements or are you going for a group package with one of the recognised Guide/Scout holiday operators (e.g. Venture Abroad, Jeka - see Guiding magazine for adverts)? Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages. Making your own arrangements is cheaper but going with a package tour is easier; you usually have more freedom to do what YOU want to do and go where YOU want to go if you aren't tied to an operator's schedule, but you do have to do your own planning, booking etc.

Travelling abroad from the UK has one absolutely inevitable component: you have to cross the sea. If you are going with a tour operator you will have no choice in the matter, but if you are making your own arrangements there are two basic options for travelling to Europe - plane or ferry, or if you are going via France, through the Channel Tunnel. You will have to weigh costs against convenience - flying is certainly faster but is of course more expensive, and you are also limited as to the amount of luggage you can take - quite a headache if you are planning to camp! From experience, I find it pays to book flights direct with the airline : check with your nearest airport to see if it is possible to get to your chosen destination from there, it will cut down on travel costs at this end and if it is near enough, parents can deliver the girls direct to the airport.
Travelling further afield has to be by air unless you are planning a marathon trek along the Silk Route or something similar...... don't just go for the obvious route, check different airlines and you may find you can save money by selecting a less obvious route (such as UK - Mexico via Frankfurt - it's true, honest!)



PASSPORTS : Make sure the leaders and all the girls have passports which will still be valid for your return journey - some countries require"leeway" on the passports - they should have two or three months left on them after you get back. If not, get them sent away for well in advance. [NOTE - you can no longer get the GB 1 year passport]  
E111 Health forms : if you are travelling to - or through - an EEC country, the E111 form gives you access to health care as part of a reciprocal arrangement and is essential. Everybody needs one; they are free and available from Post Offices.  
INJECTIONS - check if you need any injections for the country you are planning to visit and check if the girls' vaccinations are still up-to-date. Notify the parents in good time and don't forget to get yours done too.  
TRAVEL INSURANCE - the cheapest seems to be the Guides' own policy - check the GA website for contact and cover details.  
TICKETS - airline, coach, ferry, train etc. Book early if you are travelling in peak periods.  
MONEY - some in local currency (don't forget countries you are planning on passing through) and some in Travellers' Cheques. You might also consider taking a credit card with you in case of dire emergency.  
MAPS - route and local area - even if you don't need them to navigate, the girls will be interested to see just where they are and where they are going.  
FIRST AID - have a small first-aid kit in your hand luggage. Carry a list of any prescription drugs with details of dosage, who it's for etc., on you at all times and have duplicates in the first-aid kit and one with one or more of the other leaders.  


  • permission to travel (preferably signed by both parents if they are separated, if this is at all possible)
  • health forms including permission for specified medicines and treatments, details of allergies, emergency contact details etc.
  • You need to start the "Forms" process much earlier than the usual camp or holiday in the UK - start off with applying for "Permission to plan" (!) The GA forms book is well worth investing in.
KIT LISTS - get them out well in advance. You will need to draw up individual (for each girl) and group (for you) lists. If you are camping AND flying you will have to have lightweight camp equipment and possibly spread it between the group.  
UNIFORM - you will of course be travelling in uniform, but are you having special teeshirts / sweatshirts / fleeces made? Search around for the best deal or go on recommendations from others who've had them made, order in plenty of time, and don't forget those International neckers!  



  • "Official" Guides groups are eligible for a number of grants - write to your District, Division, County, Region and even HQ. Tell them where you're going and why, how you're getting there, how much it's costing and above all, what you've already done to raise funds yourself.
  • Contact the Trefoil Guild (local, county and region) - these wonderful ladies are, in my experience, more than willing to help - after all, THEY understand!
  • There are a number of charitable trusts set up to benefit youth groups (some specifically for Guides and Scouts) : your local library is probably the best source of information about these.
  • Write to local businesses asking for a donation (explain about your trip - where, when etc.- and stress the Promoting International Friendship and Building Bridges side of it.)
  • Major national businesses are very supportive - try the big banks, multinationals, etc. Send them all the information and ask for their support (some may give money, others goods for sale/auction/prizes.)
  • "Private" Guides' holidays don't attract so much in grant aid but there are ways of raising funds to offset the costs for these too
    • Sponsored events are a good standard fundraiser - try to think of something original rather than the usual sponsored walk or sponsored swim
    • Quizzes (lots to choose from here) of the pay-for-a-question-sheet variety are very popular, especially if they are quite challenging.
    • Supermarket bag-packing is hard work but a good way of raising a lot of money in a relatively short time. Check this page for the basic "rules."
    • Be wary of trying to raise money by selling the girls' work at craft fairs - the public expects excellent quality and often things sell for less than they cost you to make, not counting all the hard work! Far better to rent the local hall and put on a craft fair - advertise for stallholders in the local paper, charge £10 per table, advertise the fair locally, take the "door money" and put on (and sell) teas, sandwiches etc.
    • If you're fundraising in the summer and get the chance, run a sideshow or two at the local fete or summer fair : surefire moneyspinners are face-painting, glass-in-a-bucket game (small tot glass immersed in a bucket of water, punter has to try to drop a coin into the glass, prize if they succeed - they won't but they'll keep on trying.) Second hand ("previously read") books sell well if in good condition. Prize-a-time games for the children, with lollies etc. for the losers.

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