Blog | 24 tips for taking younger sections abroad
Taking young people abroad on Scouting adventures can involve a lot of preparation, but it’s guaranteed to be something they’ll never forget.
Beavers and Cubs can be taken for trips and camps abroad, just like the older sections. The experience can give young people the confidence and resilience to face future challenges. Taking younger sections away requires just the same planning as any other visit abroad, although it may take more time to prepare the young people for the experience, and it is important to fully involve and reassure parents and guardians.
Two volunteers who have taken younger sections abroad recently are Jon Illingworth, Assistant District Commissioner (Cubs) for Bury St Edmunds District, and Paul Billings, Group Scout Leader at 5th Canvey Air Scouts. Jon took 31 Cubs and 12 leaders to The Netherlands for three nights of camping, adventurous water activities and all sorts of fun. This was Jon and the District’s first ever international Cub camp. Paul is a veteran of the visits abroad process, organising a trip approximately once every three years. He took his Cubs, Scouts and Explorers on Group summer camp in France for five days, where they slept in a chateau and got a taste of French culture. For some of the young people who took part, it was their first ever time leaving UK soil.
Here, Jon, Paul and the Global Programme team share their top tips for planning and running international trips with younger sections.
1. Create a strong, dependable team, and don’t try to do it all on your own. Break each part of the plan down into manageable steps so nothing gets forgotten, and divide up the tasks amongst the team. The Assistant County Commissioner for International (ACCI) should be your first point of contact when you start the Visits Abroad process.
2. Make sure everyone stays in contact, in whatever way works best for your team – whether by email, social media or face-to-face meetings.
3. If your town is twinned with another in Europe, consider using these existing links when you plan your trip. Be aware of any other Groups who have been on international trips in your District or County – they could share useful information with you.
4. Remember that a trip abroad doesn’t have to involve camping overnight – depending on your destination, daytrips can be fully achievable and a good introduction to travelling for the younger sections.
5. Cost can be a major barrier, so talk to your County or District about financial support, or get your young people involved in fundraising locally. Paul’s Group raised funds by carol singing, bag packing and selling tickets for events. They also applied for an international grant.
6. Ensure parents and guardians feel reassured, and have the chance to ask questions face-to-face. Throughout the planning, keep them fully informed about the next stages of the process, and demonstrate how feedback has been addressed. A closed Facebook group can be a great way to share information.
7. Involve the young people and take a Youth Shaped approach to your planning. It can be a valuable learning experience for them, as they get to see how much work goes into this sort of undertaking. You could start by asking them to vote on the activities they’d like to do while they are on the trip.
8. Organising your trip through a tour operator, like Paul did, can mean less work for the team, as accommodation and transport are sorted out for you. However, it is important to check everything with the operator, and ensure they have interpreted your requests as you intended.
9. If you are organising the trip yourself, you have two main options: taking everything with you, or travelling light and finding accommodation with the facilities you’ll need (a hostel or – as Jon did - a campsite with on-site tents and a fully equipped kitchen). Taking your own equipment can take up a lot of space, but at least you know it will be reliable. Staying somewhere fully equipped can be more expensive, but you won’t have to set up from scratch when you arrive, exhausted from travelling.
10. Create a watertight budge, including a contingency fund for unexpected extras. Jon’s trip happened just after the vote to leave the EU, and the exchange rate was much poorer than they had expected.
11. Be aware of hidden costs. For example, a quote for the cost of a coach and driver may not include the expense of putting the driver up in separate accommodation if they do not hold a DBS check and cannot camp with the young people.
12. Make sure you have a solid InTouch system and that everyone understands how and when it should be used. Ensure you have up-to-date emergency contact details, and if parents or guardians are taking advantage of a child-free home to go on holiday themselves, make sure they leave contact details for someone else.
13. Design a badge, necker or special clothing for the trip. This can galvanise group identity, and have practical benefits, like being able to pick out your young people in the crowd and see from a distance if anyone is struggling. It’s something to think about early and build into the cost of the trip.
14. Run a practice camp or teambuilding day for the young people going on the trip, if they don’t already know each other. During this dry-run, get the young people into the groups they will be in during their time away. They will bond as a team, and you’ll be able to spot any potential issues ahead of time.
15. Allocate leaders to particular groups of young people. Keeping support consistent will allow the young people to get to know a couple of leaders well. Having an adult they trust on the trip will help to make the experience less overwhelming. Increasing the usual ratio of leaders to young people can also help to make everyone feel supported, and tackle issues before they arise.
16. Send several leaders on a reconnaissance trip. Both Jon and Paul’s leaders visited the accommodation several months earlier, to relay important information about the facilities, supermarkets, hospitals and transport. This helped everyone to know what to expect when they arrived.
17. If you have a minibus or are hiring them to travel in the UK, make sure you are clued up about the necessary permits.
18. Plan a Programme for the time spent travelling. If you have a long journey ahead, make sure everyone is kept occupied to avoid homesickness, restlessness and bad moods. Jon’s Cubs had an eight-hour ferry crossing, so the leaders put together a booklet for the Cubs to work towards their International Activity Badge. This can also be a good badge to start before your trip, and it is a great way include anyone from the section who is not able to go abroad.
19. Put games on the kit list. Leaders can only supply so much, so make sure every young person has something in their bag to keep them occupied during the travelling. Avoid electrical items: electronic games and mobile phones are useless when the battery is drained, could get lost or damaged, and could jeopardise the InTouch system.
20. If you won’t be greeted by anyone in your host country, it could be useful to send an advanced party the night before. These leaders could set up the accommodation, buy supplies or get a meal ready for the tired travellers when they arrive.
21. Make sure you know the rules about undertaking adventurous activities abroad.
22. Do your risk assessments as you plan the Programme, but update them in-country. Make sure leaders use them, and that everyone knows the process of reporting an accident, near miss or safeguarding concern.
23. Do some Scouting activities while you’re away. Paul’s Programme balanced the chance to experience French culture and try out some language skills, while also visiting an aerodrome, which was relevant to his Air Scouts’ interests. There are many Challenge Awards and Activity Badges relevant to international trips, and linking up with a Scout Group from another country can be a brilliant learning opportunity. As Paul puts it: ‘If you just go to do Scouting activities, there’s no point in going abroad. If you don’t do Scouting activities, it’s just a holiday.’
24. Hold a meeting when you return to celebrate the experience. You could make a night of it and invite parents, as Paul’s Group always do. They show photos and videos from the trip, encourage the young people to feed back on their experience, and, as a leadership team, reflect on the trip and assess what went well. Paul’s leaders also hold a short debrief each night they are away, to reflect on the day and to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed. You can record and share your experiences with Globetrekker.
Find out more about the Visits Abroad process, and let us know on social media if you're planning to take your young people on an exciting trip abroad soon.