Blog | 24 tips for taking younger sections abroad
Taking young people abroad can involve a lot of preparation, but it’s guaranteed to be an adventure they’ll never forget.
Beavers and Cubs can experience trips and camps abroad, just like the older sections.
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. For the District’s first international Cub camp, Jon took 31 Cubs and 12 leaders to The Netherlands for three nights of camping and adventurous water activities. Paul, a veteran of the visits abroad process, most recently took his Cubs, Scouts and Explorers on Group summer camp in France for five days, where they slept in a chateau and developed a taste for French culture. For some of the young people who took part, it was their first time the UK.
Here, Jon, Paul and the UK 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 everything down into manageable steps so nothing gets forgotten, and divide 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 throughout. Use the method that works best for your team; whether that’s emails, social media messages or face-to-face meetings.
3. If your town is twinned with another in Europe, consider taking advantage of these existing links, and reach out to any other Groups who have been on international trips in your District or County. They could share useful information with you.
4. A trip abroad doesn’t have to involve camping overnight. Depending on your destination, daytrips can be an easier option, and can still provide a great introduction to travelling for your young people.
5. Cost can be a major barrier. 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. For more fundraising ideas, take a look at our blog.
6. Ensure parents and guardians feel reassured, and give them the chance to ask questions face-to-face. Keep them fully informed at each stage 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 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 reduce the team’s workload, 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. You can either take all of your equipment with you, or you can travel lightly and seek out accommodation with the facilities you’ll need. Hostels or campsites with on-site tents and fully equipped kitchens, for example, can work out well, but there are pros and cons to each approach. Your own equipment may be difficult to carry around, but is likely to be reliable. Staying somewhere fully equipped can be more expensive, but you won’t have to set up from scratch when you arrive. Consider both options, and go with whichever best suits everyone in your Group.
10. Create a watertight budget, 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 any potential 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 item of clothing for the trip. This can galvanise group identity, and has practical benefits. For example, wearing distinct clothing will make it easier for you to pick out your young people in a crowd, and to see from a distance if anyone is struggling..
14. It may be helpful to run a practice camp or teambuilding day for the young people going on the trip, especially if they don’t already know each other. Gather the young people into the groups they will be in during their time away. This will help them 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. Having a consistent, supportive 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 will help you to tackle issues before they arise.
16. Send several leaders on a reconnaissance trip. Both Jon and Paul’s leaders visited the accommodation several months ahead of time, to relay important information about the facilities, supermarkets, hospitals and transport. This helped everyone know what to expect.
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 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 is a great way to 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. Avoid electrical items: electronic games and mobile phones are useless when the battery is drained. They could also 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 prepare a meal for the tired travellers to enjoy 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, and update them in-country. Everyone should know the process of reporting an accident, near miss or safeguarding concern.
23. Do some Scouting activities while you’re away. Paul’s Programme balanced opportunities to experience French culture and practise language skills, with a visit to an aerodrome 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 reflect on the trip to 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. And check out the guidance for Colony and Pack Vistas Abroad.