Tag Archives: pack holiday

Nights away

I’ve updated my list of nights away with Girlguiding  (because I’ve recently filled in a form that asked for them). It now covers 11 years, goodness gracious.

2006 – Briefing weekend for region international trip (2); region trip to the Netherlands (14).  Total 16

2007 – Weekend Guide camp (The Sound of Music theme) (2); Guide camp (Grease theme) (6); Brownie pack holiday (Robin Hood theme) (2).  Total 10

2008 – Region trip to Switzerland (14); Guide camp in Italy (7).  Total 21

2009 – SSAGO rally (can’t remember the theme!) (2); Guide camp (Big Brother theme) (2); Guide camp (circus theme) (6); SSAGO group Christmas trip (1).  Total 11

2010 – Guide camp (Malvern Challenge) (2); SSAGO rally (medieval theme) (2); county centenary camp (6); another county centenary camp (6); INTOPS (2).  Total 18

2011 – County training weekend (2); Guides night hike (1); 3 GOLD briefings (6); GOLD project in Russia (21); Guide camp (Alice in Wonderland theme) (2). Total 32

2012 – District Brownie holiday (Ancient Egyptian theme) (2); County Brownie holiday (Queen’s diamond jubilee theme) (2); Guide camp (Queen’s diamond jubilee theme) (6).  Total 10

2013 – Guides night hike (1); Guide camp in Spain (7); region camp (7).  Total 15

2014 – Brownie pack holiday (circus theme) (2); Guides night hike/sleepover (1); Brownie & Rainbow holiday (Down on the Farm theme) (2); Guide camp (Wild West theme) (5); Leaders’ sleepover (1); Queen’s Guide Award exploration in York (4).  Total 15

2015 – Guides night hike (1); Guides county camp (5); Brownie holiday (Around the World theme) (2); Leaders’ sleepover (1). Total 9

2016 – Brownie/Guide holiday (Gingerbread theme) (3); Guide night hike (1); Guide camp (adventure holiday in France (5); Rainbow sleepover (teddy bear theme) (1); Rainbow sleepover (Peter Rabbit theme) (1); Leaders’ sleepover (1). Total 12

Grand total: 169


A spooky assessment

A few weeks ago, I visited another Brownie pack holiday to assess a leader for her Going Away With… qualification.  I was interested to see the venue, as it was a place I’d heard of but never seen, a Girlguiding property just outside the county.

I must admit, I had mixed feelings about it.  The house itself was cosy, a bit old-fashioned but very comfortable and full of guiding decor and nicknacks, with plenty of communal space and a good-sized kitchen.  There was a grassy area outside with a campfire circle and space for running around or a few tents, and a track ran around the whole area, making a clear boundary.

However, I found getting to the house a bit spooky!  Maybe it was just because it was getting dark at the time, but it was in the middle of remote-feeling woodland with public footpaths running through it, and the drive went past lots of run-down buildings.  No obvious site warden…not sure I’d want to stay there except in high summer, but other leaders I’ve spoken to assure me that they’ve had perfectly good holidays there.

Anyway, this leader was doing a great job of running the holiday.  It was jungle-themed, and all the girls, Young Leaders and leaders seemed to be having a fun and relaxed time.

Coming up with a theme

I love a good holiday theme.  I’m sure you don’t need telling this, but a theme draws a holiday together and gives you ideas.  It’s great fun when the leaders and girls really go with it, and it leads you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.  It can also make a holiday more memorable, especially if you go to the same venue a lot.

When I wrote the post totting up my nights away with guiding, it brought back happy memories of the themes we used.  One thing it got me thinking about was where the ideas came from.  This of course isn’t a definitive guide; just a few of my stories!

Ask the girls

I’ve got to put this first: guiding is girl-led and what better way to find a theme they’ll like than to ask them to choose?

Sometimes it might be completely random.  A few years ago, Unit Leader was chatting to a few Guides in a meeting and asked them what they thought the next camp theme should be.  One blurted out “Grease” and we liked the idea so much that Grease it was.

For a district Brownie holiday, the leader in charge chose three options (and included activity ides) and asked each unit to vote for their favourite.  That was interesting, as the winner (Ancient Egypt) was the random wildcard that the leader threw in without expecting it to be popular.  Which just proves that we can’t always predict what girls will like; we have to ask them!

Here are some other places where my groups have found ideas:


Does the place where you’re staying remind you of anything?  One pack holiday was in a wood, so we chose a Robin Hood theme (Winnie-the-Pooh would be another option).  This summer, my Guides are camping next to a building with a wooden porch that reminds us of a cowboy town, so we decided to have a Wild West theme.  The most tenuously-linked theme I’ve done was a weekend camp in a leader’s back garden.  Unit Leader mentioned beforehand that the staircase in the house reminded her of the one in The Sound of Music, and based on that we made that the theme.  None of the Guides (or I!) ever went inside the house to actually see the staircase, but it was a fun weekend.

Current events

Is there a memorable event going on while you’re away?  Examples: the Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Girlguiding’s Centenary.


Are the girls keen to gain an interest badge or challenge badge?  A holiday gives you the chance to spend quality time on it and do bigger/longer activities that you can’t do in normal meetings.  And everyone gets an extra badge as a souvenir!  I’ve done the Circus Skills badge on holidays with Brownies and Guides.

It worked before…

Once we had a weekend Guide camp where most of the planning was done in the summer holidays and we left it quite late to choose a theme.  Unit Guider had recently helped at an Alice in Wonderland-themed pack holiday so she had plenty of fresh ideas (and a costume) from that.  We thought the Guides would enjoy it as much as the Brownies, so Alice it was, and very good it was too.

Where have you got your themes from?

Pack holiday planning

Last year on a First Response course, I met an old friend from school and Brownies who had returned to the area. She was doing guiding not far from where I live (my Guides are in a different town), so I offered my services if she needed an extra pair of hands occasionally.

This year, she invited me to a Brownie holiday (with Rainbow sleepover on the last night) as they needed extra leaders. I said yes, and a couple of weeks ago I went along to their planning meeting.

The holiday is in August, finishing the day before my Guides’ camp starts – yay for the quick turnaround! – and is in the same place!

It was nice to meet leaders I’d only had email contact with before. They were very welcoming and it sounds like their units are great fun. We talked about the usual things – programme, food, roles, sleeping arrangements etc. – and I chipped in a few activity ideas which I think were well received. I’m quite excited about going away with them, and about the theme, which is “Down on the farm”. In fact, I’m stealing a few ideas for my Guides’ wild west-themed camp, as there’s a bit of overlap in terms of horses and cows.


Here’s a craft from Pack Holiday back in February.  We had a circus theme, so we made milk bottle elephants.

Dead simple: take a plastic milk bottle (2, 4, or 6 pints all work, depending on how big an elephant you want), cut through the bottom of the handle, and cut around the bottle level with this, so the handle looks like a trunk.  We did this for the Brownies, but older girls could do it themselves.

Cut out semicircles from the base to make leg shapes.  Leave a tail dangling at the back if you remember!  If you keep the semicircles you’ve cut out, you can stick or slot them on to make ears.  Then decorate with googly eyes, tissue paper etc.

You could also do something with the screw top of the bottle, like dangling a bag of sweets inside and screwing the lid over the top of the bag to secure.

Without further ado, meet the Brownies’ elephants.  Most didn’t bother with ears, but they’re still rather sweet, I think.

Elephants as described above

Elephants 2

Elephants as described above

Elephants as described above

Elephants as described above

Elephants as described above


Pack holiday happened

Wall display saying "Pack Holiday 2014"

I ran a Brownie pack holiday in February half term to get my holiday licence.  (I need my licence to go on an expedition, I’m going on an expedition to get my Queen’s Guide Award, I’m getting my Queen’s Guide Award to catch the fly, I don’t know why I swallowed a fly…).

I’m pleased to report it went well and I, the other leaders, the Brownies and my assessors were all happy.  Hurrah!  I feel like I could get several posts out of it, so I’ll start with a general overview of the holiday.

(As an aside, I keep wanting to call it a weekend even though it was midweek – to the point where I actually printed “Friday, Saturday, Sunday” on the duties rota and didn’t notice until a Young Leader pointed it out on the first day!)

Duties rota with the wrong days of the week crossed out and the correct days written in

Day 1

2pm: Leaders arrive, induction from site warden, unpack food and activity kit, put up signs, sort our bedrooms out, have a cup of tea and a long break as we possibly got there a bit too early.

6pm: Brownies arrive, hand in forms and food, put kit in bedrooms, goodbye to parents, start diaries and craft

6:45pm: Welcome talk, explain safety, rules, leaders’ roles, the fun things we’ll be doing etc.

7pm: Team games/races/challenges for Six bonding

7:30pm: fire drill

7:45pm: indoor campfire with tealights and torches

8:30pm: drink and snack

9pm: into pyjamas, story time

10pm: first attempt at bedtime

12:30am: leaders go to bed

3:15am: last Brownies go to sleep (apparently.  My head hit the pillow and I didn’t wake up till my alarm went off, but the other leader in my room wasn’t so lucky)

Day 2

7:15am: leaders start stirring

7:30am: officially wake the Brownies up.  All are already awake.  Not all are quietly resting as they were instructed!

8:30am: breakfast

9am: duties, room tidying and inspection

9:45am: songs outside to get fresh air

10am: circus workshop!

11am: drink and snack, then more circus workshop!

12 noon: adventure playground

1pm: lunch

2pm: rest time (for everyone!)

3pm: rotating activities: scavenger hunt, face painting, making pizzas, cross stitch, souvenir and tuck shop

4:30pm: drink and snack

4:45pm: free time to practise entertainment for later

6:30pm: dinner

7pm: putting on costumes, final getting ready

7:30pm: circus entertainment from the Brownies

8:30pm: into pyjamas, drink, share best moments, story time

9pm: bedtime.  Only one attempt needed tonight!

12 midnight: leaders go to bed

Day 3

7:15am: leaders start stirring

7:45am: wake up the Brownies.  Most are asleep, all are quietly in bed

8:30am: breakfast, which includes cake and a song as it’s my birthday!  I blow out all the candles in one go: very proud moment.

9am: duties, packing up, moving bags out of rooms, cleaning

10:15am: drink and snack

10:30am: final song, chat about the holiday, say thank yous

11am: goodbye Brownies!  Leaders do final tidying and cleaning

12 noon: hand back keys and leave

Super site visit

Three weeks before I did my Brownie holiday licence, I went with two other Leaders, Brown Owl and Tawny Owl, to look at where we would be staying.

The site is a Girlguiding property with a house, a campsite, and a few activity bits like a climbing wall.  I’ve camped there with the Guides a couple of times, and had been into the house very briefly, so I knew roughly what to expect.  Brown Owl had visited a couple of years ago, and Tawny Owl had never been there, so she was the one we had to impress.

And she was impressed, as were we all.  It’s just such a nice house, certainly not your basic village hall.  There are nice bedrooms, nice toilets and showers, a humungus kitchen, an activity room with tables and chairs, a dining room with more tables and chairs, a cosy first aid room complete with a lockable cabinet, a bed and teddies, lots of pinboards, and a lovely sitting room with comfy chairs, cushions, beanbags, and games.  It’s obviously a very loved place, and it’s no wonder 3 of the 4 Brownie packs in our District are holidaying there this year.

Even better, all of us were inspired with new ideas for the holiday by seeing the surroundings, as is often the way.  Tawny Owl said “I’m looking forward to it now!”, which is what I’d hoped: suddenly pack holiday got much more real and exciting for her.

I tried leading the Owls across a field to the campfire circle, but we soon realised that the ground was very wet and squelchy, so they were content for me to just point towards it instead.  Still, it impressed on us that wellies are an essential item on the kit list!

This is the way we brush our teeth

In the run-up to Pack Holiday, I helped at a couple of Brownie meetings to get to know the girls, as I’m not normally their leader.

This meeting ticked off a couple of boxes in my residential qualification book about making sure the girls know about food hygiene and staying healthy on holiday, and it also counts towards the Brownie Skills badge, which the girls are all working on whether they’re going on holiday or not.  Oh, and these skills are generally useful in life…

We started by putting paint on the Brownies’ hands.  First we did a role play of how paint (i.e. germs) can easily spread from one person to the next.  Then they washed the paint off wearing blindfolds, to see if they were washing as thoroughly as they thought.  The first few Brownies missed spots like their thumbs and wrists, but after that they got wise and actually most hands were pretty clean!  It took a while to get through everyone, even with two handwashing bowls on the go, but a lovely leader did some songs and games with those who were waiting/had finished.

After that, we did tooth brushing!  The Brownies stood round a table in Sixes.  Everyone had a beaker of water, and each table had a spit bowl (nice, I know).  First they chewed on disclosure tablets to see how plaquey their teeth were.  They also noticed their tongues turned purple, which was a good opportunity to remind them to brush their tongues as well.  Then they brushed their teeth, and they had to guess when 2 minutes was up and stop brushing.  I was surprised how patient they were: the first Brownie stopped around 1:40, a couple were very close to the 2 minute mark, but most stopped at about 3 minutes.  I called a halt at 4 minutes, when a few enthusiastic brushers were still going!

After we’d tidied the toothy things away, there was just time for a bit of drama.  Each Six was given a pack holiday scenario, and they had to act out first what they thought would be the wrong thing to do in that situation, and then what they thought would be the right thing to do.  I’d prepared 8 options, though we didn’t use all of them:

You are washing up and one Brownie accidentally breaks a plate.

It’s bedtime. Some Brownies want to sleep, but others want to stay up and play.

It’s bedtime and one Brownie in your bedroom feels ill.

One Brownie in your Six is teasing another because she thinks her slippers are silly.

You are helping in the kitchen. A leader is explaining what to do, but one Brownie is not listening.

You have been outside and your shoes are wet and muddy when you come in.

You have been doing crafts and now the room is in a mess with paper and pens everywhere.

Your Six can’t agree what to do for a performance. Some Brownies want to do a song and others want to do a dance.

We only gave them about a minute to prepare, and then whizzed through the performances, with a little bit of discussion about the situations.  Generally they all seemed to understand and choose a sensible course of action!

That took us to the end.  I did enjoy going to Brownies, as it’s been about 18 months since I was a Brownie leader in another town.  It’s always interesting seeing what’s similar and different between packs – for example, this pack doesn’t sing “We’re Brownie Guides” at the beginning of meetings, but (like all Brownies I’ve met) they love wink murder and Chinese whispers.  I’ve been able to put a few names to faces – maybe a third of the pack? – which is a start.  Roll on pack holiday!

Pack holiday parents’ meeting

Four weeks before pack holiday, we had an information meeting for parents.

It took place instead of a Brownie meeting, but only lasted half an hour.  There was a good turnout – in fact, I think we had a parent for all the girls except one.  We also had about 6 Brownies and siblings, who couldn’t be left at home, and we installed them at a table with paper and pens, and some colouring sheets and wordsearches on the holiday theme which I’d printed.

Things we handed out:

  • Site address and map
  • Home contact number
  • Kit list
  • Health info form

(all these were stapled together)

  • Receipt for full payment

Things we collected:

  • Cheques for final payment
  • Food and bedroom questionnaires (given out at Brownies the week before, for each Brownie to fill in their food preferences like pizza toppings, and people they’d like to share a room with, and preferences for top or bottom bunk.)

What we spoke about:

  • Brown Owl introduced me, as I’m not a leader with these Brownies, so most parents don’t know me.  Then I did my thing:
  • Welcome, introduce team and roles
  • The site, house, and facilities
  • Activity programme and duties
  • Kit list – went through each item, explaining where necessary
  • First Aider spoke about her role, invited parents to speak to her privately
  • Caterers spoke about the food – reassurance that no one will starve or have to eat food they’ll hate, and explaining that we’re asking Brownies/parents to bring snacktime food
  • Back to me: explained how home contact works
  • In next few Brownie meetings we’ll be doing activities to prepare for holiday

Parents’ questions

My biggest worry was that a parent would ask something I had no idea how to answer.  I needn’t have worried, as there was only one question, which was were cameras allowed?  (They weren’t on the kit list – not intentionally, I just hadn’t thought of them.)  I said yes, if they were named, and another leader added that older, cheaper ones were preferable to shiny new ones.

That was a relief.  Apparently our parents are quite mellow about the whole thing; either that or I stunned them into silence.  I think it helps enormously that three of the leaders work in the school that most of the Brownies go to, so most of the parents already see a lot of them and trust them with their children.

What was a bit strange was having the last Brown Owl in the “audience”, as her daughter is going as a Young Leader.  This is a lady with loads of pack holiday experience, at one time a residential advisor, and no doubt she found it odd being on the receiving end for a change!


Some of the parents stayed to chat afterwards, e.g. about medication and allergies.  Then we leaders stayed behind a bit longer to sort out the forms and cheques we had been given, and generally have a chat.  The other leaders said they thought I’d done fine at leading the meeting, which was encouraging.  I thought it did the job alright.  At least I’ll never have to do it for the first time again!