We all know that girls go the distance when selling cookies. They put their leadership and financial literacy skills to practice when they set goals, practice their elevator pitches, and go door-to-door with their cookie cart (Or, more likely, sled, because have you looked out the window lately?).
For many girls, selling cookies is their first time flexing their entrepreneurial muscles. In fact, many women credit their experience as Girl Scouts for their future success. But did you know that selling cookies can also help girls go the distance, literally? For troop leader, Kristi, and her daughter, Makayla, selling cookies enabled their troop to fund their cross-country adventures. Over the years, they were able to visit all 50 states in the Union—and all powered by cookie money. I recently chatted with Kristi about her troop’s American tour (de force).
When was your troop’s first trip? Where did you go?
Our first troop trip was a three-day trip to Chicago in 2011 when the girls were Juniors. We sold thousands of boxes of cookies that year and had a spaghetti dinner to help pay for the trip. We took an Amtrak train to get there. We saw a bunch of different sites—the nature museum, the zoo, the John Hancock Observatory, and Willis Tower to name a few.
Did you set out planning to visit every state in the U.S.?
In 2014, we drove out west to Yellowstone. We originally planned to go to the Girl Scout Jamboree in Florida, but that event was canceled. I asked the girls where they’d like to go instead. One said California, the other said Las Vegas (I’m not sure why!), and my daughter said she wanted to go to the Four Corners and Yellowstone. Well, how could we pick? I said, “Let’s see all of them!” Luckily, they were all on one side of the country. After we got back from that trip, the girls decided they wanted to see all 50 states! So, in 2015, we drove out to the East Coast. The following year, we did a road trip to the South. In 2017, we drove to Seattle and cruised up to Alaska. While we were in Juneau, we visited the Dog Sled Discovery & Musher’s camp; our tour guide was Robert Redington, the grandson of Joe Redington, Sr. (the “Father of the Iditarod”).
How did the girls save for the trips?
For each trip, our troop goal was to sell enough cookies to pay for that summer’s trip. We only used Cookie Credits to pay for our trips. The troop funds covered gas, food, hotels, and attractions during the trip, but if the girls wanted additional spending money, families needed to provide it. Most of the time, the girls would ask for Visa gift cards for their birthdays or holidays to spend on the trip.
How did you plan each trip?
The trips were planned by the girls. They would look up each state and come up with three attractions that interested them. Then, as a troop, we talked about the options and made a final itinerary. Afterward, I would figure out a route and plan accommodations. We had many discussions about where to sleep. We thought about staying at Girl Scout camps around the different states but decided because we didn’t know exactly when we would be arriving, that hotels would be cheaper and easier to handle. We didn’t want to be setting up a tent at 11 pm!
Each trip ended up being around 1 to 3-weeks long. While we were on our trips, we also handed out a hundred blessing bags (a care package with water bottles, snacks, socks, deodorant, toothpaste, and toothbrushes) to homeless people.
When we first started traveling, we were seven girls and four adults, but by the last trip, it was just Makayla and myself. We went to Hawaii to celebrate her years as a Girl Scout!
How incredible is that? Fun fact, while in Oklahoma (Makayla’s 38th state!), they visited the “A Promise to Keep,” a.k.a., the Statue of the First Girl Scout Cookie Sale. What a cool way to tip your hat to the troop that started it all!
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Daisy troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (and rescue dog, Neil!).