One of the most fun parts of starting to plan a gap year is actually researching and plotting your trip. We are the world’s biggest gap year resource and what we don’t know about trip planning just isn’t worth knowing. We understand that planning your gap year can actually be quite overwhelming though, especially for first time gappers, so make the most of our knowledge and passion within the site and use us.
The first step of planning your trip is to get a rough idea of when you want to go. Then reassess it and plan when you actually think you’ll be able to afford to go, and for how long. No use spunking a grand on a flight to Japan and hoping to stay for a year if you only have £2k for the trip.
What to Do on a Gap Year, and Where
Once you have a target date to aim for keep that in your mind relentlessly. Everything you earn and spend from this point on comes down to that date. Write down your incoming money, your outgoings and divide them up into necessities and what can be cut, and then think about how you can earn or fundraise more too. You’re going to have to be tough with yourself from now on. Whenever you want a coffee, to go to the cinema or dinner out just remind yourself of ‘that’ date and say no. Remember, a pint of beer in England is two nights’ accommodation in Thailand.
When you know what kind of budget you’re working with you can start to look at where you can afford. Bulging budgets can head to the likes of the South Pacific Islands, Central America and Scandinavia while skinny wallets will want to make a beeline for South East Asia for sure.
There are plenty of ways to make your money go further and there are ways to actually make money on your gap year too. You can try getting a job abroad or volunteering and weave these into planning your trip to stay travelling for longer. You might have to go back and adjust your time frames and budget if you include these in your schedule, but at least you have something to work with.
Check out what our other gappers have been up to recently in our latest updates. How about volunteering with huskies, WOOFing, picking fruit in Australia, teaching English in China or building an orphanage in Cambodia for starters?
Volunteer or work abroad on your gap year
Some volunteering projects and jobs will give you free bed and board – perfect for budget-minded backpackers. As for paid work au pairing and teaching English in Japan or South Korea are two of the most popular opportunities, but check out our jobs pages for more.
Think hard about what you want out of your gap year. It’s a great idea to come back to England with some sort of study or work that will make your CV stand out over your peers. The job market is tough at any time so if you’ve done some valuable work on your travels it will stand you in good stead. Combine relaxed fun with planning for your future and I can guarantee it will be the most rewarding and interesting part of your gap year.
Make sure to check out the gapyear.com guide to volunteering before you commit.
You also don’t have to plan your whole year out now, just an idea of your route would be good, so you’re ready for the next stage.
Trip Essentials for a Year Abroad
Accommodation can be one of the biggest worries and expenses when it comes to planning your gap year. It’s also one of the areas where you can save a lot of money. In the likes of Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia you’ll find hostels ridiculously cheap, at around £2 a night. If you have the cash you can get a super swish private room for around £10 each.
If you’re planning a trip to somewhere like Europe, the USA, Canada or Australia you should look at other options like couchsurfing or globalfreeloaders.com to save money. You can stay for free in someone’s spare space, and if you’re lucky they’ll even take you on a private bespoke tour around their neighbourhood too. You could also look at the volunteering and working abroad options I mentioned before, as some will offer free accommodation in return for a few hours work a day. Workaway.info is a great website for this and has some incredible projects.
Keep an open mind when it comes to accommodation – call up your long lost aunties, mum’s friends, old school mates and see if you can crash on their floors. You could even sleep in a tent, but always remember ‘safety first’. If you really don’t feel comfortable in a particular situation, do something about it.
Hostels are always a great bet. There will be lots of other people just like you milling about and lots of social things to join in on. Feeling up for it and cheap then you can stay in a 20-bed dorm, if you’re not, pay a little more and book yourself into a private room.
Don’t go on a gap year without insurance. If anything does happen – theft, broken limbs, lost baggage – it can end up saving you thousands, if not millions. It’s just not worth it.
When you choose an insurance company to go with make sure it covers any extreme sports you plan on doing, and all the countries you’re going to. Many won’t cover Cuba for example, and skydiving and winter sports can need an extra package on top. Take the time to read the small print.
Leave a copy of your agreement at home with your folks, and make sure you email a copy to any friends you’re travelling with too.
Health and safety
Before you go you’ll need to talk to your doctor about travel vaccinations. Don’t skimp on these and make sure you get all the ones the doctor recommends. If you need to take malaria tablets do so religiously and always carry a copy of your immunisation booklet to show if needed. For example, you can’t even get in Kenya if you haven’t been vaccinated for Yellow Fever. They will check and if you don’t have it, they’ll charge you a fortune at the border to get it done there and then.
Don’t put yourself in any unnecessary danger – it’s just not worth it. Check the Foreign Office website (fco.gov.uk) before you visit a new destination to double check the safety and political events that may affect the safety of a country.
Have fun when you’re planning your gap year. Look around the site for information on anything you can think of and if you have any questions you can jump on our message boards and our friendly community will get involved.