Gap Year Travel Money

Plan Your Trip  »  Money & Fundraising

Travel Money

One of the biggest parts of going on a gap year is actually being able to afford it. It's often cited as the biggest excuse for not biting the bullet and going away for an extended trip, but please trust us and believe us when we say gap years don't have to be expensive. They don't have to cost thousands and you don't have to be in loads of debt when you return. You just need to be savvy at planning your trip and maybe do some working or volunteering while you're on your year out too. 

When you're planning your trip you need to make a realistic plan of how you will save enough money to go, and what you will do to achieve your financial goal. You should work out all your current expenditure and what you can cut to maximise your earnings. You should also work out how you can work more to get more money coming in. With every penny you plan on spending you need to work out what that would equae to in your gap year destination and whether it's really worth it now.

You need to cut back on going out, sell any unwanted possessions, volunteer for extra shifts, eat cheaply, exercise outside rather than at an expensive gym and stop being so darn fashionable in all the latest trends. Saving for your gap year will be tough at times, but when you're sunning yourself in South America, or similar, it will all be worth it.  

How to afford a gap year

It's easy to get confused when shopping abroad, particularly if you're travelling from country to country, dealing with different currencies in each one. Don't get caught out and buy what you think is a bargain wall-hanging for mum for £7, only to find you've actually spent £70.

Get it sorted in your head before you shop. Come up with a calculation you can use to get a rough approximation of what you're spending in pounds. For example, an American dollar is currently worth 63p; halve the dollar price of whatever you're buying, add a bit and you'll get the rough price in pounds.

Make sure you budget your cash wisely as every time you exchange it you’ll lose value in it, and with all that hard work going into affording your gap year you don't want to waste a penny unneccesarily. 

Fundraising

Fundraising for Your Gap Year

There are many, many ways to fundraise the money for your gap year. Check out our ever-popular A-Z of fundraising for tens of ideas, while our top ten tips for fundraising will give you a few more, but for now...

  • Give yourself a realistic amount of time to achieve your goal.
  • Choose a charity that means something to you. If people see you have a personal relationship with the cause they are far more likely to donate.
  • Be creative in your approach to fundraising; think of ways to make people part with their money and get something out of it at the same time.
  • Make friends with your local press and get them to publicise your cause or any events you are putting on. Publicity is one of the best ways of raising money.
  • Be bold. Don’t be afraid to stand out and make a fool of yourself!
  • Make people laugh - humour is key in getting people to support you.

Hitchhiker gap year travel money

  • Write a really good, punchy letter describing what you are raising money for and why and send it to as many people as you can think of. Family, friends, local businesses... the more people you write to the more money you will raise.
  • Find out which celebrities are associated with your charity and write to them via their agent. See if they will endorse what you are doing in any way, even a quote can help. Press in particular will prick up their ears if you have celebrity endorsement.
  • Find out if there are any charitable trusts in your area and when they meet. There are hundreds of these in the UK and they normally meet twice a year to decide where to distribute their funds.

Here are a few fundraising success stories if you need more inspiration for fundraising for your gap year, and check out our guide to trusts and grants too. 

Scams

Money scams

Unfortunately unsuspecting and innocent gappers are a target for unscrupulous locals who want to take advantage of their good nature. Here are a few money scams to watch out for on your gap year...

  • Paying on a card. Make sure they can’t add any 0s to your payment and be clear exactly how much the price should be so you’re not in a fluster when it comes to punching in your pin.
  • Haggling. Some people, especially Westerners who aren’t used to the concept, find it difficult to understand haggling. Take note of this haggle and barter guide from Micheal Huxley to ensure you don't get ripped off, and make sure you keep some perspective too.
  • Airport currency exchange. These places charge a fortune to exchange cash and offer a terrible rate, some people may even call it a scam. It's always a better idea to shop around before you go to find the best exchange rate.

Travel money backpackers

  • Tipping. Be aware of expected tipping rates in each country you visit so as not to get in any trouble.   
  • Tourist traps. You are always going to spend more money if you go to the tourist haunts in the most popular areas. If you’re spending a while in a location get to know the more backstreet areas and find where the locals eat and drink. This is where you’ll find the cheapest fare and the biggest characters, perfect for your gap year stories.
  • Pickpockets. Don’t keep all your money in the same place. Always keep some back at the hotel safe or in a different bag or pocket in your bag and never show off your money.
  • Confusing you. Always carry around smaller denomination notes so when it comes to paying up you can get the right cash out without being confused by the 0s.

One last thing, remember to take your student card and ask if you can use it wherever possible – you can even get a discount at the Great Wall of China!