OK, so I'm no travel guru. Yet. But I do know something about saving money and organising yourself for a gap year.
During my gap year, I planned to travel for approximately five months. I wanted to go to Africa, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India and Nepal. Both my parents have travelled a lot, as has my sister, so I wanted to see as much as I could while I had the chance.
I was working seven days a week: Monday to Friday at an Adventure Travel company, then at a hotel on Saturday and Sunday. I was really lucky, because my full-time job meant that I had unlimited resources on every country and was constantly surrounded by people who had worldwide knowledge. It was those people who gave me loads of traveling hints and tips, and they psyched me up for my trip.
Being poor all the time is no fun, but it has to be said that you get used to it, and if you've never had a full-time job before, you don't miss money you have never had. This is of great benefit in your gap year, because you hopefully understand how far money can go. Think about it, while you were at school or college it is very unlikely you were working much - most people get by with a few babysitting jobs - and yet you funded all those parties, maybe you paid to drive a car, and you basically managed to have a decent social life. With that in mind, by making a budget of what you need to spend every week and how much you want to earn by a certain date, you are halfway to earning the money you need for whatever you plan to do. And let's face it, everything costs!
If you're going to do any travelling, it's worth finding out how much an average day costs wherever you may be going.
Saving is easy once you put your mind to it. The only thing is that you need to think about it in the right way.
It is very easy in the last six months before you head off to buy two CDs that you won't listen to once you are back, a pair of jeans (that you don't really need), go to the cinema once and have two McDonalds meals. Easy, right? Total cost: £75. Now, check out that list again. Would you swap it all for (the same price):
A month staying in a beach hut on one of the most amazing beaches in the world? Doing the world's biggest bungee jump - twice! A full three month rail pass on the most scenic railway in the world?
You may not realise it, but living at home is brilliant. You get three meals a day, a comfortable bed, and (unless they are sick of you already) lots of caring attention from the parents. If you plan on earning money in your gap year and are still staying at home, you may have to pay rent, but believe me, what your parents ask is very probably a total bargain for food and board. My advice is to appreciate it while you can - one of my friends paid rent while on her gap year, but the money went into savings which then went towards her University accommodation, which I thought was a really good idea. My point is, never again will you live rent-free or live so cheaply. In time, there will be other commitments that will take your time and money from you, so use it to your advantage. Realise that as soon as you start work the majority of your cash can be saved, and not spent on things you have to pay for (because everyone knows that's no fun).
This is where motivation comes in. Your gap year is a unique chance for you to get out there and do something special that you have always wanted to do, because you will inevitably wind up with financial complications and other commitments that will tie you down. Now's the time to concentrate on that dream - and that means saving your money. There will always be temptations. You just have to be realistic - do you really need those shoes? That jacket? That car even? Earning money will feel good, but you need to keep thinking: would you rather look good on a Friday night, or save the money and spend another few nights in a Thailand beach hut?! If you have to think about that, then you really shouldn't bother, sorry.
Even though your exams are your priority, you should, ideally, have done substantial research in to how you want to spend your gap year before it officially starts. And no, it doesn't start in September! A major problem with gap years is that they are very time pressured, and you don't realise just how pressured they are until you're three months into them and still haven't decided what you're going to do. I should know. Try and start saving in summer, because I know so many people - myself included - who have extravagant summers and then September comes and the first few months' wages have to pay off debts!
My final words are these - no gap year is a waste. I wanted to travel, booked my ticket and had an awesome time. My incredible gap year was all down to having a positive attitude!'