By the UK's Best Gap Year Company - The Leap.
The strangest thing about a gap year, which no one tells you, is it effects the whole family. On the 1st of September - Operation Gap Year literally lands on the kitchen table - it becomes the predominant conversation, routines evaporate into the land of distant memory, the summer holidays suddenly run into Christmas and fridge filling becomes a full-time job. Welcome to Operation Gap Year.
But don’t despair, the gap year is still a good idea and the benefits to be reaped will all become clear - next summer. We promise.
But to help the supporting home team we have pulled together our top 10 tips for you, gleaned from years of gap year errors we've had to help iron out… so take heed…
At this point in the gap year the entire focus seems to be on earning money and mulling over possible plans. Our advice here is if you are thinking about joining a Gap year volunteer program or seeking an internship – get booking.
Most programs out there have limited team sizes and the best always goes first. Look at our volunteer program around a gap year in Ecuador and the Galapagos – we now have a waiting list for January. Message here, put their name down to something.
Look out for: Deadline dates for jobs, internships or volunteering programs.
A few companies (like us) are happy for your gapper to reserve a place with a small deposit, just ask.
A headache for many as Google provides so many online solutions BUT we advise you to book through a tour operator where you have a point of contact should you need to change a flight or heavens above your gapper misses one.
Flight jargon you will come across:
Open jaw flights: allow your gapper to fly into x and out of y.
Open return: your gapper can change their return date with this type of flight ticket but they will still have to pay for the date change (different for every airline – ask before booking).
Look out for: Transfer times in their flight itinerary. Are they realistic? Airline policy for missed flights in transfer: will they automatically book them onto the next one available? Who will pay for the hotel accommodation if required?
If your gapper is travelling solo or with a mate or 2, you may want to consider putting them through a gap safety course. The safety course run by the team at Objective Gap Year. They are great and aim to make the gapper ‘think safe’ by becoming aware of their surroundings.
Look out for: (and avoid) cheap online safety courses. Seek out courses where they do practical scenarios.
Remember the old saying ‘buy cheap buy twice’ – that certainly is the case for the insurance and so many people get caught out here. Make sure all the activities your gapper is planning is included in the policy and make your gapper know what isn’t should they find themselves tempted by bouldering in South Africa or free diving in the great barrier reef. Also find out what their repatriation services are like.
We highly recommend Global Travel Insurance as Guy has asked them over the years to cover all sorts of gap eventualities. Get in touch for advise of this
Look out for: If a policy needs to extended it needs to be done before it run’s out. Make sure you (parent) have access to the policy admin. Understand the claim rules before you buy the policy – what is the excess and when does a claim need to made post incident? Hammer home to your gapper that all receipts need to kept for the claim - no receipts, no claim and they are ruthless. Take photocopies of all documents. Keep one at home and one safely tucked away on your gapper.
Time and time again this catches even the most organised family out.
Look out for: Tell your bank where you are travelling – and include all the countries. Take at least 2 cards – one debit and one credit. Increase the transaction amount allowed should there be an accident. Arrange to put parents on the account administration should there be a problem overseas. For example, if the cards were lost – it will be easier for a parent to ring the help line to stop the cards then your gapper who is stuck in the middle of nowhere. Take photocopies of all cards - keep one copy at home and one on your gapper.
You must look into this as early as possible. We had guy who couldn’t go to Namibia this summer as he couldn’t get his visa in time.
Every country has a visa anomaly just to catch you out, so it's the devil in the detail that is important here. For example in Madagascar you can only pay for your visa in Euros on arrival, all other currencies are useless. In Tanzania – you must have the yellow fever certificate in your passport - if you don’t they will frog march you to the nurse behind the curtain in arrivals. Super stressful - do the visa research.
Look out for: Length of time its takes for a visa to be turned around. If you get the visa on arrival in country – make sure you have a name and address for the address of destination section.
When it comes to injections be mindful that some clinics like to recommend every injection known to man, so do your own research before your visit, what do you really need? In fact look at Fit for Travel for a good definitive plan - can't recommend them more highly.
If you are on any medication – research the name of the drug not the brand name. This is important if you need to get hold of more whilst away.
Look out for: Costs of the injections – shop about as some clinics charge, some don’t. Malaria tablets – Malarone is the market favourite but it's expensive – shop about and look for the generic option. Medication – take enough and when flying – keep a selection in your hand luggage in case your bags go astray.
Discuss before your gapper heads off how you are all going to communicate and realistically how often – to avoid disappointment all round.
Look out for: Be realistic and remain calm if you don't hear from them for weeks on end. If they need anything (money) they will be in touch.
The backpack needs to be light, comfortable and secure. The ones made today are a different ball game to the one stuffed in the attic, a relic perhaps of your own carefree days – but put simply – it won’t cut it, remove and send to the dump.
Look out for: When buying a backpack, your gapper needs to try it on to adjust so that they don't topple over and it doesn't cut off the circulation in their arms. Side loader verses top loader? Always go for the side loader. Bags within bags – pack loads of compartment bags so they can keep wet, dirty things separately. they will think you’re mad for shoving them in but will thank you later. Another whole blog dedicated to packing - have a read here.
10. The Single Duvet Cover
Saving the best till last - The Single Duvet Cover
It is guaranteed that your gapper will stay in some pretty grotty hostels along the way. Best way round this is to ignore whatever is on the bed and to hop inside a single duvet cover, button up and forget about the surrounding bugs. Works every time. We have 1000’s of leapers who have secretly thanked us over the last 15 years. Genius.
on 11 / 10 / 2016