Written by Jenny McWhirter on 27 / 06 / 2023
Gap Year Advice
To join a gap year programme or fly solo - it's the age-old question. There's pros and cons to both (you can read about them here), and it's only once you've looked at both sides that you can decide what's best for your own gap year.
Well we're here to debunk a few myths and explain to you just why a gap year programme is still the best way to find memorable experiences, insight into local cultural, discoveries off the beaten path, and is actually super hard to replicate yourself during your gap year.
A common misconception: if you go on a programme you won’t actually have an authentic experience, no cultural immersion, and no chance to explore the areas that interest you.
Well in fact you’ll end up with lots of local interaction, living with locals, all organised for you so you don’t have to worry with the hassle of sifting through endless Airbnb reviews. For programmes like ours that offer a group leader, you basically travel with a local guide around their country – what better way to understand a country?
If you choose to do a volunteering programme, you’ll head off the beaten track to communities and offer your time, giving you one of the best ways to get an understanding of the local struggles these communities face.
Yes on the face of it the upfront cost of a programme is high. However, what you get for your money is 100% worth it.
The upfront cost, on the whole covers most/if not all of your expenses whilst you’re away, you therefore know where you stand. No issues with spending more than you thought you were going to.
You’ll be taken to local restaurants, you’ll explore off the tourist trail, all which will often end up costing you more if you go it alone.
The cost also allows you to make the most of your time away, it covers the planning, the local expertise, ease of travel, both before and during your trip. Having to do this whilst you’re away and that’s precious time you could be exploring your new city. It's also tiring to be constantly thinking about where you're going to stay next, how you're going to get there etc. Not only does a programme cover all of this, but it means you never have to worry about the logistics, you can just focus on having a great time.
About the only similarity is you’re away from home. From there on in, there are no comparisons, the leaders are there to have fun with you, they won’t be checking in on you. You're allowed to drink, socialise, and go out in the evenings.
You have your time to head off and explore, do your own thing, you’ll be able to kick back and relax and we don’t know about you, but on what school trip did you get to do something you had a real passion for?
Going with the flow is great and definitely spend some of your gap year able to go with what you fancy, however, time is precious, both before when you’re trying to finish exams and earn money and whilst you’re abroad. As I mentioned earlier, days spent planning, when you’ve bought a flight to explore amazing places is not really what you want to be doing.
A programme is a way to get a feel for the country, do everything you want but not having to worry about the hassle of organising, leaving you to kick back with a beer and enjoy the experience.
Well travelling with your mates should definitely be done and you will enjoy it. But when you’ve got a full year - challenge yourself. A programme gives you the sense of camaraderie when you most need it but you’ll be with a group of people from all over the world and have a chance to make new friends.Even if your friends aren't considering a gap year you could spend a summer interrailing with them, or Greek island hopping.
Like any situation there will probably be someone in the group that you find annoying or don’t quite click with. That said, programmes attract like-minded people with similar interests, a recipe for making great connections.
If you choose your programme right you’ll also be with people at a similar stage. All the Leap programmes send away students aged between 18 and 22 so no chance of accidentally ending up with your mum on the trip. And best of all, we put all the participants in touch before you head off so you can get chatting and get to know one another… if you for any reason don’t get on with anyone (by the way we’ve not known this to happen) then you can switch and find a programme where the group is better suited to your kind of people.
How long are most gap year programmes? It totally depends, and they can range from 1-10+ weeks. All of our Leap programmes are 4 or 5 weeks long - we think this is the perfect amount of time to build your confidence and make friends so that you can go on to solo travel post-programme should you wish.
What's the best way to plan solo gap year travel if I decide I don't want to join a team programme? Sounds like you need Leap VIP, our travel and gap year advice hub. You can speak to members of our team who can help you plan your itinerary and offer all sorts of insider travel knowledge. If you join one of our team programmes then you'll automatically have Leap VIP membership for a year, meaning we can help you with all your gap year travel.
So there we have it, a few myths debunked for you, ultimately a programme can provide you with great experiences, amazing friends, and life-changing moments across the globe for any travel later on. Best way to be convinced…try it for yourself, check out our quiz to find your best fit.
on 27 / 06 / 2023