Each year roughly 230,000 young people in the UK plan their gap year. Whether it’s pre or post-university, a gap year is a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel, volunteer and explore the world. If you need some convincing on what a gap year can offer you read more here.
The planning can be a daunting task, there are a lot of different things to think about and of course you want to get it all right. Here are my top 10 things to know in the early stages of planning your gap year...
1. How to finance it?
Money – it’s probably the most important thing to consider before you start planning your gap year, and the most common question I get asked. Ask yourself… do you have enough money? Have you factored in time for a job? Will your parents help or perhaps match what you earn? Can you fundraise?
It’s always hard to be able to budget exactly how much you’ll need when traveling, it really depends what you want to do and where you want to go. One thing I will say is you can never go wrong with having a little bit of extra budget. Be it to do that one extra activity or perhaps stay a few extra nights in a slightly more expensive town… it’s better to have the option than regret it when you’re home.
2. Set goals
Think about what your goals are for your gap year. The following questions might help:
- Why are you taking a gap year?
- What do you want to get out of it?
- What are the benefits?
- What are the drawbacks?
If you know the answer to these then you’re a lot further down the planning road than many others!
3. Find the right flight
When it comes to flights there are so many options, from round-the-world tickets to open jaw returns. Depending on where you are going and how long you plan to stay in each place there will be a ticket best suited to you. It will be much more cost effective if you get the right ticket before you travel, and the earlier you book the better the deal. Check out companies such as STA travel for advice on all things flights.
4. Research the best time to visit
Whether it’s to do with weather, holidays or tourist popularity, each place has a best time to visit. Depending on what you like, this might vary from person to person so it’s best to find the right time for you, not just do what everyone else does.
5. Think about documenting everything
Your gap year is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s unlikely that you’ll get the freedom from work and commitments back home to take up to a year out traveling and exploring the world, so whatever you do make sure you document it. You’ll want those pictures/videos/diaries to look back on and enjoy in years to come.
Do you like to be behind the camera or in front? Are you a writer? Perhaps a budding filmmaker? Make sure you factor this in to your planning and take all the books/memory cards you need.
6. Say yes
Your gap year is all about new experiences and getting out of your comfort zone. Say ‘yes’, not ‘no’ to opportunities. It’s important to be open to new culture and traditions. Even if it’s all new don’t be afraid. The worst that can happen is that you won’t enjoy something, but at least you tried it and you know for next time. Tomorrow will be a new day where you can try something which you’ll likely enjoy.
7. You won’t be able to see everything
It’s good to keep this in mind from the start of the planning. There is so much out there, it will never be possible to fit everything into your travels. If you try you will burn yourself out as well as burning through your money.
If you find a place you love then add it to your list to go back and explore further in the future, or alter you plans to stay there longer and perhaps shorten your time at the next destination. It’s important to factor relaxation as well as exploration into your plans.
8. Allow time for research
Factor research time into your planning. Think about your goals (see question 2) and how to achieve them, will it be through traveling or volunteering? Think about the benefits of each for both you and your CV.
When it comes to volunteering do your research on companies – are they ethical? Where does the money go? Who benefits? What safety and support do they provide? Volunteer programs are incredibly worthwhile so make sure you chose one that’s running for the right reasons.
9. It will work out
Sometimes travelling will be hard, things will be frustrating and you’ll feel homesick and anxious when things aren’t going your way. This is completely normal. Every traveller will experience these feelings along their journey and if they tell you they haven’t they are lying… Just remember it will work out in the end, whether it’s in a few hours or a few days you’ll be back to enjoying every second and when you look back on your gap year it will be the good times that you remember.
10. Keep your parent’s involved
Parents will worry, it’s human nature and unavoidable. Throughout the planning process it’s important to keep them in the loop. When you have your plans down give them an itinerary so they know where you’ll be along the way.
If you are going with an organisation let your parent’s talk to them directly. They’ll have questions of their own and will like the peace of mind of speaking to the organisers directly.
One of the benefits of going with a Leap program is that we keep your parent’s up to date whilst you’re away, meaning you don’t have to worry about it. You can focus on the volunteer work and having fun and exploring in your down time.
Ready to get planning?
So now you know all this there’s only one thing left to do… start planning. One final tip for you, pack half the luggage and twice the money.
There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored, so use your gap year wisely. There is no right or wrong thing to do, it’s all about what you want and where your imagination can take you…
on 21 / 06 / 2018