So you want to globe trot on your gap year but have no idea how to start planning your travel experience..we hear you, but nobody panic, this is totally normal. At first it can seem like a bit of a mountain to climb getting you gap year planning all lined up and it’s common to think ‘everyone else makes it look so easy’ but they all start with similar questions - Where do I want to go? What type of travel experience am I after? How do I make it happen? Take a breath, grab a coffee, and let me lead you through our 10 step guide to you help you plan your gap year.
1. Independent or structured gap year travel?
The first thing I want you to ask yourself is what type of traveller are you? Who do you identify yourself with, as this will make all the difference.
An independent backpacker
The independent backpacker wants to travel with utter freedom, making decisions daily and changing them on an hourly basis.
They are happy to make friends pool side, arrive in new places with no plans, staying in random places and not worried about routine. Happy to travel alone or with a friend or 2. Is this you?
A structured pack animal
Pack animals love meeting new people from all walks of life but walking cold into a hostel night after night isn’t their thing. They need more structure, a plan and in the perfect world a ready-made family of friends to make them happy. The structure gives confidence and comfort for both the gapper, and the parents left at home. Sounds about right?
Combination of both
We are seeing this more and more...most gappers want to start their journey on a structured gap year program – gain confidence with the tricks of travel and make new friends with whom they travel with post program. This has become the norm.
2. What do you want to do?
What do you want to do while travelling – do you want to hostel hop or travel and contribute on your gap year? Arriving in an exciting new country is very different on your own compared to with 10 other backpackers. A little bit of insight – when I was travelling, I went as part of a team and found that I was more confident and braver about trying new things because I was in the safety of a group, and we were all in the same boat. So, decide whether you are a pack animal or a lone wolf and let the adventures begin.
Most independent backpackers barely scratch the surface of the country or culture they are visiting, merely passing through with a day or two in each place, meeting up with friends, having a hoolie as they go. Their memories will be great, but I would encourage you to go a little deeper by taking the time in your gap year planning to meet and live amongst local communities, learning about their culture and contributing to their livelihoods.
A good volunteering experience can help you achieve this whereby you will contribute to your stay and become a valued guest in the community. Whilst you may be motivated by the desire to help others, volunteering is not a one-way street. You’ll learn just as much from being immersed in another culture as others will learn from you. It’s a perfect two-way exchange and one I completely and utterly support. Infact with the current climate issues going on at the moment - you really should travel and contribute.
3. Where do you want to go on your gap year?
Now you need to think about where in the world you would like to go, without this you will not be getting off the ground. Think about what really sparks your interest – what is on your bucket list.
While planning the destinations you would like to travel to, you don’t need an A in Geography to realise that you don’t want to be dashing from one side of the world to the other and back again – trust me the jet lag will kill you if the cost of the flights doesn’t. You need to decide on what continent you would like to visit so that you have efficient flights in and out and can really make the most of your time in country without wasting time and a lot of money going from A to B. Focus on one continent at a time: Asia, Africa, South America or Central America.
Also ask yourself how long you are comfortable with being away for. A gap year doesn’t always mean a full year – most people will work for 6 months and travel for 6 months, some are university students who can only travel during those long summer holidays for 6 weeks and some want to do back-to-back adventures.In fact we have written another blog about awesome bucket list gap year highlight.
4. How to finance your gap year?
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? Will your parents help or perhaps match what you earn? We suggest that you need to earn about £300 per week and you will spend between £200 - £250 per week when travelling. Asia is cheaper than South /Central America and Africa.
It is a fact that if you’ve earned the money, you will have more ownership of your gap year planning, your parents will be thrilled, and you will make the most of every minute available – just saying...
Here's some ideas for your about raising your gap year funds:
Now that you’ve worked out the who, what,
where of your gap year travel plans it’s time to get into the nitty
gritty admin (oddly satisfying I promise). Starting with flights, once
you’ve decided where you are jetting off to its worth getting your
flights booked. Please remember the current rule – to enter a country
you need proof of your flight out. If you’re unsure of exactly how long
you want to be away for then welcome to the wonderful world of ‘flexi
tickets’ – meaning you only pay a small fee to change the date and route
of your flight. We see many gappers fall at this first hurdle so we arrange the flights for those going on a Leap program and give the independent traveller access to corporate team through Leap VIP.
6. Gap year insurance and FCDO advice
Insurance is a key player when it
comes to planning your gap year. This is not something to cut corners on
or go for the cheapest option. It is your lifeline should you have an
accident overseas. Ensure you pick the option that covers all activities
you intend on taking part in while travelling and make sure you read
the small print and ask questions – don’t just assume you are covered
for all activities. You don’t value the importance of your insurance
policy until you really need it. Most important – check if your
insurance is valid if the FCDO recommends all but essential.In fact,
keep checking the
Read more about gap year insurance
7. Packing for you gap year travels
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…Again if you need advice on this - join Leap VIP.
8. Travel vaccinations
Wherever you are travelling it is important to stay safe and healthy abroad. Book an appointment with your travel nurse 6-8 weeks before you depart to ensure your vaccinations are up to date as well as get any new ones you may require. They are also able to advise on malarial tablets and other travel health advice.
If your passport is nearing its expiry date, get it renewed in plenty of time. Typically, you need 6 months validity left on your passport – do not cut it fine, renew it and take it on its merry way ready say aloha to new adventures. Simple
10. Country visas
No visa - no entry so do the necessary research
before you go. Research the embassy requirements of the country you are
flying to and see whether you need a visa to enter as well as any other
supporting paperwork. Get this done ahead of time as it can take a
while to process paperwork and can be costly so don’t leave it until the
last minute. Latest visa information can be accessed through Leap VIP.
There you have it, the very basics to get you thinking along the right lines for your gap year. It’s important to remember through the stress of it all, that it’s something to be excited about. When you’re on that beach, desert, mountain whereever it may be, you won’t remember the admin and will be ready to do it all over again. You have my word.
Excited to get the ball rolling? Take the next steps and start getting inspired for your gap year. Or drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask me any questions you might have or to chat all things travel. I’m here to help you plan the gap year you’ve always dreamed of.
on 17 / 11 / 2021