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Written by Zoe Faulkner on 31 / 07 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

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 us lead you through our 10 step guide to you help you plan your perfect gap year.

1. Independent or structured gap year travel?

The first thing you should ask yourself is what type of traveller are you? Who do you identify yourself with, as this will make all the difference. Read our blog here about the differences and the pros and cons to each.

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 two. 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 group 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 programme – gain confidence with the tricks of travel and make new friends with whom they travel with post-programme.

2. What do you want to do?

What do you want to do while travelling – do you want to hostel hop, travel and contribute on your gap year, or perhaps work abroad? Arriving in an exciting new country is very different on your own compared to with ten other backpackers. 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 we 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 we completely and utterly support. In fact with the current climate issues going on at the moment - you really should travel and contribute.

All of our team programmes have an element of community contribution in them, you can check them out here.

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 us 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. Some continents do link well together, for example Asia and Australasia, and provide an interesting contrast.

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.

Read our blog about where to go when to get the ideas flowing.

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 we 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. Here are some ideas of gap year jobs to help you earn that all-important cash. Have a think about location, SE Asia is considerably cheaper than Australia and parts of Central America. Some of those big bucket list moment won't be cheap either, but we promise they'll be worth it!

Do you need help with your gap year planning?

If you need our help with your gap year planning, then you might benefit from tapping into our travel knowledge hub. It gives you advice on all of the above plus:

  • Latest travel updates
  • Access to our global network of contacts
  • Gap year zoom consultations
  • Ideas for itineraries and must-see places
  • Tips and tricks to navigate new countries
Tell me more

5. Flights

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 we promise). Starting with flights, once you’ve decided where you are jetting off to its worth getting your flights booked. Please remember a common rule – to enter a country you need proof of your exit out. If you’re unsure of exactly how long you want to be away for then there are creative ways to get around expensive flight changes. We see many gappers fall at this first hurdle so to make things easier we arrange a team flight for our team programmes and send out the details so you can book on and all fly out together.

6. Gap year insurance

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.

7. Packing for you gap year travels

So now you know all this there’s only one thing left to do… start packing. One final tip for you, pack half the luggage and twice the money. You can find out how to pack the perfect gap year backpack here.

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 our gap year knowledge hub

8. Travel vaccinations

Wherever you are travelling it is important to stay safe and healthy abroad. Book an appointment with your travel nurse as soon as you can 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. Sometimes there's long waiting lists for NHS services, so make sure you get booked in and sorted as soon as you can (especially as some vaccinations require a course of 2 or 3), or consider looking at private clinics instead.

9. Passports

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 FCDO 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. If you're joining a team programme and need a visa then we'll help you through each step of the process and give you all the information you'll need when we send out the admin email.


There you have it, the very basics to get you thinking along the right lines for your gap year. If you'd like some more in-depth information you can download our gap year planning guide here. 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 wherever 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 get in touch to ask us any questions you might have or to chat all things travel. We're here to help you plan the gap year you’ve always dreamed of.

Do you need help with your gap year planning?

If you need our help with your gap year planning, then you might benefit from tapping into our travel knowledge hub. It gives you advice on all of the above plus:

  • Latest travel updates
  • Access to our global network of contacts
  • Gap year zoom consultations
  • Ideas for itineraries and must-see places
  • Tips and tricks to navigate new countries
Tell me more

Need inspiration and direction?

Get in contact with the gap year travel specialists.

Here at The Leap we can help both team traveller through our programmes and/or the backpacker.

Jot a message below or call us on +44 1672 519 9222

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Yes please, let's keep life simple.