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Written by Milly Whitehead on 26 / 01 / 2017

Gap Year Advice

Quick escape guide by The Leap: gap year volunteering and adventure

Turn those January blues into sunny days…

Is January hitting you as hard as it is me? Don’t let it! Escape to blue skies and sunnier climes. Find some travel inspiration and start your long-awaited travels or gap year volunteering dreams.

January is renowned as the most depressing month of the year, and understandably so. Christmas and New Year are now 11 months away. Easter eggs, while already appearing in shops, can’t be devoured for 2 more months. Winter has lost its magical icy appeal, the cold and wet is setting in, and with those New Year resolutions out the window, many of us are feeling a little guilty and frankly, miserable.

Especially if this is your gap year, remember you’ve already watched 6 months go by. Whether you’ve been earning, putting in applications or trying to make travel decisions, stop now!

Make the most of the six months left; make those Uni friends envious; make your year unforgettable. A little gap year volunteering is the ultimate way to help others (whilst improving that CV!) and feel good about yourself.

Don’t let the rest of 2017 slip away so easily. Get up, get booking and get going!

Follow this super quick escape guide on how to get out and away as fast as possible:

Step 1: Flights

What about my destination I hear you say? For a speedy getaway, I advise keeping an open mind and your options open. Sometimes the most spontaneous and unexpected trips are the most memorable of them all.

There are probably 100 places on your travel bucket list, but 100 more that should be. Check out the best flight deals going and start from there. British Airways currently has their biggest January sale on and Skyscanner is always ideal for finding the lowest fares going. Browse away!

Step 2: Destination

If there is somewhere you’ve been dreaming of for years, make it happen! Go to the Lonely Planet and search for your destination. From there you can check when it’s best to go and what’s on offer at this time of year.

Feel you’ll never be able to decide? Well, Venice or Portugal are stunners even in this endless winter of ours. Costa Rica and Sri Lanka are hot, nature-rich and incomparable to anywhere else on Earth. And if it’s the bustling city-life you crave then New Orleans and Melbourne are packed with incredible sights as well as a top-notch night-life, cuisine, music and more.

Extra-desperate for an easy escape? Why not have a look at The Leap’s April destinations where flights, activities and all food and accommodation are covered in the program. The gap year volunteering options available include the world’s most incredible places, wildlife and cultures. Just as a taster: Peru offers wonders from the renowned Machu Picchu trail to the glimmering Lake Titicaca, while the Bahamas is any sun, sand, sea and marine life lover’s paradise.

Machu Picchu Peru gap year

When independence is calling though, I again recommend Skyscanner: the perfect option for searching whole months for the very best flight deals.

Step 3: The boring essentials-jabs, visas and insurance

The last thing you want is escaping everything stressing you out at home, only to find more on your travels. Imagine your trip cut short by an illness easily avoidable with a simple injection. Perhaps worse still, what if you acquire an injury, and then spend the next six months earning just to cover your lack of insurance.

Everyone always thinks: ‘it won’t happen to me’. But it will happen to someone. That someone could be you.


First stop is the NHS (England) or HHS (US) websites for information on the injections you need for your travel destinations. Some may be covered and some will be at your own expense so factor this into destination planning too.

Possibly pick a location where no jabs are necessary. Or even somewhere you know you’re already covered for. Book yourself in with the local travel doctor and you could be all set within a week or two.


Next you’ll need to check visa requirements. Knowing about visa paperwork and costs before departure creates a far smoother journey. For UK and US citizens, visa requirements are easy enough, but as they differ country to country, make sure you’re all clued up.

Unless you're this guy, sorting the visa is of high importance!


Finally, for insurance, the best options in my opinion are Global Travel insurance or Insure and Go. Both include high cancellation costs (great for longer trips), along with a good range of backpacker and multi-country options.

I can’t stress enough how vital insurance is. Not to sound like a TV ad or anything, but it could save you millions! Most importantly, ensure it lasts for your whole time away and keep extending if it’s a ‘come back when the money runs out’ kind of trip.

Gap year volunteering often includes some manual labour or work with kids and wildlife so have a think about exactly what you plan to do first. Once you’ve gained an idea of the activities you’ll be undertaking, find the deal that covers it all.

Step 4: A place to stay and things to do

Now the excitement begins. Don’t panic if your trip is running on a gap year volunteering budget, or if it’s Dad’s money being spent! There’s accommodation and excursions to cover all financial situations. As long as you can fork out for guide book (my greatest recommendation), you're all set.

Booking.com and Trivago offer some bargain hotel and hostel deals. However, many gap year volunteering and backpacking destinations are set up and ready for those who are just letting desire lead them. By securing your first place to stay, it’s then often easier to arrange the rest from in country. Hostel owners especially tend to be very helpful with making future accommodation and activity bookings for you.

If a detailed itinerary suits you better and if time is not so much on your side, check out Rough Guides or Lonely planet. Both give a region-by-region guide to what can’t be missed: adventure activities, shops, historical sites etc. Just make sure everything you plan is GoPro and Instagram worthy!

Step 5: Gear and packing

All that’s left is to find the right gear and start packing that dreaded backpack or suitcase.

Go Outdoors and Cotswold have some fantastic deals on the essential travel items right now so go there first. Think about the climate and trip duration, and then any specifics like mosquito nets, adaptors and sleeping bags that you’ll need.

Travel light, especially when backpacking: you want your pack to be your best friend, not your enemy! Packing a backpack is an art. Don’t rush it.

Here are my top tips. Get out everything you might ever want and then start to narrow it down. Pack all the way into the corners and use pants and socks to fill the gaps. Buy some drawstring (waterproof) bags to separate your toiletries from your t-shirts, and leave some space for souvenirs!

So your quick escape guide is complete and you’re ready to go

Flights booked. Insurance sorted. Itinerary planned. Bags packed. Adventure is just around the corner. Leave January behind and go enjoy what the world is offering!

Lost for gap year ideas? Fill out our What Type of Traveller You Are Quiz and we can point you in the right direction. Simples.

I'm In, Take Me There...

Check out our gap year programs

We have award winning 'planet saving' programs across Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

Reducing plastic in our oceans, protecting turtles and saving the rhino is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

All experiences include a mix of projects and adventures, travelling with a team and, of course, are risk assessed.

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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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