Holidaysafe’s Complete Guide to Gap Years
For some, the decision to take a break from university or work to travel the world comes easily; however for others the decision is a little more difficult. Common worries include how the gap will look on your CV, whether you will be able to return to your old life when you return – and whether you will want to, what about missing out on important events at home, not to mention missing friends and family.
Nevertheless every year thousands of people jet off around the world in search of a new adventure and a break from their usual life.Although the initial decision to travel may have been difficult, actually planning a Longstay adventure abroad can be much harder – there are just so many things to consider.
For anyone planning a gap or sabbatical break, we have compiled a ‘Complete Guide to Gap Years’ informational guide to offer help and advice at each stage of your trip.
Budget and Research
If you’ve been dreaming about this trip for a long time, you will probably have done a lot of research already. However, before you commit to making this trip a reality, you need to do a whole wealth of research, including looking at your savings.
A Longstay trip abroad can be expensive, depending on where you’re travelling, what you want to do, and whether you decide to work. You will need to realistically look at your budget, and decide if you need to save a bit longer to achieve your dreams, or if you need to reassess your plans. A good place to start is to look at the currency exchange rate, and how much everyday items cost – then you can perhaps decide to spend a shorter time in one destination, and longer durations in cheaper destinations.
The First Real Steps
Once you’ve decided that you want to take a gap year, you need to make arrangements at home before you start planning your trip. Firstly, you need to make your employer or university aware of your plans, because this will tell you how much notice you have to work and also whether your position or space on your course will be available when you return. This should give you a rough time frame for your trip, and also a rough departure date.
Choosing a destination
Choosing destinations to visit can be the easiest part of the entire process, however, sometimes gap years can turn into a whirlwind of destination hopping and travelling, so you need to make sure that you leave yourself enough time to properly explore. Furthermore, most people end up visiting places that weren’t on their list, perhaps with fellow backpackers they’ve met along the way. Leave yourself enough time and budget for changes to the master plan, and also visit the FCO website before your trip for travel advice on every destination.
Making sure you have the correct travel documents will be one of the most important steps of your planning. You need to research whether you need to apply for visas and if so which one (e.g. tourist, student, working etc.). Applying for visas can take a while, so apply in advance to give the process plenty of time to complete before your trip. You will also need to make sure that your passport hasn’t expired, and that it is valid for at least 6 months.
Wherever you’re travelling to, make sure you have invested in quality travel insurance which covers your trip; for example, if you’re planning to participate in activities make sure these are covered. You should always photocopy all of your important documents, and keep the originals in a separate place to the copies.
Nobody likes to think about worst case scenarios, but you need to ensure you’re prepared if you need to seek medical treatment during your trip. If you’re travelling to Europe, make sure you have ordered a free EHIC, or if you’re travelling to Australia, you must enrol in Medicare – both of which should ensure that you receive free or discounted health care.
A few weeks before you travel, visit your doctor to make sure that you don’t need any vaccinations or preventative medicines. If you take prescription medication, photocopy your prescription and take it with you – just in case. (Do the same if you wear glasses).
Always check the FCO before booking your destination, if the FCO says it is unsafe to travel then you should change your plans. The FCO will also be able to give you more basic advice about safety in certain locations, e.g. whether tourists are regularly mugged etc.
Put any important phone numbers straight into your phone; invest in quality locks for your luggage, always lock your accommodation and hide/lock away any valuable items. Ring your bank before you travel to let them know that you will be travelling. Avoid carrying a lot of cash on you, and think about pre-paid cash cards.
Now all you need to do is get packing and you should be ready to go! For more information, visit our dedicated Backpacking Tips and Advice page.
Please note, Holidaysafe's online prices automatically include a 15% discount against our Customer Service Centre prices.