Planning a Gap Year
Why do a Gap Year?
Too old? Not enough money? Not enough time? No travel partner? If it’s your first time planning a gap year to explore the world, the excuses can start to pile up and it’s easy to keep postponing a trip that could be the most challenging, rewarding, educational, entertaining, exciting, unforgettable experience of your life. No matter what the reasons against taking a gap year, if you do a pro/con list you will see just how many advantages there are. We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with spending your entire life with your nose to the grindstone, but there is more to life. A gap year will enrich your life and, as the cliché goes, broaden your mind. The biggest risk is not going, followed closely by going and not wanting to come back!
Planning a Gap Year
In this marvellous digital age, planning a gap year has never been easier. But if you’re a technophobe don’t worry. There are still enough travel books, magazines and brochures out there to sink a ship. You can make planning your gap year a project: collect articles to put up on your wall; take language classes or if you know a language already do an exchange (this has the added advantage of meeting people from the countries you’re planning to travel to who can give advice); go to travel shows – popular shows in London include the TNT Travel Show and Destinations Travel Show at Earls Court; and most importantly start to look at what you want to get out of your gap year and what parts of the world interest you the most.
There are a few things to keep in mind when planning a gap year or sabbatical. Some of these are:
Planning the timing of your Gap Year around Weather
It is difficult to generalise this topic as it depends entirely on where in the world you are visiting. As you travel the world, you will encounter two main seasonal patterns – temperate climates which have four seasons (summer, winter, autumn, spring) and tropical climates which have two seasons (wet and dry). The seasons in the northern hemisphere are opposite to those in the southern hemisphere. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than this, but it’s a good place to start.
|Northern Hemisphere||Southern Hemisphere|
It’s tempting to chase summer/dry seasons around the globe, but it’s not always the best way. In Venezuela for example, the weather is driest from November to April, but the waterfalls, including the world famous Angel Falls are at their most spectacular during the rainy season, May to October. On the other hand, if you travel to South America in December-February, you may find you have to bypass visiting Patagonia as there is too much snow and the roads may be impassable. Keep the weather in mind when planning your trip, but don’t make it the only factor as there are many places in the world that make great year round destinations!
Including Festivals in your Gap Year
A great way to start your travel schedule is to look at what festivals you want to include in your trip and using them as a guide to create a skeleton itinerary. For example, visiting Rio Carnival in Brazil is a must-do and happens each year before Lent in late-February or March. You can use the time in between festivals to travel between locations and visit other places of interest.
Gap Year Visas and Passports
In all the excitement and hype of planning a gap year, it’s easy to forget the basics. If you’re going to be on the road for a while, you need to make sure your passport is valid not only for the duration of your trip, but many countries require that your passport be valid for a minimum period (usually 6 months) beyond the date of entry to the country. It’s important to check visa requirements for each of the countries you plan to visit and apply for any visas that you need to get in advance. Even if you don’t need a visa for a country, make sure you have proof of onward travel to give to the immigration officer when you arrive. Without proof of onward travel (such as confirmation of a flight booking) they may refuse you entry into the country.
If you’re planning to visit several continents during your gap year, a round the world ticket is the most cost-effective option. These are booked through travel agents and will take you around the world, either clock-wise or anti-clockwise. They can include overland sections, so you can fly into one city (e.g. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) travel overland, and fly out of a different city (e.g. Lima, Peru). Generally, the best time to look at buying round the world flights is in January and February as they are cheaper and departing at that time of year tends to fit in with the seasons.
Working and Volunteering on your Gap Year
The possibilities for working abroad are numerous and often it can seem like there are too many options, making it hard to decide. Will you volunteer at a turtle breeding facility in Costa Rica? Teach English in China? Bar tend at Bondi Beach? If you need to work during your year abroad then teaching English is a great way to make money and you can study a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course while you're abroad or before you leave home. Hospitality is an easy industry to find work and is often a lot of fun and a great chance to meet people. Volunteer programs vary in length and cost. Always do your research into volunteer organisations to ensure they are run ethically. Including work, voluntary or otherwise, in your gap year will not only give you a chance to meet locals and get to know the culture, but it can offer a welcome break from continuously being on the road. No matter how enthusiastic you are about travel, sometimes it can be nice not to have to pack your backpack in the morning!
Including Tours in your Gap Year
Tours help you visit places that are difficult to get to on your own, and they are also very time efficient if you only have a few weeks to see an area and want to see as much as possible. It's probably not practical to spend an entire year travelling on tours, but combining adventure tours with independent travel, work and volunteering ensures you will have a balanced, enjoyable year. When planning your gap year, look at areas where you would prefer to travel as part of a group, and think about things you should book in advance. The Inca Trail, for example, has to be booked through a registered operator and should be booked a couple of months in advance (at least) to guarantee your place.
Budgeting for your Gap Year
Unless you have a platinum card with a sky high limit, your gap year trip budget is always going to be playing on your mind. Basic rule of thumb, unless you're the most disciplined person alive you will probably spend more than you intended to while you're travelling. Better to plan a shorter trip and enjoy it, than plan a marathon voyage around the world you can't afford. A good way to avoid overspending while you're travelling is to write down what you spend at the end of each day. Lots of small purchases throughout the day can quickly add up and soon enough you'll be looking at your wallet wondering if there's a hole in it somewhere. Another good idea is to book your big ticket items before you leave home, such as tours, flights and volunteer projects. That way you don't have to worry about paying for these once you're on the road.
Want to know more? Contact one of our experienced, helpful travel consultants, Or request our worldwide brochure today!