It’s a life experience many decide to embark on either before university as a break from study or after graduating and before entering the new stage of life of finding the first step onto the career ladder. A gap year is a popular way to see the world – usually on a low budget – and also to use the adventure to gather and enhance skills to offer the job market.

Deciding what you want to do

The first thing to think about is what you actually want to do with your time. Decide whether you’re taking a holiday, want to include an internship along the way in another country or you want to help with the work of a charity as a volunteer.

Even a holiday takes planning so start researching as far in advance as possible. If you want to find an internship they may only be offered at set times of the year so being ahead of the game means having choice pickings of which companies to approach. Voluntary work may require organising with regards to their own needs and planned activities so start a dialogue early in your planning to find out the skills they need and what you can offer them whilst you’re away.

Planning where to go

Your destination could be dependent on a number of factors. This could be a holiday you’ve dreamed about for years or could be because of the location of where you want to volunteer.

Budget can be a factor in where you travel; initial flights to countries such as in the Far East will be more expensive than starting closer to home and you’ll still have as much fun in Europe as you would exploring places on the other side of the world.

How long you will travel for

Whilst the term gap year may sound as if that’s a set amount of time, it’s more a general phrase. Many travel for 1-6 months rather than longer so when you’ve decided where you want to go and what you want to achieve from the extended break, consider how long you want to be away.

If you’re planning to go to university on your return and don’t have an offer in place at the moment, it would be wise to be home whilst places are being awarded rather than leaving it until the last minute to find a course.

Financing the gap year

Even travelling with just a rucksack comes at a cost. There will be some initial travel costs such as flights along with any vaccinations and possibly visas to arrange. You’ll need accommodation if you’re moving from place to place so start checking out hostels if you’re on a budget. It’s easy to find online reviews these days to ensure they are clean, safe and offer the level of comfort or privacy you’re looking for.

Whilst away from home, ensure you have access to money at all times. This could be in the form of a mix of cash, debit card to access your bank account, online banking or credit card. Hopefully you will have been saving money in the lead up to your big adventure but sit down well in advance of departure to work out your possible daily financial costs. Keep a list of phone numbers in case you lose any of your cards so you can report them as missing and can discuss access to your account until you have a replacement card.

Gap year travel is exhilarating and often life changing. Embrace the opportunity to see different parts of the world and view every day as being a combination of a stepping stone to the next stage of your life as well as being enormous fun.