A gap year is an extended break for students who have come out of college and higher education for a year before carrying onto university. It usually involves travel and getting out and seeing the world, while many people also try their hand at work.
Taking a gap year is an enthralling prospect for most participants, while at the same time being somewhat daunting, and planning properly is of the utmost importance. There are many gap year opportunities out there in today’s global world for the budget and independent traveler and the best thing is that many like-minded people are doing the same thing, so you are unlikely to be alone.
Despite all the terrorism, bloodshed and general doom and gloom in the world today, most places are perfectly safe to visit as long as you keep your head screwed on. The vast majority of gap year travelers have a great experience although there are of course hotspots to avoid. The overriding advantages of travel are the people you meet, the inevitable character building process, and overcoming adversity.
Where you go depends on your fancy and with the price of long haul travel way below the cost of what it used to be, the world is truly your oyster. Most gap year students tend to head for Europe and Australasia as the availability of work experience is also an easy option. Asia, and particularly Southeast Asia, is also a popular choice and you can get by pretty well on a shoestring.
Many gap year students go for round the world (RTW) tickets, whereby you specify where and when you want to go and hop all around the globe. The best thing about this option is that prices are cheap when compared with singular travel to multiple destinations, and that most tickets have a degree of flexibility. You can change times and dates, and sometimes even routings, without penalty.
The Star Alliance Round the World Fare is one of the best deals out there and covers all classes of travel and different mileages. You can get to go to North America, Europe, Asia, Southern Africa, New Zealand, and the South Pacific covering anywhere from 29,000 to 39,000 miles via airlines in the alliance. Many airlines also offer round the world tickets exclusively but are generally more expensive and less flexible.
You will of course need to plan well in advance and consider your finances, visas, accommodation, health insurance and so on. Although it may sound a hassle, this is vital for not getting caught short thousands of miles from home.
Two absolute musts to remember when taking a gap year are travel insurance and taking care of your documents. Always ensure you are well covered and especially if taking part in adventure activities as this type of coverage is not standard. Passports should be valid for the duration of travel and you should take photocopies of all documents, keeping one set separate from the real documents and scanning and emailing a set to your email address.
- Plan flights, hotels and places to visit
- Ensure passport, visas and copies are in order
- See your GP and get a medical and any vaccinations
- Get travel insurance
- Consider several forms of monies – cash, traveler’s cheques, debit card/credit card
- Decide what to pack and remove half
- Scan and email local emergency contacts and embassy information to yourself
- Read up on dos and don’t of countries you plan on visiting