Planning your child’s gap year can be a daunting task, but it is comforting to know that thousands have done it before you. There are hundreds of resources that will not only give you advice on your plans but will even do all the heavy lifting for you. Here are some tips to get you started:
Travellers say “Save twice what you think you’ll spend and pack half what you think you need.” Start by telling your child to save as soon as they can or save for them. The amount saved is going to affect where they can go just as much as where you would like them to go influences how much you need to save.
What to do
Backpacking an entire continent is going to be significantly different than working abroad in one country. Some people spend their year working on yachts, WOOFing, working in Australia, backpacking South America or Southeast Asia, or volunteering abroad. Volunteering abroad is a touchy subject and plenty of research should be done before committing to a program.
Ensure they have the skills and qualifications to be of value to an organisation. Confirm that the organisation they choose to work with is ethically responsible, not-for-profit, works with locals and actually responds to needs of the community. If your child, or the organisation, don’t meet these requirements, then you may do more harm than good.
Where to go
You may want to choose one region or continent for them so they get to know the place really well. On the other hand, they may just want to ‘do it all’ and do a full round-the-world trip. There are many factors influencing where they decide to go, but it all comes down to personal interest and your own desires.
Who to go with
Will they travel solo, or with friends or family? Perhaps they will spend time with a tour group or work on a cruise ship. Travel can be very taxing if you travel as a pair, group or by themself. Travelling solo can be quite isolating, so maybe they could try to stay in more hostels or take a group tour once in a while.
There are a number of options for flights, including using a tour operator or travel agent who is familiar with multiple destination travel. Another option is to book RTW tickets, which allow you multiple flights. Beware: the more stops the higher the price.
If feeling adventurous, you can book the flights yourself as they go along. Sometimes you will find a place you want to stay in longer, while other times you may not like a place as much as you thought, and want to leave early. The point is to be flexible, so booking for them as they go along would be beneficial as seasonality matters too.
If travelling around Europe, the train is a great way to get around. It’s likely worth investing in a Rail Pass, which allows you to travel multiple routes and trains for certain length of time.
Find a campervan, a few friends, and they are ready for an adventure! If a confident driver, then a lot of fun can be found on a trip like this. There are some regions where driving unaccompanied by locals is not advised, as it carries a huge risk.
There are plenty of things that can happen while you travel, but many are preventable. If they are on medication, ensure they have enough for the entire trip. As they may not be able to find the same ones available abroad. Bring the original prescription with them – some countries may not allow certain drugs into the country, so you may need to have a letter from your doctor.
Meet with your GP or visit a travel clinic to see what vaccinations they may need before leaving – especially if they are travelling outside of Europe and other developed countries.
You should have travel insurance. Some countries may not allow you to enter the country without it and there are always risks when you are travelling. Your plan should cover hospitable bills, theft, and – if the worst were to happen – repatriation. Deborah Benson of Aon Private Clients says “It is always advisable that you check your insurance covers you for the length of travel you intend to make, of which starts and ends in the UK, and is specific to your travel arrangements.
Some High Net-Worth insurers will provide the policy holder and their dependent children with access to security services that can provide travel security information prior to taking the trip. They can also include advice on where to go in the event of an emergency. For example if there was civil unrest in a country they may be able to direct you to the British Embassy as well as also offer assistance to relatives in the event of someone going missing.”
Some insurers may not cover you if you plan to travel to a country that it is advised not to travel to.
Make sure you check what sports and hazardous activities are covered as well.
TripIt, TouristEye and TripAdvisor are three great apps that will help you plan trips, looking at different prices. Try comparing flights on Skyscanner, Kayak, or momondo if you’re thinking of booking flights yourself
There are plenty of Round the World (RTW) travel blogs that have plenty of information on every destination you could even dream of going to. Try a Google search of travel blog + [country/region] to be inspired or get excited about your upcoming trip.
Many companies such as G Adventures, STA Travel and Intrepid travel specialise in Gap Year travel – have a look at some of their itineraries and get in touch for more information!