Backpacking

How to plan for a gap year trip

Your once little ones have now reached the terrifying age of 18 and are officially no longer children. Suddenly the doors of life burst open and things that were once illegal are now part of their everyday lives; being able to vote, get married, apply for a mortgage, get a tattoo, just to name a few.

Backpacking

An increasingly popular thing young adults often find themselves doing is heading off on a gap year. The experience of going it alone and seeing the world can be one of the best times of their life, and a memory they will remember forever. But, before they get too distracted by elephant sanctuary’s and unforgettable excursions it is paramount that they sit down for an afternoon or two, and put a plan in place. Consumer awareness initiative, Travel Insurance Explained has a comprehensive guide on how to plan the perfect gap year trip abroad.

A notepad

A strange place to begin, we know, but it is important for anyone heading off on a gap year to jot down all the important information they may need during their trip. Telephone numbers, hotel bookings, the country’s emergency contacts and their travel insurance details are often good things to keep a note of – just in case.

Money

Prepaid Money Cards

Budgeting is an important aspect of travelling abroad, especially when alone and for a prolonged period. Amounts will vary largely depending on the destinations in mind. Food and drink, travel, accommodation, and activities are the largest drainers of cash whilst on a gap year – the more details you plan the easier it is to budget money and spend accordingly.

Money on a pre-paid card is recommended, some offer excellent exchange rates and can be topped up by parents in the case of an emergency. While getting cash out beforehand can be cheaper, carrying large amounts is not wise; it can be lost, stolen and is spent very easily.

You should carry an emergency amount of cash in case of a lost or stolen card and it should be hidden and kept safely. While quite obvious, never underestimate how much money will be spent – calculate how much you think you will spend and take a further 20-30% to be safe, if worst comes to worst you will have spare money left over at the end.

The average prices of traveller essentials – such as beer – can be found here.

Part-time work in local industries can be a crucial source of money for cash strapped students.
In cities like Melbourne, Australia, Furniture moving industry is always open to hiring young students on work holiday visas, for shorter periods of time, and the pay is also good.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations are essential for some countries and should be booked in advance of the trip – at least 6 weeks before departure depending on the type of vaccine required. The Malaria vaccination, for example, requires tablets to be taken a few days beforehand and a month following return.

The costs of vaccinations can soon mount up too if multiple are required so don’t forget to include this when setting your budget.

Clothing and Accessories

Backpacking

Be sure to pack enough clothing to get you through your trip, but remember if you are going for the true backpacking experience you may need to spend a lot of your trip carrying this around with you. Work out the essentials needed for the country you are visiting and take a few extra items – just in case It may also be a good idea to learn how to roll clothes as this can vastly reduce the space they take up in your bag.

Don’t forget, you may need to take other items such as a first aid kit, mosquito repellent, mosquito net, anti-bacterial gel, sun cream, washbag etc.

For the full list of items to bring on the trip, you can look here.

Accommodation

While some people enjoy the idea of playing everything by ear when travelling, there is nothing worse than arriving at a destination and not having a place to stay. Simply researching a few well-known hostels should be enough; if you know where and when you will be in an area why not book in advance if this is available.

Hostels can be a great place to meet other backpackers who can also provide tips and good places to visit in the area.

Logistics

Air travel

Working out how to get to and from each destination is important, flights are obviously booked in advance, but getting around a country is the tricky part. If you are travelling to a well-developed country like Australia transport links will be ample, but less developed countries such as Vietnam or Cambodia public transport may be less available.

Buses are commonly used by those on gap years, and the location and prices can be researched in advance. Again, bear in mind you may not be able to book seats and plans can change when travelling.

Research Essentials

Each country that is visited will require some research – predominantly, which visas and vaccinations are required, what currencies are accepted, places to visit, and last but not least cultural norms and laws.

Visas

Travel Visa

Book visas well in advance. The process can vary country by country, so doing a quick internet search should get you well on your way. It should be mentioned – they also have a price.

Laws

Spend some time researching local laws for the country or countries you are planning to visit. Some things that are legal in the UK may be banned or illegal abroad so it’s best to check these out beforehand rather than landing yourself in trouble.

Cultural Norms

While breaking cultural norms may not find you in trouble with the law, you may find locals will be friendlier if you follow them, and the trip as a whole will run far more smoothly. Take time to learn basic phrases such as please and thank you etc., most people know some English in popular areas, but in more rural areas this will be limited.

Lastly, it may be worth looking into common scams so you know how to spot one, you will need to remain eagle-eyed at all times for this, however.

Travel Insurance

Travel Documents

Lastly but certainly most importantly, spend some time researching suitable travel insurance policies. Gap year holidays will require a Longstay Policy and whilst these are offered by most insurers, the cover available will differ greatly. Key things to check on your Longstay travel insurance policy are; medical cover and the amount, cancellation cover and the amount, return journey cover, connecting flight cover, personal possession cover and amount and activity cover. More information on finding the right travel insurance for your gap year can be found here.

How to plan for a gap year trip 1

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