Top Five Tips for Planning Your Gap Year


Preparing for the trip of a lifetime can feel a little overwhelming. Rather than vaguely hoping that things will come together at the last minute, the wise traveller formulates a plan of attack. Start by making a list of things that need doing. As guidance, we’ve provided five of the most important things to include.

Visit the GP

There are a variety of weird and wonderful tropical diseases waiting for the unsuspecting traveller. Happily, many of these can be vaccinated against before departure. Your GP will be able to tell you what jabs you’ll need.

They’ll want to know what countries you’re visiting, the time of year you’ll be travelling, whether you’ll be in rural or urban areas, and how long you’ll be staying. Some vaccinations are free – these include those for cholera, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis A and typhoid. Others – such as hepatitis B, rabies, tuberculosis and yellow fever – cost money.

Get insurance

While it may be associated with humourless suited men and timid spinsters, insurance is a travel must-have – especially for those venturing to exotic destinations. When choosing a policy, make sure that it covers medical expenses should you be taken ill and need to be flown home. It also pays to insure expensive items such as cameras and phones against theft.

Learn a language

While a majority of the world speaks at least a little English, it nevertheless pays to brush up on the language of the country you intend to visit. Being able to meaningfully engage with local people is very rewarding and often leads to some of the best experiences of the trip.

While taking language lessons with a provider such as ESL does cost money, this can be easily offset while away – for example, by being able to eat at non-tourist restaurants where the menu isn’t translated.

If there’s too little time left to take a series of classes, there’s always the option of learning while away. Options include staying with a host family or enrolling on a dedicated course – click here for more information.

Apply for visas

It can take a surprisingly long time to apply for a visa – for example, the US embassy warns that applications should be made at least six weeks before travel. Visas, should they be needed, can be obtained from the relevant country’s embassy. Embassies can have relatively short opening times to arrive early to avoid being turned away.

Pack light

While it may seem essential to take a wide range of clothing, footwear, books, cosmetics and medicine, the reality of carrying around a 50kg backpack in 100% humidity is highly unpleasant.

Instead, aim to pack a bag that you can easily lift and will be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Bear in mind that many of the essentials can be purchased abroad – travellers are always keen to swap books, and clothes can always be picked up in markets.