A huge phenomenon in the UK and Australia, the Gap Year is a year off which students take right after high school or right after college before they start the next big chapter of their lives. A Gap Year gives them a chance to explore the world and their passions.
Many students spend their Gap Year traveling or working in a foreign country, either in a volunteering or paid capacity.
If a Gap Year sounds interesting, here’s some advice:
Start With a Budget. Even if you aren’t sure what countries you’ll visit or when you’ll be there, put together a preliminary budget of what you expect to spend. Also, consider what time of year you expect to travel. The summer months will be more expensive than the winter months. Also, consider what type of experience you want in each destination. If you’re looking to volunteer or work, you’ll need to work with the timing of the program you want to join.
Get Your Shots. You’re probably in pretty good health and you want to stay that way. So, you’ll want to make sure you receive any of the vaccinations necessary for your destinations. For example, if you decide to go to Nigeria, you’ll need shots to protect against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. If you’re visiting Venezuela, you’ll need a vaccination for Yellow Fever.
Travel Insurance. Travel insurance covers you if you have to cancel all or part of your trip due to unforeseen circumstances. Plans provide reimbursement of some or all of the cost of your trip in the event of an illness or death in your family or if there is a labor strike or a terrorist attack in a city that is on your travel route. Without travel insurance, you could be out hundreds or thousands of dollars if something interrupts your trip. STA Travel offers travel insurance provided by Travel Guard from $5 per day (based on a 30-day policy).
Get Guide Books. Especially if you plan on visiting multiple countries or know that you will have limited Internet access, guide books from companies like Lonely Planet are indispensible. Lonely Planet offers advice and expertise for budget travel, visiting a particular city or country or even for a whole region. You can even pick specific chapters from different books to create your perfect guide book.
How to Stay In Touch With Family and Friends. Cell phones are like our third arm these days and you don’t have to cut that off just because you’re traveling internationally. Just get an international cell phone. For $39, you can get a cell phone with a low per-minute rate making it really easy to keep up with family and friends.
Packing. Packing for a Gap Year can be incredible daunting. First, try to plan your trip so that you move from colder climates to warm climates instead of the other way around. As you move into warmer temps, ship your coat and heavier clothing home. You can also opt for layers. Bringing clothes that can be layered can eliminate the need for a heavy (space-consuming) jacket. For shoes, consider all of the possible occasions. Boots if you are hiking or good shoes for walking the city are a must. A pair of nice shoes for a special dinner can also come in handy.
Do You Need a Visa? Some countries, like France and Ireland do not require a visa for United States citizens staying 90 days or less. But if you are planning to visit a country like Argentina or Turkey, you’ll need to plan ahead of time to make sure your visa is secured by the time you arrive. STATravel.com has a complete listing of countries requirements and the process to obtain a visa.
Take advantage of your gap year and explore as much as possible. Just make sure to stay safe and within budget to have the best time.
Patrick Evans is the marketing communications coordinator for STA Travel, the largest student and youth travel organization in the world.