Planning a Gap Year?

  • 'A’ Level results are out this week and according to UCAS, 24,000 students will take a Gap Year this year. Aside from feeling incredibly old, I am also incredibly jealous. I took a gap year (more a gap 6 months) after University and went to South America. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

    Things have changed since I took my A’ Levels and went to University – mostly the sheer cost of everything involved – so it’s not really surprising that this year, the most popular type of gap year requested by school leavers are work experience placements abroad, followed by volunteering gap years.

    Travel and work abroad is a great way to make your CV stand out to employers, the majority of emplyers see gap years as a way of enriching and developing yourself, learning new skills and exposing yourself to new challenges and environments. The language skills picked up during my time in South America have been incredibly handy.

    The main thing is to stay safe and go with a reputable company, here are ABTA’s Top Tips for Gappers:

    - Choose a reputable gap year travel company with a good track record that is a member of a trade association, such as ABTA, so you have a point of contact and support should anything go wrong.

    - Check with your travel agent and with the Foreign Office for dos and don’ts and “no go” areas for the country you’re visiting. They will also tell you about visa requirements and how to get one, especially relevant if you’re going to be working.

    - Research local customs and culture before you go to understand more about the host destination and avoid unwittingly causing offence.

    - Make sure you’ve had all the necessary jabs and inoculations; do this at least eight weeks before you travel.

    - If you’re going to a country where malaria is prevalent always take anti-malarials and always finish the course.

    - Get a good quality travel insurance policy, make sure it covers the activities you want to take part in, the cheapest policies will not provide you with the level of cover necessary for a lengthy stay overseas.

    - Think carefully about the kind of activity you’ll be doing; working, volunteering or learning a skill will be good for your CV.

    - If you’re travelling to a non-English speaking country take some language lessons before you go, you’ll find it much easier to fit in when you first arrive.

    - Tell your bank where and when you’ll be travelling to reduce the risk of them stopping your card.

    - Take a couple of hundred pounds in travellers’ cheques as a safety net, they’ll be replaced straight away if stolen or lost.

    - Keep electronic copies of all your important travel documents.

    - Keep a list of emergency contact numbers in a safe and accessible place.

    And if you’re planning some time away now, these are the most popular Gap Year destinations:

    1. Thailand
    2. Australia
    3. USA
    4. South Africa
    5. Peru
    6. Vietnam
    7. Brazil
    8. India
    9. New Zealand
    10. Fiji

    For more information visit