It’s a scary process when you begin to plan your gap year. A whole year out? The possibilities are endless! You’re head will be swimming with ideas of where you want to go and what you want to experience, how will you fit it all in? The short answer is, you probably won’t. But with a good plan you can tick off a lot! It’s important to start with the basics when you plan your gap year. Here are a few simple steps to get you on your way with planning!
Find Your Inspiration
The first step in beginning to plan your gap year is to get inspiration, find out what you want to do. Research, research, research! Search online, buy some travel books, join backpacker forums, talk to other backpackers for advice. At this point your head will be filled with possibilities and your excitement will rocket! You’ll soon realise anything is possible, there’s a whole world of possibilities and experiences out there!
With so many ideas and more on there way, it’s a good start. Buy a large world map and stick pins in where you want to go. Don’t think about the practicalities at this point, just go crazy and get it all on there! This will the the basis of your gap year plan.
Narrow The Plan Down
Look at your map with all the pins in it and try to discern a practical route. Unfortunately, at this point some destinations may have to be saved for another time, you’ll have to decided what is more important for you.
Do some specific research, look at suggested itineraries or Round The World routes. Talk to the experts in travel companies that specialise in travel and gap years. Once again get online, join forums, look at guidebooks and talk to experienced backpackers that can help you whittle your plan down.
The important thing here is not to try to cram too much in a short period of time. Look at spending roughly a month in a country, or more if it the country is large, such as Australia. You may also want to work abroad, you’ll need more time in the countries you plan to work in (and don’t get stuck just working, make sure you see the country too). Also look at staying in underdeveloped countries for longer, as these tend to be cheaper and easier to travel. And don’t forget you can also travel overland and by boat, which is also a good option!
Now you’ve got a decent route planned you can figure out roughly how much you will need. There are two points you need to budget for.
First, pre-travel expensenses. These are a little easier as you know this before travelling and have to cough up before you leave your country. Pre-travel expenses include:
You’ve got all your budget for pre-travel, now it’s time to look at your budget for whilst you are away. Look at where you are going and research what the average costs are. Look at the cost of:
Remember, developed countries are much pricier than undeveloped. I’d advise over-budgeting, assume you’ll be paying developed countries prices all the way, that way you shouldn’t go short and have some left over for an emergency. Are you planning to work at all? Don’t forget, it may be difficult to find a job, so make sure you have enough for a few months in the country you plan to work. You may even consider WWOOFing to save a bit of money on the way around.
Always plan to have more than you need. There’s loads of ways to save money for your gap year journey, here are a few examples:
- Take as much overtime as possible;
- Don’t buy food out;
- Reduce your nights out;
- Walk, don’t get a taxi.
The Time Has Come…
You’ve got your route all sorted, the money for the pre-travel expenses is in your bank and you’re well on your way saving for your gap year. Now it’s time to buy your flights! Here you have a choice, single tickets or Round The World. Once again, go back to the experts, see what they can offer you.
Round The World tickets tend to be popular as they are easy and economical. However, they come with a few rules. Single tickets come with more flexibility, but you will have to sort all travel out as you go. Work out which one works out best for you.
Throw Away The Itinerary
Ok, not completely, still have a rough plan, but plan not to plan too much. You will only end up exhausting yourself if you obsess over guidebooks that tell you you need one day here, two days there. Have a loose plan of your route, but leave time for exploration. It’s a whole year, you never know what’s going to happen. Plans tend to change because:
- You fall in love with a place and want to stay longer;
- You hate a place and want to leave asap;
- You ‘fell into’ a job;
- You can’t get a job in the city you planned to;
- Another backpacker tells of an amazing trip/city you can’t miss;
- You need a rest from all that travelling and excitement!
You’ve got your plane ticket in hand and it all seems real! The dream has become a reality! Yes, stuff will go wrong and plans will change, but you’ll develop as a person, meet some great people and have the best experiences! Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’, there’s always more to see and do. When travelling your bucket list becomes a hydra, you tick one thing off and two more rise to take its place! Just make sure you enjoy all the ups and downs and don’t be scared of taking that first step onto the plane.
Remember a good trip has to start somewhere. I hope this has given you some inspiration. Now it’s time to start to plan your gap year! And enjoy the process!