A gap year is not just a pause between academic pursuits; it’s an opportunity for personal growth, exploration, and the chance to gain a fresh perspective on life.
Whether you’re a young South African considering a gap year or a parent supporting your child’s journey, this guide will help you plan and maximise the potential of this valuable time.
Set clear goals
Begin by defining your goals for the gap year. Consider what you want to achieve, whether it’s personal growth, cultural immersion, skill development, earning money to pay for studies, or a combination of these. Understanding your objectives will guide your decisions.
Explore potential destinations that align with your goals. Research each country’s culture, visa requirements, and entry restrictions. Be aware of seasonal factors that may impact your travel plans, such as weather conditions and festivals.
Choose your crew
Decide whether you want to travel with friends or embark on this journey alone. Travelling with friends can provide companionship and cost-sharing benefits, while solo travel offers greater independence and personal growth opportunities.
Budget wisely ahead of time
Financial planning is crucial for a successful gap year. Start by setting a budget and estimating your expenses. Consider costs like flights, accommodation, meals, transportation, and activities. Don’t forget about the visa costs!
Then look for student discounts, travel deals, and budget-friendly options. It’s also a good idea to open a separate bank account for your gap year funds and consider getting a travel-friendly card. To help build that nest egg, explore fundraising options and part-time job opportunities to fund your gap year. Selling items you no longer need or working abroad during your travels can help cover expenses and even generate some savings for when you return.
Stretch those rands on the trip
Practice smart spending habits when travelling to make your money go further. Cook your meals as often as possible instead of dining out, use public transportation, and opt for affordable accommodation like hostels or guesthouses. Also, prioritise your spending on what matters to you – be it experiences or splurging on an extra luxe stay.
Invest in travel insurance
Travel insurance is a must for any traveller. It provides crucial coverage for unexpected events like trip cancellations, medical emergencies, and lost belongings. Flight Centre offers a range of travel insurance options through TIC, ensuring you’re protected throughout your journey.
Planning gap year travel can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. “A Travel Expert can advise on those money-saving tips for booking travel that you probably don’t know about or can’t access on your own,” says Antoinette Turner, GM of Flight Centre South Africa. “For example, you can get round-the-world airfares with one ticket lasting up to 12 months or book flights that include multiple stops on one air ticket (don’t skip a leg though!).” Flight Centre’s Travel Experts can help you tailor-make your dream gap year experience. They have access to a wide range of travel products, including those that specialise in catering for the youth market, and can assist with everything from flights and accommodation to tours and activities.
Gap year essentials
Prioritise your health by getting necessary vaccinations and medications well in advance. Notify your bank and relevant authorities of your travel plans.
Pack and plan according to your itinerary. If you’re doing a tour in Europe, there’s no need to lug around a heavy backpack! Avoid overpacking and be prepared to purchase items as needed during your journey.
Prepare for your return
Plan for your return by setting aside money for your travel, rent, and living expenses while you seek employment or continue your studies. Update your CV with newfound skills and experiences from your gap year.
Remember, your gap year is not just a break from routine; it’s a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. So, plan ahead and make it a year to remember.
“A gap year is an investment in yourself,” says Turner. “Planning a gap year can be exciting, but it requires careful consideration and preparation. There are fantastic options out there – whether you’re planning on jetting off for a full year, volunteering, or just taking two or three weeks out to travel.