Direct Line magazine

Make the most of a gap year

Updated on: 30 March 2020

Three young adults walk through an airport.

In time-honoured tradition, many young people from the UK aged between 17 and 28 will take a year out of their education or careers to work, volunteer or travel.

But it’s not just the under‐28s who are raring to take a break and see a bit more of the world. Intrepid ‘gappers’ include men and women well into their retirement years and even families interested in new experiences and ways of living.

So how do you make the most of your year out?

Whether you want an all‐action adventure in Australia, a volunteering experience in Africa or simply want to spend your time learning new skills at home, there’s plenty of advice to help you plan.

Where should I go?

Everyone has their favourite places or dream destinations but it can be worth paying attention to travel company trends, if only to avoid the crowds.

Recent figures by ABTA (The Association of British Travel Agents) show that the most popular gap year destinations are Thailand, Australia, USA, South Africa and Peru.

Wherever you decide to go, pick up some travel brochures and books or look online to get an insight into a country.

Young woman sitting outside a cafe, looking at her mobile phone

What should I do?

Anything! A gap year is the ideal time to realise long-held dreams. If you need inspiration though, the internet has wealth of information about gap years and newspapers like The Sunday Telegraph regularly offer gap year tips while books like Lonely Planet’s The Big Trip and The Gap Year Guidebook are indispensible for serious travellers.

Who should I go with?

Travelling alone can be as much fun as going with friends and you’ll be surprised by how many people you can meet during a year out. Whether you’re staying in one area or jumping between popular destinations, it’s hard not to get friendly with locals and fellow travellers.

Gap years are not just for teenagers. There are more and more retired gappers

If you find yourself without a travelling partner and don’t want to brave it alone, then finding a travelmate before you go isn’t as hard as it used to be. If trusty social media fails, then there are various services designed to help you find a gap year buddy.

How do I keep in touch?

A more challenging question would be “How do I not keep in touch?”
Email, phone, text, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp all make it easy to stay in contact and in the loop if you’re missing home.

You could also sign up to a specialist planner app such as Trip It. Each time you book a flight or hotel room online, simply forward your confirmation emails to the new service and it automatically creates an account and starts to build a personalised travel itinerary. You can then share this information with people back home so they know where you are.

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