How to Plan a Short Gap Year

Thinking of having a gap year, but not knowing where to start? This guide will be a starter for you to think about the many aspects of planning that goes into a gap year.

A gap year, no matter the length is the opportunity to see the world in a whole new view. By engrossing yourself in the melting pot of culture throughout the world, you are able to open your eyes to the way millions of others live. You will be able to see rare beauties and soak up everything that travelling has to offer. Taking one entire year out is costly and usually means deferring from University. It is now a more common trend for school leavers to take 'short' gap years. These are between 2-6 months in length, and allow students to work around Uni life.

Planning

The planning stage of a gap year is perhaps the most important part of the trip, as it allows you to make the most of the limited time you have. Planning a short gap year does not mean you will be stuck to itineraries and tour groups. Rather, having a plan in mind which includes your must visit locations. Completing amounts of research to make the most of the time you have is really important. Of course, once you arrive you can change your plans based on your interest.

Remember to plan out your packing as well. Nothing is worse than travelling with a heavy and unnecessary load! Be sure to research helpful packing tips!

Flights

To make the most of your short gap year, it is best to research flights as far in advance as you can. Airlines occasionally offer special last minute discount flights, but BEWARE. These are often unpredictable and are usually the worst route options, possibly having long or multiple stopovers, touchdowns or tight connections. Special discounts are worth looking out for those spontaneous trips away, but not for a pre-planned trip.

Flight schedules are released 11 months prior to departure, as soon as you know when you want to travel, start your research. Websites such as studentflights.com.au and webjet.com.au offer good deals on flights and flight packages across airlines (You can save hundreds of dollars).

Transportation

You need to be smart with your transportation. You could blindly be spending hundreds of wasted dollars on transportation through hiked up taxi prices and day time travelling.

One way to  save money on transportation is by travelling overnight on sleeper trains and buses. This is perfect for short time travellers as it means you will not be wasting precious daylight, but  also saves one night of accommodation expenses as well!

To save further time, it would be in your best interest to select direct buses and trains. Although these can be expensive, they can cut stopping time, which can add up quickly. You need to be able to weigh up costs versus time when booking your transportation.

When travelling across international borders, many believe flying is an extremely overpriced ride  across countries, particularly in Europe. There are excellent networks of budget airlines that operate internally and internationally. Many routes will often be competitively priced and rival the costs of other transport methods, particularly when you factor in the time saved travelling. However, BEWARE of hidden costs such as checked luggage and booking fees.

When using local taxis a traveller should  BEWARE of potential scammers and price hikers who are most commonly found at transport hubs, such as the train and bus stations. You should always research in advance and depending on your destination, be prepared to negotiate a price before departure. Battering down prices is very common is Asian, South American and some European countries.

HANDY TIP*** if you have booked into a hostel prior to arriving, be sure to email or call in advance for advice on traveling to the accommodation. This way you will receive a local opinion on direct transportation.

Never, ever forget your feet! Some of the most memorable gap experiences and memories come from walking to and from a destination. You can save a large amount of travelling money by walking to stations and destinations. Just be sure to arm yourself with a good knowledge of where you are going or a map. If all else fails, never be too scared to ask, the majority of locals are more than happy to help foreigners.

Accommodation

When looking for a place to rest your head at night, it is best to remember that if your budget is not flexible you need to be prepared for a lower standard of accommodation. You may need to share a room with numerous strangers in hostels or sleep in a room with a appears unclean.  It’s time to be open minded!

Before your trip, research and take advantage of hostel booking websites that offer you the cheapest accommodation. You can save time by booking ahead and online is the best way to do it! Popular websites for booking cheap hostel accommodation are bookings.com and hostelbookings.com.

Although it is riskier, a cheap way of keeping costs down is couch surfing. You are able to meet local people and appreciate a cultural exchange as well as a free bed in the shape of a couch or perhaps the floor to sleep on. You should make arrangement in advance, with the potential host, to give them plenty of notice. BEWARE of coach surfing as you may end up in a dangerous situation with a stranger. These can be arranged through the popular site couchsurfing.org.

Budget

The main chunk of expenses for your gap year will be the flights or primary transportation costs to and from your destination. However, for the short gap year you are likely to know your definite departure and return dates, so you can book these early and take advantage of the best possible deals.

The next expense consideration is vaccinations and relevant medication, such as anti-malaria medication. If your budget is already tight you should consider carefully where you plan to visit. The more ‘exotic’ the country,  the more vaccines and medications you’re going to need. Take travelling through east Africa for four weeks as an example. You will require almost all of the expensive vaccinations as well as anti-malaria medication. However, this could be a positive as it could be an investment for future travel.

You also need to factor in the cost of travel insurance. It is a lot cheaper for those embarking on a short gap year compared to an entire year. It is important to make sure you do have travel insurance, because without it, you could end up paying a large amount of money to get treated at poor facilities and overcrowded hospitals. If you want to do any extreme sports or dangerous activities you may need to pay a supplement, so remember to be familiar with your policy.

The bonus of a short gap year is that you can plan visits to many destinations in advance and research the prices online, this allows you to plan the amount of money you will need to survive throughout duration of the trip. This will stop you from getting scammed and paying more than a fair price.

Don't Forget

The most important thing to remember when planning your gap year is to expect the unexpected. Not everything in this life can be planned and the unexpected makes for the greatest memories.

Safe Journeys.

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