The waiting is over: your A Level results are in. So now you know the score, you can put your energies into planning a memorable gap year. Here are our top tips to help you on your way.
1. Be flexible: while you want to have a clear idea of what is, for you, a must see or must do, don’t over plan. The beauty of travelling on your gap year is the freedom to go with the flow, to see what – or who – takes your fancy along the way, and be open to trying new experiences. Cramming everything into a tight itinerary may end up putting a limit on your fun.
2. The value of volunteering: if you are joining a volunteering project, research the company. Are they ethically responsible? Do they work directly with local partner organisations, benefitting the local community? Can you speak to someone who has previously volunteered? By checking the company complies with British Standard ‘BS8848’ you can feel reassured they are a credible operation.
3. How will you keep in touch? Parents need reassurance. Skype, blogs and social networking sites make it easy. Make sure someone knows your itinerary and has a copy of your essential documents, passport, insurance, visas, etc.
4. Get your first night firmed up: even if you don’t arrange anything else, it’s a good idea to book your first night’s accommodation. Have some local change ready: if you arrive late at night and need to get a taxi you don’t want to be wandering around looking for an ATM.
5. Wallet wisdom: firstly, check with your bank that you will be able to use your cards abroad and if there are any charges. Keep back a second card and some travellers’ cheques as an emergency back up. If you don’t have a return ticket, make sure you have enough money kept aside to get one – although many countries won’t let you in with out one. You won’t just be able to turn up, penniless, at the British Consul, hoping they’ll send you home.
6. Vaccinations and visas: Speak to your GP about what vaccinations or malaria prevention you will need – don’t leave this until the last week as some jabs/courses need to happen weeks in advance. Equally, your visa application may be a longer process than you had first imagined; do your research well ahead of your departure.
7. Are you covered? Before you buy your insurance, read the small print. Are you covered for everything you might be doing? Bungee jumping, white-water rafting? Insurance is not something you want to take risks with: if something serious happens and you’re not sufficiently covered, you will face hugely expensive medical bills.
8. Dream away: Finally, getting ahead on the less exciting practicalities frees you up to concentrate on the fun part of planning: so just what amazing things are you going to see and do…?