When many people decide to take a gap year, they can spend months planning it to the finest detail. However, there isn’t always time to make these preparations, especially if you decide to embark on a trip at the last minute. You might really want to set off first thing tomorrow, but if you don’t plan the essentials you won’t get very far at all. We’ve put together a list of five things you absolutely need to consider before saying your goodbyes. Read on to find out what they are.
Decide on your destination and how you will fund your trip
Deciding on where you are going and what you are going to do is the first big question you will have to consider once you’ve decided a gap year is for you. Although you still have a lot of choice, you may find that many of the best opportunities have already been booked, and that some charities require you to undertake a lot of fundraising before you can go abroad.
Furthermore, unless you have been saving, a last-minute gap year can be difficult to fund at the drop of a hat. Gapyear.com suggest that the average cost stands around £5,000, so unless you have this kind of money saved up, you might have to explore other options. Working holidays are one option, with many countries like Canada, New Zealand, and Australia offering a visa that allows you to undertake some work to fund your travels. Teaching English is another popular choice and one that can be rewarding in many ways — check out our article about teaching abroad here.
Be prepared to meet healthcare requirements
Many potential destinations require you to meet certain healthcare requirements before they will let you in, so you need to be prepared to meet them. One of the main things you will need to do is to ensure you have been vaccinated against any diseases that are present in the region — you may need to get a certificate to prove you’ve had your shot.
Remember that you can’t usually arrange to have vaccinations overnight. Furthermore, many require a number of weeks and months of regular boosters before they are considered effective. Use the NHS’s Fit for Travel website to see what the requirements are for your country of choice, then be ready to postpone any provisional departure dates to accommodate what could be a life-saving process.
Check your travel documents
Nothing will put your travel plans on hold quicker than an out-of-date passport, so it’s always worth checking that yours will be valid for the full amount of time you will be travelling. You may also have to comply with the entry requirements of your destination country, with many requiring visas for entry and long-term stay. The process of acquiring one can be drawn out (depending on the nation), and there is no way of speeding it up, so it is something you will just have to work into your plans. There is usually a fee and you may even have to visit an embassy or consulate for an interview in some cases. The government’s travel advice pages will give you the country-by-country entry information you need.
Choose how you will take your travel money
We’ve already discussed initially financing your trip, but you will also have to plan for how you will take funds for day-to-day living and other travelling costs that can’t be paid in advance. Avoid credit cards if you can, as you can rack up a lot of debt with interest. You shouldn’t carry your entire budget around in cash either, just in case you are the victim of robbery.
The safest choice is to opt for a pre-paid card, which you can load with money beforehand and top-up when necessary. They act like a debit card and allow you to pay in shops and withdraw cash from an ATM, but they don’t allow you to overspend what you don’t have. MoneySavingExpert.com have a round-up of the best cards here, as well as more information about using them.
It’s also worth remembering that you will need some cash for when you first arrive at your destination, as there will be costs that you can’t pay with your card straight away — public transport and small cafes and bars are two examples. You can pick up last-minute currency at a foreign exchange specialist like H&T Pawnbrokers, where you can order online and pick-up instore as quickly as 24 hours later.
Get good travel insurance
There is a good chance that your gap year will be full of new, exciting, and sometimes daring escapades, so getting some good travel insurance should be at the top of your agenda. Hospital treatment or repatriation can be astronomically expensive if you are paying for it out of your own pocket, so your policy will play an invaluable role if the worst happens.
There are quite a few insurance providers who have deals that are specially designed for people going on a gap year, so it’s well worth taking the time to browse for the best one that covers everything that you want to do. A great starting point is this top ten from Money.co.uk, which allows you to compare the best policies and get an idea of what you’re looking for.
Take these five considerations on board if you decide to take a last-minute gap year and you will much more prepared for what is in store on your adventure.