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Planning a gap year

Thursday 19 June 2008 Trends

If you are thinking about taking a gap year then there should be one important question on your mind – where will the money come from? Phil Murray, Director of gapadvice.org, offers his advice on the costs and possible sources of funding involved.

The price of experience

It is estimated that the average cost of a gap year for young people between the ages of 18-25 years is £3,000-£4,000.

This cost doesn’t necessarily cover a year and could be for a shorter period of four months. It also doesn’t take into account money which could be raised by working during a gap year.  

Break this down into around £1,500 for the charge by a gap year organiser, £1,000 for a round the world ticket and about £1,000 for visas, insurance, equipment and spending money and this sum of money sounds about right. 

Before you go

Looking to find several thousand pounds for your gap year can seem daunting. But many people cover their costs, without relying on money from friends and family.

Work out your gap year budget to cover flights, insurance, etc. It is surprisingly how many hidden extras there are. Have a look at the Gap Cost Calculator which includes 16 costs, some of which you may not have thought of.

Ways to raise funds

Next consider these different ways to raise funds:

  • Work both before you go and during your gap year;
  • Start budgeting, making savings where possible;
  • Open a gap account, earning interest;
  • Produce a professional-looking flyer, showing what you hope to achieve and use it to request support;
  • Get publicity in your local paper, on the web, at work/school;
  • Fundraise through sponsored events and activities;
  • Apply for a grant - see The Directory of Grant Making Trusts (you can get a copy in most libraries) or local charities e.g. Rotary Clubs, Lions, Round Table.

Investigate the market

The next step to manage your costs is to look closely at the different gap year options available. There are lots of gap year companies out there with lots of products and varying prices so make comparisons as their charges will vary considerably. 

Don’t just choose the cheapest company - value for money is most important and quality, support, service, attitude, safety etc matter a lot.   

Ask potential gap year providers questions such as: 

  • Why are people from the UK needed on a programme?
  • Where does my money go?
  • Who has checked out the placement?
  • What is expected of me?
  • What sort of preparation will I be given?
  • Can I talk with returned ‘gappers’?
  • Who do I turn to if there is a problem?

While you are there

Once you have raised the money you will need for your gap year, you need make arrangements to access and manage your money while you are away.

Firstly, make sure you have access to at least two sources of money i.e. travellers cheques and hole-in-wall debit card. 

With online banking you can access your bank account by internet from anywhere in the world. Speak to your bank before you go to set up an online account and get their advice on accessing your money in the country you will visit. 

Secondly, don’t underestimate the extra costs which will arise – make sure you have sufficient funds to experience that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In case of emergency make sure that someone in the UK can get funds to you quickly. 

And remember, trying to save money by not taking out adequate insurance is not sensible – it’s not worth the risk!

Finally

Without breaking the bank, your gap year should something very special. Take every opportunity to broaden your experience and if you can, do it. But don’t flash your money around – local people and fellow ‘gappers’ will not be impressed.

Try to spend money which contributes to the local economy and when you return to the UK, think about how you could help those you met during your travels.