17 Top Gap Year Ideas

Embarking on a gap year can be one of the most exciting experiences of your life, however, sometimes the actual planning behind your travels can seem overwhelming and even stressful. If you are struggling for ideas on what to actually do on your year out, this article should highlight a few options that might work for you. I will try to include any links to relevant pages.

  • WWOOF: Work exchange programmes that allow you to travel and earn your board on farms. This is on a worldwide basis and is a great way to see more on a budget. This may be something to consider if you like the outdoors, have little funds or have made a last-minute decision to take a year out travelling. https://wwoof.net/
  • Frontier Leadership Programme: If you can organise a group of between 5 and 10 friends to go with you on a Frontier project, you can get a free placement or even your flights paid for. Minimum ages do apply though. https://frontier.ac.uk/
  • Multiple short-term volunteering: Although this could be a more expensive way to spend your gap year, companies do offer volunteering projects abroad. This is a good way to experience countries you may not feel safe visiting alone, to meet new people or just help give back to a community. I have used both Frontier and Plan My Gap Year and would recommend both of these for anyone considering an organised volunteering trip. Do check reviews though as some companies have worse reputations than others. https://www.planmygapyear.co.uk/
  • WorkAway: WorkAway is another example of a great way to travel on a limited budget as you can earn your board. This allows you to travel worldwide without the cost of accommodation and the site has an endless variety of work types so is definitely worth checking out. https://www.workaway.info/
  • Hostel Work exchanges: If hospitality is your thing, lots of hostels offer work exchanges programmes. This includes YHA etc. This may be a better work exchange if you would prefer to contact the jobs directly as opposed to through a site where you may need to be a membership fee. https://jobs.yha.org.uk/
  • Summer Camps: Working at a summer camp could be a great placement to earn a bit of cash and stay for a slightly longer duration. BUNAC offer placements in the USA from £289, AmeriCamp Canada offer programmes, Adventure China offer an 8-week programme and you can even work in Ukraine with Ukraine Summer Camp. Whilst you may be limited with dates in this case, it would be a great way to fill a summer with a smaller budget. https://www.bunac.org/uk
  • ICS: For UK Citizens, you can access a fully funded government programme on the condition that you fundraise a minimum of £800. The programmes last around 10 weeks and include many countries such as Bangladesh and Kenya. This is an amazing opportunity for anyone struggling to fund a longer placement as flights, accommodation and food are entirely covered by government funding. https://www.volunteerics.org/
  • Aupairing: If you are interested in childcare and nannying type work this could be a good option. Usually you get your accommodation, meals and wifi in addition to weekly ‘pocket money’. This will allow for a full cultural immersion but also a safety net of a family environment if alone in a new country. I recommend Aupairworld for finding such jobs, although Facebook offer group chats where you could also secure a job. With this, you have to bear in mind they are unregulated and so you should be wary that the family is legitimate and take necessary precautions. https://www.aupairworld.com/en
  • Working Holiday: These are popular in Australia and New Zealand and give you up to 12 months travel in the country of choice, allowing you to work abroad to fund your trip as you go. I purchased my visa through the official Australian Government Immigration website which worked out cheaper than purchasing it through a company and saved the risk of being scammed. This is a great way to challenge yourself and push your independence whilst also meeting new people and gaining employment experience.
  • Backpacking South East Asia: This is one of the most iconic gap year ideas, so much so that the ‘Banana Pancake trail’ through South East Asia has become extremely well known. This route includes Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. You can easily book budget accommodation through Hostelworld (allowing you to also select female only dorms) and plan a route with Rome2Rio. Although Airbnb may offer more luxurious accommodation, which may be an option for those with a larger budget. There is plenty to do and see in South East Asia, with the daily cost of living being low in most areas. This makes South East Asia ideal if you are wanting a culture shock out of mainland Europe but have lower savings.https://www.hostelworld.com https://www.rome2rio.com/
  • Interrailing Europe: Do not be deceived in the belief that interrailing Europe is a cheap option, as a general rule of thumb Eastern Europe tends to be slightly cheaper in comparison with the pricier Northern and Western European countries. Saying that, it does offer access to multiple countries and cultures with a single pass. This makes it an ideal trip with friends and for a short-term trip, especially if you are stuck for time. I would still recommend budgeting and a rough route plan before you begin interrailing though, just so you can ensure you aren’t shocked by any differences in daily living costs. Interrailing passes can be purchased cheaply online and these can offer further guidance on routes. Exploring Europe is often seen as a rite of passage before commencing university and it offers an immense amount of cultural attractions and experiences. https://www.interrail.eu/en
  • Volunteer with refugees: HelpRefugees offers volunteering opportunities in Greece, Serbia, Bosnia, France and the UK. Whilst some positions require skilled volunteers, it is well worth getting in touch and exploring the website to see available positions. https://helprefugees.org/
  • Internships: Taking a gap year doesn’t always have to be aside from education, as you could take the year as an opportunity to search for internships to gain experience and relevant skills prior to your university course. Indeed is great for looking at internships within the UK and opportunities abroad, which I would recommend. Additionally, it can be worth contacting companies directly to enquire about opportunities. Gaining any form of work experience and life skills during your gap year is something that will be highly valuable to your future and look great on your resume. https://www.indeed.co.uk/
  • Teach English: There are endless opportunities to access online allowing you to teach English abroad. Frontier offer long term placements in Thailand and China, whilst Indeed further advertises similar posts. TEFL qualifications can sometimes be provided in these positions but if not, courses can be purchased at a discounted price via Groupon or sometimes with the companies themselves. My advice here would be to shop around and check reviews of all companies before finalising your acceptance of a position. Teaching abroad is a great way to earn money and experience the country for a longer period than savings may otherwise allow. It is also amazing if you enjoy working with kids or wish to pursue a career in teaching.
  • Road trip America: This one does require a bit of preplanning as it involves finding either a car or van hire (if self-driving) or a tour. BUNAC do offer tours of America after their Summer Camp Program but these are relatively expensive and so may not suit every budget. If this is the case for you, I would check the itinerary of more expensive tours and adapt the itinerary to suit an independent trip for yourself. America offers so many different experiences and should definitely be a contender in your gap year options – despite the higher budget it may require.
  • Online Course: As previously mentioned, gap years don’t have to mean escaping education entirely. Online courses can be purchased for a huge variety of qualifications – allowing you to add to your resume and skill base whilst on the move. As always, don’t forget to check Groupon for any discounts! Social Media Marketing, a First Aid Qualification… the choice is entirely yours.
  • Skyscanner Roulette: If you have travel savings set aside and you are simply struggling with where to visit, the most valuable thing I’ve been shown is to select destination airport and then click Everywhere. This will leave you with a list of the cheapest destinations to fly to from your selected departure airport. You could use this to plan the cheapest possible multi stop trip, or even just a weekend break. I have even heard of people using it to have day trips in Italy! If you are needing inspiration this is 100% the way to go.

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