14 Tips for Planning Your Gap Year

Elephant sanctuary

Today’s guest post is from surfer, photographer, traveller and Devon native Chris Stevens. Chris ditched the 9-5 life to backpack around the world and when he’s not in the water catching some waves you can find him blogging at BackpackerBanter. Chat with him about his latest adventure on twitter or facebook.

I’ve been on the road for some time now and have quickly realised that the key to an awesome and stress free trip is good pre planning. Whether it’s a couple weeks holiday or a full blown open ended ticket with no time constraints it’s best to stick to a phrase my Dad used a lot – “Proper preparation prevents a pathetically poor performance”.

And during my time working for STA Travel I became more and more tuned into what makes good planning – after all it was my job. So I thought I’d share this list with you, a tick list to help make sure everything runs smoothly during your adventure…

1. Start saving

Organizing the budget for your trip is VERY important. Sit down and work out a realistic saving plan of your income and outgoings – about 1k per month of travel is a good figure to aim for.

2. Plan your time frame

Once you know your budget you can sort out how long you can travel for. Try and make a rough plan for each place you want to visit, and be sure to factor in a little extra time so you can be flexible once you’re out there.

3. Make a destination wishlist

Obviously you can’t travel unless you know where you want to head to, but you’d be surprised by the amount of people who came into my work and simply said “I want to go away!” It’s always a great ideas to make a list of places you’d like to visit, this will give a little more structure to your travels and help you use your time more efficiently. BackpackerBanter map

4. Have a bucket list

It might sound cliche, but creating a bucket list is a fun way to research the places on your wishlist and to help you use your time well once you’ve started travelling. Check out my bucket list for some inspiration.

5. Book flights

It’s always good to shop around and check out a few quotes, and remember that the earlier you book your flights, the cheaper it tends to be.

6. Research accommodation options

Personally I always like to book some accommodation either side of any solid flight plans, and book two nights on landing so you don’t have to leave at 10am with jetlag.

7. Plan your jabs and healthcare

This is often overlooked, and the best advice is to go see your doctor with plenty of time as a lot of jabs need a course over a month or so. Stock up on things like free condoms and booster jabs whilst you’re there too.

8. Get your finances in order

Always make sure you have two cards with you (one as a backup). There are lots of good pre paid travel cards out there. Personally I use the STA one and it’s served me extremely well. It’s also a good idea to get your parents names on your bank accounts – that way if you have any emergency issues on the road, they can deal with your bank on your behalf.

9. Double check your passport

 Make sure you know where it is, that you have enough pages in it and that it doesn’t expire a month into your trip.


10. Look up visa requirements

Make sure to research the visa requirements of the countries you want to visit well in advance. Some nations expect you to purchase a visa beforehand and this can take a few days to process so don’t leave it to the last minute.

11. Stock up on travel guides and maps

It’s always nice to have some material to browse through for inspiration. Sales brochures, Lonely Planet guides…it’s all good. And of course, read blogs – they’re packed with epic information.

12. Get a rucksack


 Get equipped with a good backpack, it’s going to be your home for presumably quite a long time. Personally I have a Berghaus Jalan 60+20 and it’s still going strong!

13. Invest in a good camera

Sort yourself out with a good camera, there’s nothing worse than missing out on those travel memories.

14. Sort out travel insurance

I view insurance as a necessary evil and hopefully it’ll be the biggest waste of money on your trip, because that means you’ll come back in one piece! Just make sure that you’re aware of any excessing and exclusions and that the insurance covers you for all the activities you want to do.

Backpackerbanter adventure

There’s a heap of other things you could add to this list – but for me these have proven to be some of the most important and useful things to get out of the way and consider during any trip planning.

The more you sort the further in advance the more you can enjoy planning your amazing adventures (yes you should enjoy the planning too, it’s part and parcel of the whole experience!) and it’ll give you the best chance to get the most out of your time on the road!

Good luck!

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Thanks to Mike, Harsha KR and Evo Flash for the images from Flickr. Please note, all Flickr images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting. 

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