With average costs of £3,500 - and parents only chipping in an average of £763 - gap years can be an expensive.
However, it doesn’t need to be that way. With some research and lateral thinking, you can really bring the cost down - or even make money in your year out. We’ve put together a few tips to get you inspired - and if you want more food for thought then take a look at our guide to the most popular destinations for British students.
If you are determined to travel abroad, then being on a strict budget doesn’t need to stop you. However, you will get the most bang for your buck if you spend a decent amount of time in the research phase. Work out the realistic living and travel costs, including accommodation and flights, and get advice from friends who have been travelling. A healthy emergency fund should also be a financial priority.
South America and South-East Asia are both popular gap year destinations that (once you have paid your airfare) can offer incredible value for money. Nearer home, Eastern Europe has a much lower cost of living than the UK and many gap year students on a more limited budget have enjoyed exploring Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and more. If even this is looking a bit too expensive then you can always...
This might seem like a rather boring option, especially if you have friends jetting off to exotic locales - but we’re certainly not suggesting that you spend your valuable year sitting in your childhood bedroom and playing video games. The UK is a big country, with a huge number of opportunities that will look great on your CV. There is so much available, from the EDT’s year out internship placement programme for students interested in science or engineering, to working as a live-in school assistant at a boarding school. Which brings us onto...
While volunteer projects and programmes in developing countries can cost thousands of pounds to take part in, staying in the UK can bring that bill down to zero - and you might even get food and board out of it. If you want to support people and communities, take a look at organisations like Volunteering Matters, the Shaw Trust and Barnardo's.
If you are determined to leave Britain’s shores, then there are ways of minimising some of your biggest expenses - namely food, drink and accommodation. If you are heading off on a well-trodden backpacking route, then there may well be opportunities to work in backpacking hostels, either working for free for a few hours a day in exchange for your room, or actually full-time in exchange for cold hard cash as well as a roof over your head.
This might seem obvious, but when you are travelling through expensive countries and cities, avoid the tourist areas, keep away from the chain restaurants and see where the locals eat, shop and drink. You can save huge amounts of money by getting acquainted with the local food markets rather than just heading straight for the chain supermarkets.
It’s a false economy to penny-pinch for a year, but then spend money you don’t need to changing your money or travelling with the wrong credit card. Take a look at our guide to getting the best deal on your travel money and our guide to the best pre-paid travel cards.
Create an account with Transferwise, allowing you to send money securely between accounts and abroad without having to pay the hefty charges levied by UK high street banks. If someone is sending you money from abroad, you can send them a request so the money goes straight to your account. This way, you maximise the amount you receive and it saves you from needing to transfer money back and forth between your own accounts.
If you are travelling abroad and planning on taking specific tours or going on group treks or hikes, then think twice before booking your place from the UK. You can make huge savings by negotiating directly with the tour operators when you are actually there. Be aware that if it is a tour with very limited availability, or it involves a lifelong dream then you might want the security of paying more and booking in advance.
If travelling is too expensive but the thought of staying at home for a year is making you panic, then why not split up your time? There is no reason why you can’t spend four or five months getting your head down and working one or two jobs in order to get enough cash together to escape for the rest of the year.
Finally, if your priorities for your year out are more geared towards getting some money in the bank than crazy adventures, then getting a job for the year is a great option. It will look good on your CV and, depending what you do, you can pick up a host of useful skills.
Take a look at our guide to making the most of your gap year for some ideas.