21 Gap Year Essentials

If you’ve ever considered taking a gap year, or if yours is creeping up over the horizon any time now, it’s exciting to think that in no time at all, life as you know it could be turned upside down – in the most exciting and memorable way possible.

But, as you prepare to leave ‘ordinary’ behind to embark on one of life’s most amazing adventures, there’s just time to make sure you have the essentials you need to make your gap trip everything you ever hoped it would be.

Let’s face it, the list could go on forever depending on where you’re going, what you’re doing and how long you’re staying, so this list of essentials is exactly that – essentials. Go through it, tick off the things that are relevant to you, and sit back and enjoy the ride that’s coming your way.

21 things you shouldn’t forget on your gap year


Well, you wouldn’t get very far without it, would you?! Keep it safe – even if you lose everything else. There’s no bigger pain in the backside than losing your passport when travelling.


Buy your clothes from Primark (they’ll only get ruined), eat super noodles and street food the whole way round and take cramped night busses to save precious funds but there’s one thing you absolutely should not skimp on and that’s insurance.


Gappers are some of the world’s best budgeters. Grab an ISIC Cashcard before you leave the UK and you’ll be able to use it to withdraw money at a great exchange rate all over the world, as well as save money on entrance fees, hostel nights and transport as you travel.

Volunteering Trip

Take some time out and help the local communities that have made you so welcome on your trip and volunteer. I promise it will add a totally different layer to your experience.

You don’t need to give up on partying and you don’t need to spend your whole time working. Just one week in the beginning, middle or end of your trip as you travel through Asia, Africa, Australasia or Latin America, will really make a difference.

Plus, spending a week with cute local kids and amazing wildlife like pandas, elephants and lions will be pretty fun for you too right?!

First Night

Having your first night booked in a new destination is an essential. Getting off a plane or long bus ride and having to trawl the streets looking for a cheap bed will not be fun.


‘Who would be stupid enough to go on an amazing trip and forget their camera’ I hear you cry? Yes, yes, I spent 2 weeks in China volunteering with Pandas high in the jungles of Chengdu and my camera spend 2 weeks at home on my bedside table crying its little electronic heart out. Don’t forget it – you’ll hate yourself a little bit.

Flip Flops

In the UK, we spend the whole year waiting for an inkling of sun so we can bust out the flip-flops. When we’re travelling, we live in them – come rain or shine.


For the long plane journey. To block out the sound of the old local guy snoring next to you on the night bus. To get the party started in your hostel dorm room. To drown out the sound of the people in the next dorm room drunkenly, and loudly, getting it on. To ease the boredom of an 8-hour flight delay. Your iPod will be like a gift from the big man himself.

Get your jabs

There’s nothing worse than being sick while you’re travelling, and let’s be honest, the thought of spending time in a foreign hospital – in fact any hospital – isn’t exactly desirable.

Book an appointment and talk to a travel health professional about what the recommended jabs are for the places you are visiting, we have 4 STA Travel Clinics in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Liverpool.

Toilet Roll

Always have even just a few sheets of toilet roll in your bag. You never know when you’re going to need it. That’s all I’m saying.


If there was a traveller uniform, sunnies would be on it – along with flip-flops.


For the foreseeable future, your backpack is home to all your worldly belongings. Take a lock and key to make sure they remain your worldly belongings.


Gap years spawn many a love story, some end happily ever after; some just have a happy ending. Either way, include a few condoms in your luggage so you’re not caught short.


You won’t get very far without your trusty backpack. Before you go head to a professional retailer like Nomad Travel and get the assistant to help you choose the right one for you by testing a few different types and measuring you up. It will make all the difference when you’re carrying your worldly belongings around for the next few months.

Phone Cards

A Global SIM will let you make calls internationally at the cheapest rates. So while you may not be too fussed about the gossip back home while you’re living it up, it’s the perfect way to call and make your friends and family jealous about all the fun you’re having!


It’s a traveller’s own responsibility to check any visa requirements for the country they are visiting before they leave. We can help you arrange certain visas but it’s important that you do your research and are fully aware of what you need based on your stay.

It’s absolutely worth getting a working holiday visa if you are going to be travelling to Australia, New Zealand, or Canada – you can earn money to help you live better, party harder and travel longer.

Work and Play Packs

The perfect partner to your working holiday visa. Embarking on a new life abroad is definitely fun and exciting but it can also be a little bit stressful if you let yourself get overwhelmed.

A work and travel package does exactly what it says; we help with the work of helping set up bank accounts, job interviews, tax file numbers etc, while you play; as your first few night accommodation and activities are all taken care of. It will also help you make friends in your first few days if you’re doing a working holiday in Australia or New Zealand.

Microfibre towel

Super small and quick to try, a microfibre towel is a must in my book. Leave the big, bulky towel behind it takes up too much room – this is all you’ll need.

Gaffer tape

Perfect for repairing broken backpacks, plugging any holes, securing tents, mozzie nets, washing lines and pretty much anything else.


Filling out immigration cards, sodukuing your ass off on a long train journey, taking down the number of the new love of your life after the beach party. It will come in handy almost every day.

Wet wipes

A shower in a packet; granted not exactly a thorough one, but it’s amazing how much more fresh you can feel after a quick wet wipe wash. Keep them in your hand luggage on a flight in case of delays.

Is there anything you’d add to our list? Give your advice in the comments box below. Check out our huge amount of gap year inspiration on the Gap Year pages of our website.