How to plan a gap year

The Gap Year gospel according to STA Travel, hold onto your backpack, it’s about to get biblical.

Where to go

Staring at a map of fun and faraway places and deciding where on Earth to go can often raise your FOMO levels to a flatline critical.

Step away from the defibrillator! Because believe it or not, this should actually be the exciting part.

And remember, travelling isn’t a onetime thing. There’s this place in the future called ‘annual leave’, where your employer continues to pay you while you swan off on exotic holidays. Or how about these three magical destinations: ‘sabbatical’, ‘voluntary redundancy’ and ‘early retirement’? Otherwise known as, second adult Gap Year.
In the meantime, the below should help.

Trust your instincts

I’ve always wanted to visit Japan! Why? Er dunno, blossom? GO WITH THESE GUT FEELINGS! IT’S YOUR PRIMAL NOMADIC INSTINCT DRAWING YOU TOWARDS ANCIENT TEMPLES, SNOWY MOUNTAINS AND COMMUNAL NAKED BATHING. (Japanese Onsen baths, not intimidating at all).

Or, you could just be hungry, in which case go for sushi and get back to the map-drawing board.

Do some research

We’re not advocating spreadsheets here, you can still be fun at parties, but spend some time playing on our online destination pages, Lonely Planet or Rough Guides. Here you’ll discover the highlights of a country, when to travel, and the cost of eating and drinking.

Get inspired, and stalkerish

For this, you’ll need to locate your nearest STA Travel store, do a grab and run of all our brochures, and then snatch the number of the friendliest looking Travel Expert on the way out. (This is for the next stage, not for dating). Then spend the evening sticking your face onto the bodies of other travellers.

Imagining what you’ll look like on your worldwide Instagramarathon is a critical part of Gap Year planning.

For example, looks like a goddam cowgirl in the USA! But terrible in Scotland. Way too much tartan.

Talk to an expert

Yes, experts in wandering, loafing and foreign beer accountancy do exist. We are those experts.

Our Travel Experts are masters of escape. Worldly-wise and well-travelled, they’ll help you figure out your route, create a unique Round the World ticket for you, advise on what to do and see, and for the cost of a takeaway latt√© at a Saturday morning appointment; consider that date thing we talked about.

When to go

Your non-negotiables

Start by marking your ‘must-sees’ on a calendar, and then ordering your route around them. For example, New Year in Sydney, Rio Carnival or Full Moon parties.

Also think about what you’ll need to secure in advance. For example, access to the Inca Trail is heavily regulated, with only 500 people permitted on the trail a day. It’s also closed in February. At the time of writing in June, the earliest we could do our fictional Inca Trail trek was the 1st November. The other trails (equally as good, and less crowded) are still open, but still… you’ve got your heart set on a selfie at the Sun Gate with these fellas.

Moral of the story, wack a deposit on any tours or packages ASAP to lock in the dates.

The weather

As Brits, we assume that everywhere outside the UK is going to have amazing weather. This is a lie, perpetuated by foreign tourist boards. If you’re travelling around the world, you’re never going to hit perfect weather in every place. However, you just need to make sure that you get the big ones right.

For instance, been dreaming of an Indian summer in Kerala? Avoid June-September. That big black cloud and rickshaw floating down the street is called a monsoon. Always wanted to go trekking in Patagonia? Many of the hiking routes are impassible in winter – it’s way too Chile (sorry, not sorry).

Don’t let the weather fully dictate your trip, but try to plan logically around the seasons. Like this happy dude in Torres del Paine…

Practical things


Factor in where and for how long you want to work, learn or volunteer at the start of your trip planning. Many of our BlueTickets for students and under 31s are valid for over 12 months, which means you can travel before and after your working holiday in Australia, New Zealand or Canada.

And remember, your visas needs to be granted before you arrive into that country. And for Canada, there are only a limited number released each year. Put a call into BUNAC, our sister company, to find out more.


When planning how long to spend in each place, remember to check visa requirements. For example, you currently can’t spend more than 90 days in the USA; or 30 days on one entry in Thailand.

When to book

Airlines release their seats 10-11 months in advance, with the cheapest tickets selling out first, so book as early as you can. Slap a ¬£49 deposit on your tickets, and then ‘future and more organised you’ can pay the balance 10 weeks before you fly.

Have we got you itching to get your gap year started? Well we’ve got all of the information you need to plan your gap year! Happy researching!