Whether you are volunteering on biodiversity projects in the Amazon, working your way through Europe or going on a spiritual retreat in Asia, there is no denying that a gap year can be a fulfilling, enlightening and energising experience. This article provides you with some much needed perspective on life just when you need it most: after you have finished the rigours of school life and before you take the plunge into university. Use this checklist to find out about these essentials that you need to take into account before travelling.

  1. Copies of important documents and a means of Contact with home
    It is vital to check in with friends and family back home whilst you are out travelling on your gap year. Not only does it let them know that you are safe as you explore the far corners of the globe, it also helps you to stay connected with them and what is going on in their lives. Research ways to stay connected at every stage of your journey: that might mean finding internet cafes along the way, researching the strength of internet signals in some of the far flung places you are visiting, purchasing sim cards for the countries you will be travelling to and purchasing the best data roaming package for the relevant region of the world.
  2. Travel insurance
    This type of insurance cover will help you to meet the costs associated with issues such as flight cancellations, hotel bookings gone awry and lost luggage. Some insurance plans will offer both travel insurance and medical insurance, but it’s important to find the package that’s right for you. Getting comprehensive insurance cover for the entire duration of your trip is crucial. Travel insurance will pay for any medical expenses, stolen goods etc that you may incur whilst abroad. So, if (heaven forbid) you break your ankle whilst out trekking or come down with an illness whilst abroad, you will not have to pay any fees to local hospitals or medical services: your insurance will cover it. If you do not have medical insurance, you can end up being landed with a bill of thousands of pounds to cover medical care. However not everyone is treated equally when it comes to travel insurance. If you happen to have any sort of medical condition then you must take out special medical travel insurance. Unfortunately this will be more expensive than ordinary travel insurance, but when it comes to making a claim, it could be the difference between your claim getting rejected or not which could be crucial if your medical bills are topping the thousands. If your only going on one trip then get single trip medical travel insurance which takes into account pre-existing medical conditions. If you are engaging in risky activities such as white water rafting or winter sports, for instance, you may need a more high-powered insurance package than if you are just going to be doing cafe work in Spain. 
  3. Vaccines: 
    Before you travel to a particular country, especially developing countries, you must arrange a doctor’s appointment. During this appointment let them know the countries you wish to travel to and they will give you professional advice regarding vaccines. For some countries these vaccines will be mandatory, for others advised. A lot of the time these vaccines are free depending where you live and the level of healthcare you own.
  4. Equipment: 
    The last thing you will need to think about is equipment. Top tip! Remember that most popular tourist travel destinations thrive on the tourist industry and therefore a lot of the equipment you will need, you will be able to get out there, for most likely a reasonable price, especially in developing countries. Another tip, do not pack your bag to the brim, as whilst out there you are likely to want to pick up souvenirs, clothes etc on the way, so make sure you leave some space for these.

Now you’re ready to get yourself sorted

There are lots of other factors to take into account when travelling for your gap year. Do you need any specific vaccinations, for instance? Do you have enough money to cover the cost of your trip as well as some for backup? And do you speak the local language, or is it time to take classes?