6 Gap Year Travel Ideas & Advice

Looking for inspiration for your gap year? From au pairing in Paris to teaching in Thailand, here are six of our top gap year travel ideas and some tips.
Amabel Polglase
June 22, 2023
min read

Taking a gap year is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with hundreds of different ways to spend your time and countless gap year travel ideas to make this one of the most exciting times of your life.

Your gap year goals might include saving money for university, adding to your CV, and having once-in-a-lifetime experiences worldwide.

Whatever the case, travel plays a vital role in most people’s gap year plans. With this in mind, we’ve compiled some of the most exciting gap year travel ideas and the best gap year travel advice to make the most of your gap year.

Are you looking for inspiration? Here are our six top gap year travel ideas and the gap year travel advice you need to set these ideas into motion.

6 of the Top Gap Year Travel Ideas

There are countless ways to spend your gap year, with travelling, working, and volunteering opportunities available for those taking a year out.

Here are the six top gap year travel ideas.

1. Au pair in Paris

Living in the most romantic city in the world is a dream for many, but it can be tough to afford.

Working as an au pair is one of the top gap year travel ideas for young people who want to experience Paris up close and affordably.

Being an au pair allows you to live like a local in your host’s home, with free accommodation and food. What’s more, it allows you to experience French culture authentically while earning a small salary.

An au pair’s main job is to take care of the children of a family. Often, part of the motivation for families to hire someone from the UK is so that their children can learn English, so you usually won’t be expected to speak French. Sometimes, the job may involve cleaning, housework, and other errands.

There’s plenty of demand for au pairs worldwide, so if Paris doesn’t strike your fancy, check out au pairing opportunities in countries you would like to visit in your gap year.

2. Work at a ski lodge in Austria

If you’ve got a penchant for the slopes, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced skier, spending a season working at a ski resort is a great way to enjoy your gap year and make a little extra money.

Many ski resorts offer workers free accommodation, food, and ski pass, so on top of a salary, you essentially bag an all-expenses paid holiday, too.

Working at a ski lodge is one of the top gap year travel ideas for young people because there are lots of potential job roles, including:

·   Ski instructor

·   Ski rep

·   Chalet staff

·   Bartender

·   Waiter/waitress

·   Kitchen porters

·   Lift operator

·   Rental shop staff

Then, when you’re not working, you can enjoy the slopes and other aspects of the ski lodge – including the very active social scene.

If Austria isn’t your cup of tea, there are numerous ski lodges across the world, including in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Canada.

3. TEFL in Thailand

If you want to get some teaching experience for your future teaching career, or simply want a well-paying job that makes it easy to travel, then teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in Thailand might be one of the top gap year travel ideas.

As well as a decent salary, the cost of living is low in Thailand (like most other countries in this part of the world), allowing you to save money while still having enough to travel to Asia regularly.

You’ll need to complete a course to earn TEFL certification for many TEFL abroad opportunities. This certification takes around 120 hours to complete. However, TEFL is necessary for all teaching opportunities abroad.

Many foreign teaching opportunities exist across Africa, South-East Asia, and countries like Korea, Japan, and Dubai.

4. Working holiday in Australia

There are countless gap year opportunities in Australia, from fruit picking on farms to working in factories and construction sites, holding temporary receptionist positions, or working in hospitality.

Australia offers some of the highest wages in the world, so it’s a great place to visit if saving money is a priority. You also get free accommodation and meals with some of these jobs – like working on farms.

However, the cost of living is also higher, so be careful not to go overboard when you’re not working – of which there will probably be plenty. In Australia, there’s a working holiday culture of only working for a couple of months before you take time off to travel.

While Australia is a great option, there are many working holiday opportunities worldwide you can utilise for your gap year travels ideas. So, research the countries you’re most interested in visiting to check out the holiday options.

5. Conservation work in Costa Rica

If you want to spend your gap year making an impact, embarking on a conservation project in Costa Rica might be the right plan for you, whether you fancy working with sea turtles, sloths, or jaguars.

Sadly, you’re unlikely to be paid to do conservation work. In fact, you usually have to pay to go on lots of these programs – and they aren’t cheap. However, food and accommodation typically come included in the price.

Doing conservation work in an exotic environment is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which could be invaluable to you if you have your heart set on a career in marine biology, ecology, or conservation.

Many other conservation projects exist across South America, Africa, and Asia. Remember that the location you pick will impact the type of conservation work you’ll do since the wildlife and conservation priorities will be unique to the country.

6. Work at a camp in North America

Working at a summer camp in the U.S. or Canada is an excellent option if you want to work with kids and experience a summer of fun in your gap year. It also looks great on your CV.

If you see yourself becoming a teacher or working with kids in the future, then working at a summer camp is a worthwhile experience and gives you something to talk about at interviews. What’s more, you’ll get to meet other volunteers from all over the world and have many fun experiences.

If North America isn’t where you see yourself, then similar summer camp jobs are available in Europe, Asia, and Australia, too.

Gap Year Travel Advice

You need to be intentional to make the most out of your gap year. When starting to plan your gap year and deciding between gap year travel ideas, there are several things you should do to make the most of this opportunity.  

Here are the four best pieces of gap year travel advice.

1. Figure out what you want to get from it.

A gap year shouldn’t be a year of kicking back and relaxing. You need to set your intentions for the year to make the most of this special time in your life – one that you might not experience again.

Do you want to build skills that will improve your CV? Do you want to see more of the world and discover more of yourself? Do you need to save money for the next stage of your life? Do you want to volunteer? Or have you always dreamed of learning a foreign language?

Whatever the case, ensure you know what you want to accomplish in the year to make the most of your gap year.

2. Research the local culture

If you decide to spend your time abroad, it’s a good idea to research the local culture of the countries you visit.

Different countries have different laws and social rules that are worth knowing, and it’s a good piece of gap year travel advice to look them up before you travel. For example, if dressing modestly is a must in your chosen destination, you must know this before packing.

More than being a necessity, researching the culture and history of the place you’re visiting will give you a greater appreciation for the country when you’re there. This knowledge will also help you connect with the locals and improve your travelling experience.

3. Get good travel insurance

Every wise traveller says that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Buying travel insurance is essential before travelling to any foreign country.

Not only does travel insurance have you covered if your luggage gets lost or flights are cancelled, but getting ill or into an accident abroad without travel insurance is a surefire way to get a terrifying medical bill. This can become a decades-long debt depending on which country you’re in and how much care you need.

Make sure to read the wording of your policy carefully to ensure it covers everything you plan to do (e.g., lots of policies don’t automatically include extreme sports accidents in their policies unless you pay extra).

4. Work out how much money you’ll need

Most people taking a gap year have significant travel plans. It’s essential for gap year travel advice to save and budget in advance, so you can afford to go and live out your top gap year travel ideas.

Even if you plan to work while travelling, you should have the bare minimum to cover your flights and a comfortable amount to travel with: for emergencies and for accommodation when you first reach your destination. Make sure you factor in that the cost of living may differ in the countries you visit (another reason why researching the country before you go is a good idea).

To work out the amount you’ll need, consider the following:

·   Flight costs

·   Accommodation for the duration of your trip

·   Food and drink

·   Activities and excursions

·   An emergency fund

Of course, you can subtract many of these things from your salary if you decide to work while abroad, giving you a better idea of how much to save to fund a gap year.

5. Keep your money and belongings safe

Sadly, losing your possessions abroad – and even having them stolen – is something that happens all too often to travellers.

Thankfully, you can do a few things to minimise the chance of this happening.

·   Invest in a lock – if you stay in hostels or other non-private accommodation, an essential piece of gap year travel advice is to invest in a lock that will allow you to store your valuables in the lockers available. You could even get a lock for your suitcase to deter thieves. 

·   Never leave valuables lying around – things like your phone, passport, cash, and other valuables should either be in a bag with you or locked away somewhere safe.

·   Avoid carrying lots of cash – although cash is the default way we pay for things abroad, taking a prepaid travel card is convenient and inexpensive, and you’re less likely to lose it or have it stolen. If you do, you can freeze the card from your phone to stop your money being used. Though you should always have some cash, having a mixture of payment methods to hand is the best way to spend abroad.


Save Money with the HyperJar Travel Card

Gap years can offer some of the most rewarding experiences of your life – but they can be expensive, especially since young people typically don’t earn as much or have as much saved.

This makes saving and budgeting for your gap year essential. With HyperJar, you can use the app’s jar feature to budget and save for each trip component, from flights to accommodation and activities.

What’s more, one of the best ways to spend abroad is with a HyperJar prepaid travel card since you don’t have to pay any foreign fees (unlike using a regular debit card), and it’s safer and more convenient than carrying cash.

Amabel Polglase

Chief Marketing Officer

Amabel has diverse experience in business, marketing and entrepreneurship, including founding her own successful startup. She served in several senior leadership roles prior to joining HyperJar including Zilch and Curve Card where she led brand, marketing and communications. Before joining the fintech revolution, Amabel was a managing global client partner at Facebook and prior to that at McCann-Erickson, the world’s largest ad network. She volunteers at Girls Out Loud, a charity created to empower and inspire teenage girls, and is also a mentor at The Girls’ Network. She received her MA in history and international relations from the University of St Andrews.

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