Gap year spending (Part 1 of 2)

After a summer of working and saving hard, the big wide world is calling and waiting to be explored. Each year, tens of thousands of school and university leavers head off on a gap year. But foreign countries and exciting adventures don’t come cheap. Darren Kilner, currency exchange expert at FairFX, says: “The average gap year costs £5,000, so being smart about your destination choice and making the most of your pounds to stretch your spending money as far as possible is vital to securing the trip of a lifetime.” So how can you help your child prepare for their big trip?


Whether your child is paying for their travels themselves or they’ve approached the Bank of Mum and Dad for help, it’s important to set a budget. Where do they want to go and for how long? Will they be working while they travel? Are their plans and budget realistic?

When working out an itinerary, don’t forget to include air fares, internal flights, overland travel, accommodation costs and food. There will be sightseeing trips and excursions, too –1 it all adds up. Few young people can actually afford to travel for a whole year; four to six months is much more realistic.


The majority of gap year travellers will buy a round- the-world (RTW) plane ticket to visit traditional gap year destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Thailand.

But ‘round-the-world’ is quite a confusing term, as most travellers won’t actually circumnavigate the globe.

“When we say RTW flight, we just mean a multi-stop flight or, to put it another way, two or more long-haul flights on the same ticket,” explains Will Jones, editor- in-chief of Journeys, part of the Flight Centre. “Make
sure your route follows a logical direction – if you’re going back and forth, it will cost a lot more. Generally speaking, try to book as far in advance as possible – it’s a myth that flights drop in price the closer the departure date gets.”

For most tickets, you only need to book your first flight from the UK and the others can be booked at a later date. Most RTW flights factor in some sort of overland travel, meaning you might not fly out of the same airport you flew into.

Fares vary depending on which countries you go to. Journeys’ cheapest RTW flight is the ‘North America, Chilled’ route which, for £379, takes you from London to Reykjavik, then to Toronto you make your own way to New York and then fly back to London.


The recent bombing in Bangkok will have sent a chill down the spines of parents of travellers. Unfortunately, no country is risk-free and it’s natural parents will be concerned about their child’s safety while they’re away.
The Foreign Office ( is a good resource to check the exact risks in each country.

As well as assessing the threat of terrorism, it can give you an idea of the level of street crime or attitudes to solo female travellers. Check what other people are saying about certain places – the Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum and Trip Advisor are good places to chat to fellow travellers.

Backpackers should be aware of local customs and etiquette if they want to stay out of trouble. This issue hit the headlines recently when a group of backpackers stripped naked at the summit of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. Locals claimed this angered the gods and caused an earthquake that killed 18 people. One British backpacker spent three nights in jail and was fined 5,000 Malaysian ringgit (£767) – undoubtedly a big dent in her holiday budget.


Part 2 of this article can be found here.