How to take a grown-up gap year
Taking a gap year to travel the world is typically considered the preserve of school-leavers on a tight budget but the trend is far from limited to the young.
Older travellers are increasingly seeking adventures in foreign climes, using rental income or savings built up over decades to fund their trip.
If you are among them, perhaps you want a break from work before retirement, or have found yourself with an empty nest with time to travel that you didn't have before.
Meanwhile, the new pension freedoms enabling retirees to use their fund as they wish are expected to see the number rise over coming years.
So what are the important considerations for older travellers? An extended trip may require greater planning in your 50s and 60s, with more complicated financial arrangements to sort out. These range from property to banking abroad and storage costs. Here, we look at some of the most common issues.
Rent out your home
You may choose to rent out your home to fund a trip away. However, if you've never done so before, do your research. Using a managing agent to collect rent and sort out repairs will eat into rental income. They charge between 9% and 13% of rental income, so factor this in before signing up for their services.
If you're away for a long time, you may find there are periods when the property is empty. This could mean you suddenly find yourself without vital income, so budget to cover void periods.
If you plan to let your home furnished, you'd be wise to invest in landlords' insurance. Policies vary considerably in cost and cover, so check terms and conditions carefully.
You need to tell your mortgage lender that you're letting your property out. It will usually grant consent to let provided the lease is no longer than 12 months.
Rent may be received without tax being deducted at source if you are away for more than six months. However, you must apply before leaving the UK, and before tenants move in.
A non-resident landlord's form (NRL1) is available from HM Revenue & Customs' website at Hmrc.gov.uk. You will still have to declare rental income.
Any health problems or medical conditions may push up the price of your travel insurance policy. But be sure to mention them, as you don't want to find yourself stuck far away from home soil with an invalid policy.
Caroline Lloyd, travel spokesperson at comparison website Gocompare.com, adds: "If you're planning an extended trip, whether it's a sabbatical from work or a delayed gap year, then it's crucial to choose a policy that covers all the destinations you want to visit, the length of time you'll be away for, any excursions or activities that you might take part in, and any pre-existing medical conditions."
She adds that while it you might choose an annual or multi-trip policy, there may be a limit on the number of days any one trip can last for. "This can be as low as 17 days, and up to 279 days, with the average around 52 days, so don't assume a year-long policy will cover you no matter how long your trip is," she says.
However, there are special extended policies that allow trips for up to 18 months. Yet you may find policies are limited if you're in your late 60s, as backpackers' insurance typically has age limits of either 60 or 65. Also check medical cover and baggage allowances carefully to make sure they suit your needs.
A couple aged 55, for example, would pay £167.32 with Go for a backpacker worldwide two-month policy excluding the US, Canada and the Caribbean. This includes medical cover of £2 million and £1,000 of baggage cover with a £125 excess.
In comparison, they'd pay £92 for a similar policy with Cover for You, with a limit on medical expenses of £10 million, and a £250 excess. A 65-year-old couple would pay £114 for the same policy.
Check that your European Health Insurance Card is still valid if you're travelling to Europe, and take this with you.
Also, remember that a trip of more than 30 days can also affect your home insurance. "After this time, cover limits may apply or you may not be covered at all. So always check with your insurer before you book your holiday so you know what your options are," says Lloyd. Some policies are more generous and will cover your home if it's empty for 45, 60 days or more.
A car at home and away
Get a Statutory Off Road Notification for your vehicle to save on road tax and insurance as this adds up over many months.
Beware of arbitrary age barriers if you intend to hire a car abroad for your trip.
Rory Sexton, managing director of Economy Car Hire, says: "Drivers in their 70s may find that some companies won't consider them." This is regardless of whether the driver has masses of experience, a clean record, a full no- claims bonus and good health.
"So it's important to compare car-hire deals with a reputable UK broker, as being turned down by one company doesn't necessarily mean you'll be declined by all," says Sexton.
Car-hire companies are known to impose sneaky extra fees for anything ranging from satnav to excess car insurance. Booking through a broker in the UK provides the protection of UK consumer law if there's a dispute over charges.
If you're shifting cash lump sums abroad from your bank account, you don't want to lose out due to currency swings. Brokers such as Moneycorp and HiFX can fix an exchange rate in advance of your travels. For example, with HiFX you can fix a favourable exchange rate for up to 12 months, to avoid any sudden fluctuations.
You'll usually pay a deposit of around 10% when taking out a currency contract with a broker. You pick a date for the money to be moved, and it's transferred across ready for your trip.
Tell your bank that you are going to be abroad to avoid any problems accessing your money. Sometimes banks suspect fraud if you suddenly make cash withdrawals away, and it could cause huge problems if your card stops working. If you're keeping an eye on online accounts away, make sure to use secure internet connections.
If you're staying in one spot for some time, you might want to open a local account to avoid frequent withdrawal fees. Speak to your bank to see if it has a local branch in the area that it can help you open an account with.
This can be pricey if you've got large items to store for long periods. Even if you're letting your home furnished, you'll want to remove the majority of your stuff so it's wise to have a big clear-out.
If you've a friend or family member with a loft or basement who's willing to let you keep items there, that's often the best solution. Otherwise, companies such as Big Yellow Self Storage provide security and insurance at a price.
Alternatively, a cheaper option could be to make use of the 'sharing economy'. Sites such as Storemates.co.uk and Sharemystorage.com are peer-to-peer websites that connect people with spare storage with others looking to store anything from books to large furniture.
This is more usually a feature of car insurance but it can also crop up in contents, mobile phone and pet insurance policies. An excess is the amount of money you have to pay before the insurance company starts paying out. The excess makes up the first part of a claim, so if your excess is £100 and your claim is for £500, you would pay the first £100 and the insurer the remaining £400. Many online insures let you set your own excess, but the lower the excess, the more expensive the premium will be.