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Gap year volunteers take a selfie in the mountains of Vietnam.

Five Steps To Planning Your Gap Year

Make your planning easier with our five-step guide to organizing your gap year

By Amelia McKinlay | 20th November, 2019

Are you dreaming of taking a year out but are unsure how to plan a gap year? Then keep reading! 

A gap year is the perfect time to take a break from your routine and dive into something completely different. For most, it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone. Travel abroad, learn a new skill, or gain work experience. There are so many productive ways to spend your gap year. 

But sometimes, the list of possibilities can feel overwhelming. So we’ve designed a five-step checklist to help you plan the ultimate gap year.

Step 1 - When should I start planning my gap year?

Projects Abroad volunteers relax on a boat during their free time in Fiji.

Plan your gap year as soon as possible to avoid any last-minute panic. The sooner you start planning, the better your gap year plans will be. Even if your planned start date is a far-off dream, it’s a good idea to do some basic research. 

There’s a range of gap year activities you can look into when planning how you want to spend your gap year. If you’re planning to do multiple activities, you may need to book some of them in advance. This is especially true if you want to travel, volunteer or intern abroad. 

Another factor to consider is whether you want to spend your gap year solo or if you’re looking for company. Traveling with your friends or family might require a little more advanced planning while organizing a gap year alone means you'll have more flexibility. You can even do a little of both.

Step 2 - What is the most productive way to spend my gap year?

Projects Abroad volunteers run down a sand dune as part of their gap year activities in Senegal.

There is no right or wrong way to spend your gap year. You can learn a new language, intern abroad, or travel the world. Your opportunities are endless. Here are our top five things to do in a gap year

Although your gap year will be all about new experiences, it’s also a great time to expand your resume, find your independence and learn something new. You may even find out where your true interests or passion lies. For example, if you have always been interested in animals, you might consider a Conservation Volunteer Project abroad. You can get a feel for the field and decide if it’s really something you want to pursue during a gap year program abroad.

Step 3 - Where should I go on my gap year?

Projects Abroad volunteers learn how to dive during a Conservation Project in Belize.

If you don’t want to stay home during your gap year, you’re not alone! Spreading your wings and exploring the world is big on everyone’s list. However, the exciting decision of where to go can become a little overwhelming. Will it be South America or Africa? Maybe in Asia?

There are so many beautiful places to choose from. To help you, we’ve put together a list of our top 10 countries and why you should have them on your bucket list! You can travel through the country and cross over the border to other amazing locations. Spending time in one or two countries is a great option if you’re looking to improve your language skills. What better way to practice your Spanish or French than with a native speaker?

If you want to visit more than one country, you should consider planning a gap year around the world. This can sometimes require a great deal of organization which is why we offer an all-inclusive Global Gap Year Program abroad. The program takes you to five countries around the world. The bonus? We plan everything for you!

Step 4 - How much money will I need?

Projects Abroad volunteers learning a traditional dance to welcome them to the Samburu village during their gap year in Kenya.

A budget is your best friend when it comes to planning your gap year abroad. Factor how much you’re willing to spend into your planning. You want to make sure you get the most out of your experience without running low on funds halfway through. Remember to factor in expenses like:

  • Transport
  • Food
  • Accommodation
  • Visa/s
  • Travel insurance
  • Spending money

A budget will help you narrow down what is feasible in the time you have and ensure you prioritize your top destinations and activities. You should also take a deeper look into the programs you’re wanting to join as many of them are inclusive of some of the above expenses. This will benefit your budget positively (and make planning easier for you!).


If you’re considering a volunteer project or internship abroad, you can also fundraise for your trip. You’ll quickly see how willing friends, family and external companies are to support a great cause. To give you an idea of where to start, we’ve put together a detailed fundraising guide for you to go through.

Step 5 - How do I start booking my gap year?

Gap year volunteer visits a market with other international volunteers in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The final step in planning a gap year is actually booking your trip or experience! Now’s the time finalize any loose ends.

Before you book, you should feel confident in what you want to do, where you want to go and how much it’ll cost. If you followed step 1-4, it’ll be easy to organize with travel or volunteer organizations, as well as companies you’ve decided to intern or work with.

Once you’ve booked, all you need to do is pack your bags and feel the excitement build for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s time you discovered what you’re capable of.

Have you followed our checklist but still feel overwhelmed at the thought of planning a gap year? Check out our gap year opportunities or get in touch with our Project Experts! They’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about our gap year programs.

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Want to know more about your gap year options?

Get in touch with our Projects Experts. They'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

(+1) 917 810 4744