Pre-Travel/ Gap Year Tips

BackpackerHey Peeps, so basically I decided to write this post in order to help out other idiots like myself who are considering taking their first gap year or just want to travel for long periods of time. I’ve already made some mistakes that I wish I had been aware of before booking my mishap adventure. Here are a few things I wish I had known pre-booking:

Working VISA

If you’re wanting to do a working holiday gap year I’d recommend getting your VISA sorted before you even book your trip. I personally thought the VISA applications would’ve opened a lot earlier than it did and be open for longer due to how the application process was run the previous year. As the applications were opened later and everyone decided they wanted to work in Canada (and clearly see me) the website crashed every time I tried to do the final bits of paperwork meaning I was unable to work whilst travelling.

Costs of Travelling

Deciding where you want to go is the fairly easy bit but working out the total costs of the trip isn’t always as simple. Ok so maybe you’re thinking how hard can it be to look up flights, hostels/ hotels, insurance and add a bit of spending money on top of that but have you considered VISA costs? My BUNAC working VISA has cost me £339.

Vaccination costs? My rabies vaccinations are costing me over a £100.

Backpack? A decent backpack can cost you over £100 (it will need to be decent as you don’t want it to fall apart spilling your stuff everywhere or being so heavy/ uncomfortable that you end up in agony – most people recommend a backpack between 50-70 litres because of this).

Travel appliances and equipment? A netbook, tablet or iPod (something I wish I had taken with me) don’t come cheap which are just a few of the things you may want to take with you. I personally took a netbook with me which has been a god send in finding places to go to, keeping in touch with people and for those times when it’s raining and there’s little to do though the majority of hostels have access to computers if you need them (sometimes at a cost).

Clothing designed for travel is pretty expensive and in the majority of cases is not needed as every hostel & RV Park I’ve stayed at has had washing machines and tumble dryers. If you’re staying in the middle of nowhere however it may be something you’d want to have as walking around in soggy jeans for weeks on end where they take too long to dry isn’t much fun. In terms of the travel clothing

Rohan is an award winning travel clothing specialist with most items being quick drying and hand washable etc. One tip on clothing though, something I didn’t think of at the time of buying clothes is it’s probably better to either take all dark clothing or light clothing with you in order to save having to do two different washes each time in other words it’ll save you money only having one washing kind.

Gap Year Travel Store gives you a breakdown of items you may want to take with you for different destinations around the world, some of which you probably don’t need to take but may be of use to you. Please note there are many alternative travel gear websites, the above are just examples of what you can look for.

Having sorted out your travel gear and vaccinations you would then have a figure in mind you’re willing to spend on your gap year including your accommodation, flights, insurance, visas and spending money. I personally booked the majority of my flights and a few nights accommodation in each city through a company called STA Travel which although was initially cheap turned into a expensive company to book through. I was mislead on a couple of occasions for instance I was given a estimated budget I would need each day on spending money and accommodation which turned out to be far from what was required. As I couldn’t live on the budget I had previously been ‘advised’ of I then had to change my flights which I was originally told would be fairly easy as I had paid for multiflex flights only having to pay for the difference in flight costs which I later found out meant I had to pay £350 + the flight cost differences ruling out any kind of trip to Costa Rica. If I could do the trip again I’d be more inclined to follow the budgets on this great site called Budget Your Trip which gives you rough ideas of the daily budgets you may want for certain countries/ cities around the world with three budget options available (budget, mid-range and luxury). Some of the costs may not apply to what you’re doing but you can use it to work out your rough daily budget and then see how many days your whole budget can cover you for after deducting the flights, accommodation, insurance and VISA costs. As always it’s best to get reviews of the accommodation you’re interested in before booking it as after reading that one hostel had been highly rated by Lonely Planet I booked it for 9 days. I later looked up the hostel’s latest reviews on Trip Advisor only to find the majority of the latest reviews to be negative with one traveller stating it was like living in a jail. An alternative website to book flights through would be Kayak.com which compares a few different flight booking sites. A fair few people I met whilst travelling used Hostel World to find and book the hostels they stayed at so I’m guessing they’re pretty good companies to book through.

Vaccinations

Although I’ve previously mentioned the costs of vaccinations you’ll need to do a bit of research into the vaccinations you may need and speak to your doctor/ nurse about them. Myself being an uber plum decided it would be uber cool to book my first flight six weeks from the booking date without looking into the vaccinations. This however meant I’m an uber idiot as my final vaccination due to delays in their arrival was two days before I left, which was pushing my luck as one bite could’ve meant I was an uber dead guy.

Maps

Try to get maps of the places you’re going to before you get there, it hasn’t been a major problem as most places you can pick up free maps of the area at airports etc. When arriving in Vancouver by coach however all I could get was a touristy map meaning the area on the map in which I arrived did not have all the road names so trying to work out which way I was heading wasn’t too easy (I proceeded in walking around for about an hour after walking the wrong way which then lead to a much longer route to my hostel). This was only the second time I’ve really got myself lost since starting travelling the first time was on a coach not remembering where I sat before and getting worried I was going to sit in someone else’s seat when re-entering the coach from a rest break (people took their bags etc with them so nothing stood out as a position indicator).

I hope this blog post may be of use to some of you even though it’s by no means a complete guide. If you need any additional advice leave a comment and I’ll try to help.

JP

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