Planning Your Gap Year – Costs!

Taking a gap year to travel or volunteer could be the most amazing experience of your life. The opportunity to meet new people, cultures and develop key employability skills to help you in the long run is truly something to add value to your CV and personal experience.

Gap year

photo credit: Will Ellis via photopin cc

However, it is not always plain sailing when it comes to the cost of funding your gap year. You must budget well ahead in time. Consider your options to budget the year. Could it include working for a period of time before you go? Fundraising or identifying grants or loans?

Costs to consider!

Expenses may include:

  • The cost of using gap year providers – no, it’s not free, so please research which organizations are providing the best packages and value for your money. Look out for offers on accommodation, food and drink or internal travel.
  • Flights – research if flights are cheaper at certain times of the year or days. Avoid peak times to reduce costs and make sure you have a return ticket!
  • Living expenses –spending a year anywhere is a long time and it’s useful to know the cost of living to know what you are up against! Check out Numbeo for different countries.
  • Passport renewal – is your passport going to be valid for that period of travel? Check the country embassy or Foreign and Commonwealth Office. To renew passports visit
  • Visas – check you have the correct visa for the country you are visiting and that it is granted before you leave
  • Insurance – don’t leave without it and ensure the policy covers what you require! Is it suitable for any sports or extreme activities and does it cover you for the whole time you are there?
  • Equipment – For instance, if you’re hiking on mountains, you’ll need some serious gear. Have a checklist of any equipment you will need for activities.

Raising the money!

Sometimes working alone will not be enough to support your costs, so get creative!


  • Start close to home – use your skills and interests to do odd jobs for friends and family. Car wash, fixing a computer, personal shopper or teach social media?
  • Get rid of items you no longer need with Magpie
  • Have a sponsored event – check this for inspiration on A-Z ideas of fundraising
  • If you’re doing a sponsored event, then contact your local press to gain some coverage and spread awareness of your event. You never know what sponsorships might come out of it.

Can I get a travel grant?

  • The Directory of Grant Making Trusts (located in DMU Library and public libraries) explores grants from funding bodies, charities and grant making trusts.  Write a letter to the trusts.

As to what to include in the letter, I would say:
1) the organisation you are going with
2) what you will be doing
3) who it will be helping and how

  • Check all deadline dates for these grants to make sure you don’t miss out.

Should I go for a loan?

Taking out a loan is a serious commitment, whether this is from the bank or from friends and family. Consider the following points before you do.

  • Review your finances and work out exactly what you will need. Don’t borrow more than you need to!
  • Set yourself a deadline of when you will be able to pay this back by. 
  • Think about how much you will be able to pay back in repayments- be realistic on what you can afford. Consider what will be good for you – weekly or monthly?
  • Have a confirmed agreement with the person you are taking a loan from. Both parties need to be happy with the arrangement.
  • If you are going to return to your degree after your travels, then think really carefully about your financial commitments, as you will be more likely returning to student debts!

Your options on loans

  • Career Development Loan – this is a bank loan to pay for training that will help with your career or help get you into work. You may be able to borrow between £300 and £10,000. Loans are usually offered at a reduced interest rate and the government pays interest while you’re studying.
  • Bank Loans – keep your eye out for bank loans aimed at students which have lower interest rates and a longer term repayment plan
  • Family and friends – check if you will need to repay with interest or not, when they will want the loan all paid by and any conditions. 

Hopefully these recommendations will help you plan a gap year well and arm you with finances that you need for your trip.


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