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Gap Year Planner: Our ultimate gap year planning guide

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Planning a gap year is an exciting process, with the promise of adventure, self-discovery, and unforgettable experiences. Whether you're dreaming of trekking across unfamiliar landscapes, immersing yourself in diverse cultures, or volunteering for a cause close to your heart, the possibilities and different trip types are practically endless.  

However, before you chuck your passport in your backpack and head to the airport, it’s a good idea to have done a little gap year planning in advance.   

As luck would have it, here at Kilroy we’re the ultimate gap year experts, and we’ve created our ‘Off to see the world in 80 days’ chronological planning process guide. It’s the only handbook to planning a gap year you’ll ever need, so you’ll never be caught short during a trip to your dream destinations. From visas and vaccinations to passport pitfalls and insurance essentials, we’ll cover everything you need to know so you can set off on your gap year with a spring in your step. 

Off to see the world in 80 days Gap Year Planner - KILROY

Whether you're learning a new language in South America, exploring European countries or volunteering in Southeast Asia, there's an art to gap year planning. Here's all you need to know. 

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Planning a gap year after school or university?
Whether you're thinking of doing a working holiday Down Under, volunteering abroad or backpacking around a continent (or two), we've got you covered.
Inspiration For Your Gap Year Adventure

80 days to go...

Check your passport

First thing’s first: when planning a gap year trip, it’s essential you check your passport is in date. Don’t be caught out; many destinations require you to have at least 6 months validity on your passport, so check the requirements for where you’re going on the Government’s foreign travel advice site.  

If you need to renew your passport, now is the time to ensure the best chance of it arriving well ahead of your travels. Processing times are usually around three weeks, but this can vary so it’s always best to check the latest lead time on the Passport Office website 

If you’ve left it very late and don’t think your new passport will get to you in time before you want to travel, you can pay extra for Online Premium or 1 week Fast Track services. However this will involve you going to an in-person meeting at one of only seven passport offices in the UK, so you’ll need to factor that in.   

Basically, if you stick to our plan and sort this out 80 days ahead of your dream gap year trip, you should be laughing all the way to departures. 

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70 days to go...

Book your travel

At the very least, this is the time you should be booking your outbound transport for your gap year adventure. For many people, this is a flight to their first destination.   

For a speedy and direct route, hopping on a plane ranks high on the convenience scale. For gap year options that are kinder to the planet, we offer the chance to compensate the carbon emissions of your flight when you book your ticket through our partnership with MyClimate.  

We also know that creating a gap year itinerary for travel can feel a bit overwhelming - so we've taken care of that too. We offer a dozen special flight itineraries to almost every corner of the globe, it’s a great place to start when looking for travel inspiration!  

Flights aren't the only option, though... 

For more ways to travel with a lower carbon footprint, an Interrail pass can help you to explore to every corner of Europe across 33 countries by train. Alternatively, bus passes are another simple (and usually cheaper) way of getting around and are a fantastic way of seeing the sights. We offer bus passes for Latin America, South Africa, New Zealand, Asia and Australia, so there’s something for everyone.  

If you're travelling around Far East Asia, we can also help with a Japan Rail Pass, so you can experience Japan's famous bullet train. Or, if you like to travel under your own steam and have total control over your route, why not book a campervan and spend some time experiencing life on the open road? 

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Find out what travel vaccinations you need
Swot up on your shots: if you’re not sure what injections or vaccinations you need for your travels, don’t worry – we've got all the detail you need.
Check out our travel vaccinations by country page

60 days to go...

Book your vaccinations

Diseases which aren’t common in the UK can spread in some of the most popular gap year destinations. You’ll often need to prove you’re protected against certain illnesses before you’re allowed to enter some countries. That’s why thinking about your vaccinations well ahead of time is very important.  

You’ll need to research the travel vaccinations you need for each destination on your gap year, and how far apart you need to have each injection. Some of the most common travel vaccines take multiple injections over a few weeks to be fully effective by the time your gap year begins.  

There are some illnesses you’ll already have protection against if you’re up to date on your UK vaccines. Some you’ll be able to get for free through the NHS, and others you’ll need to book at a specialist travel vaccinations clinic.  

Here’s a quick round-up to get you started, or you can explore vaccines by country in our global vaccine requirements guide 

  • Vaccines you already have as a UK citizen:  
  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella  
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus & Polio, although you may need boosters before you travel  
  • Meningitis B  
  • Hepatitis B  
  • Travel vaccines free on the NHS:   
  • Typhoid  
  • Hepatitis A  
  • Cholera  
  • Travel vaccines you need from a specialist:  
  • Meningitis C  
  • Rabies  
  • Tick-borne encephalitis  
  • Japanese encephalitis  
  • Yellow fever  
  • Malaria (prescription medication)  

Make sure you carefully check the vaccine requirements for your destinations, and keep an eye on them in case they change. NHS Fit for Travel is a great resource to help you understand vaccine rules worldwide. 

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50 days to go...

Sort your visas

For most gap years, a standard tourist visa for your destination countries is all you’ll need for sightseeing. However, if you plan to work abroad when you take a gap year, you should check out our options for working holidays as we can help with a different type of Visa for these.   

Tourist visas are only required for some countries for British citizens, but you should also factor in how long you’re allowed to stay on this type of isa as the validity period varies from around 30 days to up to six months. Some countries offer eVisas that you can arrange online ahead of your arrival, whilst others have a Visa on arrival system where you get one at the airport after you touch down.   

 The best thing to do when you’re 50 days from departure is look up the embassy for each country you’re going to and check their most up to date Visa requirements, so you aren’t caught out.   

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40 days to go...

Book your activities

Now on to one of the most exciting bits of your gap year planning: thinking about what you want to do when you’re out there! If you’re anything like us you’ll have a bucket list of extraordinary experiences as long as your arm, whether it’s seeing the most iconic sights, challenging yourself to an epic trek, immersing yourself in the local culture, or even learning new skills.   

 It’s important to check out what the weather and climate is going to be like at the time of year you’re visiting, as some activities may be off-limits in certain seasons. Additionally, if you need any specialist kit for a certain gap year experience, you’ll need to factor this in. (Best not to attempt Machu Picchu in flip flops, for instance – hiking boots are probably a better shout).  

The best thing to do is to talk to other travellers or professionals to get expert advice. This will help you decide what to do, and get the most out of your time abroad. 

If you’re looking for inspiration, our Activities page has loads of suggestions for all sorts of amazing experiences whilst you’re on your gap year adventure. Check out the program highlights to spark your wanderlust. Why not try:   

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30 days to go...

Sort your travel insurance

Only a month to go, and now’s the time to get serious about travel insurance. It’s a fact of life that there is a possibility that something could go wrong whilst you’re on your gap year. Flights could be cancelled, you might lose your camera and you may even need medical help at some point. Having insurance that suits your needs – and covers any exciting adventures and activities you’re planning on doing – is a no brainer, and yet it's one of the most commonly forgotten safety tips.   

Fortunately, we’ve made it super simple to get a gap year travel insurance quote from our friends at World Nomads, so now you have no excuse not to cover your kit (and your bod) before you set off. 


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21 days to go...

Book accommodation (at least for the first couple of weeks)

You’re probably going to be doing a lot of hopping from place to place whilst on your gap year, so tying yourself down for the entire trip might not be practical. However, we recommend sorting out where you’ll be sleeping for at least the first week or two, so you have one less thing to think about straight off the bat.   

Budget is a key consideration here. Hostels with dormitory-style digs are a cheap and cheerful option and can also be a great way to meet fellow travellers and make friends, while keeping costs down.  

This isn’t the only option, however. If you have a bit more in the bank and aren’t so pumped about sharing a room with strangers, then hotels, B&Bs and holiday rentals could be the option for you. Alternatively, road trips can be a fantastic way to make your way around a new country, so travelling in campervans and motorhomes could streamline your journey and accommodation planning process. 


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Stay healthy while travelling
Arm yourself with our printable first aid checklist to make sure you have a supply of medications to stay healthy on your gap year.
Download Your Gap Year First Aid Checklist

14 days to go...

Refill your prescriptions

For your health or even just your comfort, it’s super important to make sure you have medication with you for your gap year. This is vital for prescriptions you need to manage any long-term medical conditions you have, or for contraception. But you could also take a stock of your preferred over-the-counter medicines, like painkillers, cold and flu solutions, or your secret hangover cure.  

Why is this important when you plan a gap year? This is because healthcare systems and pharmacies vary massively between countries, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to restock your prescriptions on the go. You may also struggle to access the kind of medicines you’re used to taking.  

For prescriptions, make sure tell your doctor your travel plans so they can write you a prescription for how long you’ll be away. They might be able to provide advice about alternatives in the countries you’re visiting if your supplies start to run low.  

If you have allergies, you should certainly be bringing allergy medicines to help in case anything goes wrong. You should also bring cards listing all your allergies: get them translated into the local language so that you can get support if needed. 

Alongside your prescriptions, it’s a good idea to pack a traveller’s first aid kit with useful supplies to keep you and your friends healthy on your gap year. Check out our downloadable kit list below. 

The bare necessities

  • ICE (In Case of Emergency) card with essential information  
  • Any prescription medications  
  • Plasters  
  • Insect repellent  
  • After-bite lotion  
  • After sun lotion  
  • Over-the-counter painkillers  
  • Hand sanitizer 


The full kit

  • Steri-strips  
  • Blister plasters  
  • Tweezers  
  • Gauze  
  • Antiseptic cleaning kit  
  • Cotton swabs  
  • Disposable latex gloves  
  • Thermometer  
  • Scissors  
  • Anti-diarrhoea tablets 


The advanced kit

  • Epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen)  
  • Saline sachets to wash wounds  
  • Elasticated bandages  
  • Travel sickness medicine  
  • First aid guide 
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7 days to go...

Download offline resources and set up your phone plan

Only a week to go!  

Now is the time to download all your important documents to your phone so they’re accessible even when you’re offline or haven’t got signal. This should include things like eVisas, passport scans, travel tickets and insurance documents. To be extra safe, it pays to go old school and print everything out too.   

For making your way around with minimal wrong turns, the Google Maps app has a handy function that allows you to download offline maps of where you’re going, so even when you’re at the top of a mountain without a signal bar in sight you’ll still have a good idea of where you are.   

Now is also the time to check with your mobile provider to see what options they have for data roaming and calls in your trip destinations. Some areas in Europe for example are usually included in your regular plan, but in more far-flung destinations data may cost a lot more. Consider getting a local sim card to save money if you’re staying in one place for a decent amount of time. Just make sure your phone is unblocked so it can accept alternative networks. 

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The essentials you need in your backpack
Print a copy of our essential packing list to make sure you don't forget anything important before you head off on your gap year.
Download Our Gap Year Packing Checklist

2-3 days to go...

Start packing - got your list ready?

Your gap year is getting closer! Can you feel the sun on your skin yet, smell the mountain air, or taste the spices of the food markets? You’ll be getting excited by now – but don’t drift off to dreamland just yet, you’ve got packing to do! Now is the time to learn how to pack like a pro.  

Have a run through your travel plans and make yourself a list of all the “utility” items you need, like walking shoes or activity gear like swimsuits. Build the rest of your supplies around how often you think you’ll be able to wash your clothes, and that should guide you on how many days in a row you need to prepare for. For the fashion-conscious, being able to build multiple outfits from a small number of pieces is a great way to keep things très chic while packing light. 

How you pack can be as important as what you pack. Rolling clothes can be better for space than folding, especially in backpacks; YouTube is loaded with packing hacks for making the most of your travel space. Another helpful hint is to pack the items you’ll need least often first so they’re at the bottom of your bag, while the things you need every day (like underwear) sits at the top for easy access on the go.   

And before you start panicking – everyone has something they always forget when they travel. That’s why we’ve written up a checklist of the things people forget to pack most often, so you don’t have to! 

You’re not getting anywhere without these:

  • Passport  
  • Travel insurance documents  
  • Bank card / currency  
  • Prescription medicines / glasses 


These are kind of a big deal:

  • Device chargers  
  • Toiletries  
  • Plug adapters  
  • Underwear  
  • Suncream 


You should probably have these:

  • Sunglasses and sun hat  
  • Headphones  
  • Suitable clothing  
  • Clothes maintenance kit – laundry soap, needle and thread, etc. 
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1 day to go...

Sit back, relax, and look forward to your adventure after your masterful gap year planning!

Congratulations! You’re now fully prepared for an unforgettable gap year trip. There’s nothing else to do now but get excited for everything you have ahead of you. Why not have a look at some of the incredible experiences you might have in store and savour the excitement?   

Oh, and whatever you do, do not forget your passport… 

Download and keep

Download our 80-day Gap Year Planner for easy reference.


Design your dream gap year

You could be on your way in just three easy steps:

  1. Fill in our Travel Wish List with your travel plans (no matter how loose they might be)
  2. Share your wish list with our travel experts and we'll suggest the coolest experiences, the best flights and share tips on how to put it all together
  3. Let us know what you think of our proposal and we'll work on it until it's just right
Start planning

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