Mekong Travel Abroad
Celebrating the Sky Lantern Festival. Photo by Emma Hoffman, student.
« Back to Blog

How Do I Plan My Gap Year?

Posted on



Nicole Adams

Whether you’re taking a break before starting college or stepping away from your career track, a well-planned gap year can provide hands-on learning and immersive education that evokes personal development and growth, and delivers a perspective that simply cannot be taught in a traditional classroom. Gap year programs range in length, location and type of study, so it can be a little daunting to plan what to do and where to go. Here are some guidelines to help you start planning. 

How Do I Make a Gap Year Plan? 

A gap year is a full year (or semester) of experiential learning, which high school graduates tend to take just before they enroll into university, though some take a gap year during college. The aim is to take an extended break from schooling to recalibrate, try something new, or have the time and space to decide what you’d like to do next with your life. The first step is to determine your goals and desired experiences. Do you want to be immersed in a new culture? Do you want to learn a new language? Is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to travel? 

Where you go and what you do ultimately depends on the goals you want to fulfill during your gap year. This experience will challenge you to broaden your understanding of the world and your personal place within it. Write down some things you’d like to accomplish, then work backwards to map out where you need to go to achieve them. With a destination in mind, it’s important to plan how you will get there, your accommodation options, and your budget. 

It’s important to understand your budget before choosing a gap year program. Consider the cost of the program, travel, airfare, spending money, and any additional expenses you’ll encounter while away. Once you’ve chosen a program and destination aligned with your goals, it’s time to apply. Once admitted, you can start planning the logistics and details of your travel.

Young boy sitting overlooking foggy mountains

Domestic vs International Gap Year Planning 

You don’t have to travel the world, or even far from home to have an inspiring and life-changing gap year. There are plenty of amazing programs that can be accessed right here in the U.S., and domestic experiences generally have lower associated costs than going abroad. Even if you select a fee-based program, inevitably you’ll pay less for flights and get to avoid the hassle and costs of a passport, visas, immunizations, and travel insurance.

Staying stateside can also be less intimidating, allowing you to engage in a new environment or skill without a language barrier or significantly different cultural norms. If you’re set on traveling outside of the states, the options are almost endless. Whether you want to live with a homestay family, volunteer for a grass-roots organization, or clarify your career path through an internship, traveling abroad is almost always a remarkable learning experience, but takes a little more pre-planning and a strong spirit of adventure. 

Set yourself up for success and ensure you have support in place so you can get your bearings before your adventure begins. One of the biggest challenges for travelers abroad is understanding the systems for accessing health care. Do research before you go, especially if you have existing health considerations. Flights, transfers, passports, visas, travel insurance, lodging, meals, and excursions can quickly take a bite out of your budget, so be clear on your priorities and limitations. Keep an open mind, save space for spontaneity and have fun! 

Where There Be Dragons curates trips in the United States and all over the world! We’d love to answer questions and get you on your way to an incredible summer or gap year adventure. Call 800.982.9203 or contact us today. 

One Comment

  1. James Hutt |

    Your guidance has made a substantial difference in my abroad study trip preparations , alleviating stress and uncertainty along the way. Your support and encouragement have been invaluable, and I’m truly grateful for the guidance you’ve provided.


Leave a Comment

Fields marked with * are required