Guidance for young travellers considering taking a gap year has been issued by Abta today as students receive their A level results.

Members specialising in gap year travel have reported increases in bookings over the last year with Australasia, South East Asia, the US and South America being the most popular destination choices.

Around 25,500 school and college leavers are deferring their university place and many will be taking a gap year trip before starting their courses next autumn.

But Abta is urging those considering gap year travel to stay safe, especially following high profile tragic incidents in the last 12 months involving young travellers in Zanzibar and Malaysia.

Head of communications Victoria Bacon said: “Taking a gap year can be one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences in a young person’s life and young people up and down the country will be heading off in the next 12 months, often spending thousands of pounds of savings on their travel plans.

“Doing plenty of research and talking to reputable gap year travel companies can help you decide what to do and where to go – it is very important that whatever your gap year involves you plan it properly, to help ensure a safe and rewarding experience.”

The most popular type of gap year requested by school and college leavers for 2014/5 are work experience placements abroad.

These include activities such as teaching English as a foreign language, bar work and internships.

Following these are volunteering trips, with many students choosing to work with local communities in developing countries.

“Booking through a reputable company is particularly important for volunteering trips as is doing your research thoroughly and committing to a project that properly suits both your strengths and your weaknesses,” Abta said.
Top destinations reported by leading Abta members specialising in gap years are:

1      Australia
2      Thailand
3      US
4      New Zealand
5      Peru
6      Bolivia
7      Argentina
8      Vietnam
9      South Africa
10     Brazil

Abta’s top tips for gap year travellers:

•         Choose a reputable gap year travel company with a good track record that is a member of a trade association, such as ABTA, so you have a point of contact and support should anything go wrong.

•         Check with your travel agent and with the Foreign Office for dos and don’ts and “no go” areas for the country you’re visiting.  They will also tell you about visa requirements and how to get relevant visas, which is especially important if you’re going to be working.

•         Research local customs and culture before you go to understand more about the host destination and avoid unwittingly causing offence.

 •         Make sure you’ve had all the necessary jabs and inoculations; do this at least eight weeks before you travel.

•         If you’re going to a country where malaria is prevalent always take anti-malarial medication and always finish the course.

•         Get a good quality travel insurance policy and make sure it covers the activities you want to take part in. The cheapest policies will not necessarily provide you with the level of cover needed for a lengthy stay overseas, or for extreme sports.

•         Think carefully about the kind of activity you’ll be doing; working, volunteering or learning a skill will be good for your CV.

•         If you’re travelling to a non-English speaking country take some language lessons before you go, you’ll find it much easier to fit in when you first arrive.

•         Tell your bank where and when you’ll be travelling to reduce the risk of them stopping your card.

•         Keep electronic copies of all your important travel documents.

•         Keep a list of emergency contact numbers in a safe and accessible place.