Brontë King’s Guide To Gap Year Travel
Recognise the value of forward planning. For example, when we went to an island in Bali called Nusa Lembongan, we were told the only mode of transportation on the island was motorbikes – which we didn't know how to drive. We were just about to board the ferry, but with all our suitcases and bags, we knew it just wasn't going to be feasible. I would love to go back and do it right – but it’s a reminder that a bit of forward planning (and less luggage!) is necessary if you’re visiting places.
Download a few handy apps to make the planning process simpler. Two must-haves are AirBnb and Hostel World. Another great one is Tripit. You can forward all your accommodation, flight, car rental and transfer information to them by email, and they automatically upload your itinerary onto the app, so it’s all in one place. Finally, Airlo allows you to purchase a SIM card for any country in the world – but it’s all done through your phone, so you don’t have to insert anything on the go. SplitWise is ideal if you’re in a group. You can put everything you’ve paid for in the app and at the end of the trip, it will total everything up and show who owes what. Also, the Currency Converter app is so handy, as is Google Translate if you’re ever stuck for words!
Always book somewhere for your first three nights. You may want to explore after you arrive, but locking in those first three nights means that, when you land, you have somewhere to rest, settle in and find your feet. You can then meet people and discover the best places to go from there. For a longer stay, you may want to extend this to four or five nights to really get your bearings and be able to research the rest of your trip once you get there.
Prioritise patience and planning when it comes to saving up for your next trip. One of the simplest things I do is use the ‘round-up’ function on the Monzo banking app. It means each time you pay for something, the app rounds it up to the closest pound and adds those few extra pennies to a separate pot or savings account. After a few months, it really does rack up.
Use travel to get out of your comfort zone. I remember putting off certain trips because of nerves, but I always ended up having the best time. Bali was one of those places. I was so scared at the time because it was far away, but I’ve been back at least five times since. Just start saving up, book that flight and you won’t regret it.
Draw up a travel bucket list. Personally, I think everyone should go to South East Asia at least once in their lives, and Latin America, too – especially Costa Rica. Both places have it all – beaches, culture, city sights and a buzzy nightlife. If you want to stick closer to home, interrailing through Europe offers you so much. You can tick off multiple destinations in one trip and even add Greek island hopping on at the end.
Stick to a routine if you’re travelling for longer. I actually packed my skipping rope and resistance bands so I could do daily workouts and stretches on the road. Moving your body is so important for your mental health, so even if you just have a 30-minute walk every day, it counts. I also love journaling when I’m away – every morning or evening I take some time to do this – it’s also nice to be able to look back and reflect afterwards.
Find ways to make the most of your gap year. You could volunteer – two great opportunities I’ve come across lately are a two-week trip to Africa to build a school for a local village and a three-week stay at a turtle conservation centre in Bali. Alternatively, your time could be spent learning a new skill or getting certified. For example, I know lots of people who have earned their scuba diving certification during their gap year.
Prepare for disagreements if you’re travelling in groups. Sometimes, it’s best to let everyone do their own thing. As much as you’ve all gone out together, it's everyone’s gap year, so if their plans end up looking different to yours, don’t let it stop you from having a great time.
Be extra cautious about your belongings in shared accommodation. Whether you’re staying in a budget hotel or a hostel, I recommend buying a padlock for your bag, when you leave it in the room to go exploring. Also, bring ear plugs and an eye mask to block out the light and noise.
Use packing cubes. I cannot go on a long trip without them – they give you so much more space in your suitcase and make everything feel much more organised, especially when you're hopping from place to place.
Always check the visa requirements. Find out if you can apply for a visa on arrival or if you have to apply before you go. The latter often takes a long time and requires planning. The best place to check is on the UK government website. If you’re planning to apply on arrival, make sure you have cash on hand – some countries won’t let you pay with a card.
Make sure you observe the different rules, customs and cultures. This usually requires some research beforehand to make sure you’re respectful while travelling. I had an experience in Hvar, an island off the coast of Croatia, where we had to cover up around the main square. A local came up to us and asked us to put something on our shoulders, and after checking we realised we could have been fined £600 each if we hadn’t.
Put safety first. I always let my family and friends back home know where I’m going – even if it’s a 20-hour flight away. Find My Friends is also great, and so important if you’re travelling alone. Also, don’t carry your phone. Friends of mine have had their phones stolen right out of their hand – which is why a bum bag is a sensible investment.
Use @GalsWhoTravel to link up with like-minded travellers. Not only does the Instagram platform offer tips and itineraries for countless destinations, there’s also a closed Facebook group with 70,000 female members. It’s the best place to ask questions, share advice and chat to like-minded people. You can even join us on one of our trips. We currently have a trip to Bali coming up in October and one to Thailand in February – more than 50 girls are booked onto each one, so you’re guaranteed to make some new friends and great memories.
Finally, enjoy every moment. Don’t be afraid to say yes to more than you would do normally and really try to take in every moment. This will be a time in your life you always look back on, so really make the most of it.
Follow @BronteKingg & @GalsWhoTravel_ for more inspo.
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