Going on a gap year can be a pretty exciting time for a young adult. You get to explore the world, enjoy your first taste of independence, and make life-long memories along the way.
But while there’s plenty for students to get excited about, for parents it can offer new sources of worries from whether destinations are safe to how your child will manage their money.
The good news is that there are ways you can help your son or daughter prepare for the adventure.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve teamed up with travel experts at StudentUniverse and Gapyear.com who know all about what it takes to get students ready for their travels – and they’ve shared their insider tips.
Check out their advice below…
1. Help them come up a plan
It’s perfectly normal for young adults to know they want to take a gap year, while also not being exactly sure what that will involve. Don’t automatically take it as a sign that they’re not serious.
Instead, sit down with them to discuss what they want out of a gap year and how they can realistically make it happen.
2. Encourage them to raise their own money
They might not thank you for it at first, but encourage your child to raise the money for their trip themselves by finding a job, selling possessions, or any number of other fundraising methods.
It will make their gap year feel so much more valuable, and reduce the risk that they will blow it all thoughtlessly as soon as they land.
It will also give them a chance to prove just how serious they are about taking a gap year.
3. Prepare them for budgeting
Creating a travel budget is a crucial part of any gap year preparation. Once they’ve raised enough money, they can break it down to ensure it will cover the entirety of their intended trip.
Remember, it needs to cover backpacking essentials, flights, accommodation, food, any activities or tours, as well as leaving some spare for unexpected costs and emergencies.
The better you prepare them, the less likely you are to receive a phone call begging for a bank transfer.
4. Be supportive of their ideas
Do your best to stay positive and try to find ways to make their dream trip happen exactly as they want.
It can be easy to get bogged down in practicalities – and being the voice of reason can definitely be valuable – but try not to discourage them. Remember, at the end of the day it’s their trip.
5. Teach them the basics on cooking and shopping
Teaching a few simple recipes, and how to buy some cheap ingredients to make them, can greatly increase the chances of them eating well and staying healthy during their gap year. It will also help when it comes to saving money.
6. Discuss safety
The chances of anything going seriously wrong on a gap year are slim, but equipping your child with some simple safety advice can help make sure.
Keeping an eye out for common travel scams, having a list of emergency numbers, researching a destination beforehand; all small things but they can make a big difference when it comes to safety.
7. Push them to do the boring stuff
Planning a gap year – the places they’re going to go, the things they’re going to do – should be really exciting, which can make organising the more boring details like travel insurance, visas, and vaccinations feel like a drag.
Making sure that all of these things are taken care of is crucial to their trip going off without a hitch, and they’ll thank you for pushing them to get it all sorted as soon as possible.
8. Make it clear they can come to you for help
A gap year is all about independence, but that doesn’t mean cutting them off entirely!
Before they leave, make sure your child knows they can contact you any time if they’re feeling homesick or need any other help or support.
Consider arranging a set time every week for a phone or video call, and perhaps offer to pay for a plan that will make getting in touch easier.
9. Consider how a gap year can benefit their future
Gap years aren’t all about drinking and partying on a beach in Thailand (though a few nights of letting their hair down won’t hurt!).
By dedicating some of their time away to a volunteering project, a job abroad, or an internship, they can gain unique and valuable experience that will really stand out on their CV when they return home.
Keep this in mind when helping them make a plan.
10. Try not to worry
Yes, it’s easier said than done. Knowing your child is going travelling for a year will inevitable make you worry
But they will be scared too, so do your best to keep your fears to yourself to help them feel confident about the epic adventure ahead.