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7 ways to take a grown-up gap year

More people than ever are taking a year off work later in life to travel or are planning a globetrotting retirement. We ask three women who've done a grown-up gap year to share their advice on where to start

Published 25 Sept 2018, 16:00 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 11:04 BST
Photograph by Getty

1 // Pace yourself
Before you set off, plan where you're going, but remember to be realistic. You may be visiting more than one country or region on your gap year but don't exhaust yourself trying to see too much. Youngsters might gad about all the time but us more mature travellers know the benefit of slowing down. Focus on getting a feel for a place and seeing a few of the major sights, but also taking time to discover the local culture, cuisine, history and people. Zoë Dawes

2 // Luggage savvy
Some older travellers may have concerns about carrying a heavy rucksack. While a suitcase on wheels might seem appealing, sooner or later you're sure to come across rough roads that are impossible to wheel your suitcase along. Opt for a rucksack with wheels — the best of both worlds. Kathryn Burrington

3 // Stay flexible
If you're a cautious traveller, it's tempting to book everything in advance. But if your plans are too inflexible, you may miss out on opportunities that arise, or the chance to stay longer in a place you love. It's better to plan accommodation for the first couple of days in a new place, then book ahead as your plans develop. Heather Cowper

4 // Pack light
There are some fabulous clothing ranges available that make great use of modern technology and are designed specifically with packing light in mind. High-quality ranges [such as Rohan or Jack Wolfskin] aren't cheap, but it's worth investing in a travel wardrobe of lightweight, quick-drying and crease-resistant clothing that packs down to a surprisingly small size. This significantly reduce the volume of your luggage. KB

5 // Head down
Choose your accommodation carefully, especially if you're travelling solo. Small, friendly guest houses and family-run hotels will give you a better experience than impersonal larger hotels. Look at hostels too. They're not just for the younger crowd as most have private rooms and enable you to connect with travellers of all ages. House sits, if you're happy to stay in one place for a while, are also worth considering to minimise your costs. HC

6 // Get smart
Your smartphone is one of your trustiest sidekicks. Not only does it work as a phone and camera, but apps, such as online guides, maps, currency converters and accommodation information, can be extremely useful. Even if you're not on social media, WhatsApp is great for sharing stories and photos. Get familiar with it all before you leave and don't forget a power pack to keep it charged up on the move. ZD

7 // Get covered
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for the length and type of travel you're planning, especially when it comes to any unexpected medical treatment or repatriation. You may need to shop around to ensure you're covered for extended travel or adventurous activities. Get a small medical kit and pack any medication you take for existing conditions. HC

The rise of the grown-up gap year

You can read more tales and tips about travelling during a golden gap year from the women behind these tips on their blogs:

Zoë Dawes

Kathryn Burrington

Heather Cowper 

Published in the October 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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