gap year on a budget

Doing A Gap Year On A Budget: 4 Tips To Get You Abroad Sooner

Are you itching for a bit of wanderlust? 

A little time out to explore this big beautiful world of ours.

Of course, you do.

I mean, who doesn’t want to explore the majestic Angkor Temples in Cambodia, or see the famous northern lights of Alaska, or maybe catch those crystal-clear waves on one of the many beaches in Australia? 

Sounds much better than jumping straight into more school, doesn’t it?

The daunting aspect of taking a gap year, however, is the thought of paying for it all.

Travel can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be if you know how to budget.

Don’t miss out on a chance of a lifetime or lose out on experiences you may never have the opportunity to have again simply because you fear you can’t afford them.

Gap years are totally achievable with little money.

Read on to find out how you can do a gap year on a budget.

1. Choose A Country That You Can Afford

When planning a budget gap year, a good place to start is finding a country to travel to that is within your monetary limits.

As nice as traveling to Paris, France or Zurich, Switzerland sounds these sorts of destinations aren’t always the most budget-friendly places to visit.

Instead, aim for a country where your money is likely to go it’s furthest. A quick bit of research will tell you all you need to know. 

Start with the current exchange rates, then work out how much it is likely to cost you per day living and traveling within your chosen country. There are plenty of resources out there to find this information. 

Many travel bloggers have broken down their daily costs within each country they have visited. Making it super easy for you to know exactly what to expect while visiting.

Perhaps destinations like Southeast Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe are a good place to start. The food, accommodation, and transport within these countries are all inexpensive while often still being of very good quality.

2. Correct Timing Is Key When Booking Your Travel

Any country, no matter where you plan on going, will have peak and off-peak seasons. The cost difference between these periods can be massive so it’s recommended you plan when you travel very carefully. 

If you travel during peak periods expect the flights to be expensive, accommodation to be charged at a higher rate, and even sometimes cafe and restaurant food service charges to apply.

To avoid this, jump back on good old Google and get an idea of when the peak periods end. Most times you won’t have to sacrifice much. 

You might fear that traveling certain countries during off-peak periods may result in your missing the best weather, perhaps losing out on taking a tour that you’ve been dreaming of as some operators don’t hold tours during off-peak periods, or maybe you are worried you simply won’t get the full experience as everyone will have gone home.

Well, rest assured, as often this isn’t the case. 

Many times you’ll still be able to catch plenty of sunshine or avoid the heavy seasonal rains, find alternative tours that aren’t advertised online, avoid the heavy crowds that encumber you from enjoying your sightseeing, and, the best part, find the locals in a much more friendlier and relaxed state as they are also taking some much-needed downtime after the busy seasonal period.

3. Book Everything Yourself

Although using a travel agency saves you time, it’s often an extremely heft investment. Travel agents charge you an arm and a leg to book your flights, accommodation, and tours. 

Therefore, if you really want to take your gap year on a budget, we recommend you cut this middleman out and book as many facets of your travels yourself.

There is a heap of free website and app services that will assist you in finding the best prices. 

And not only will you save a ton of money you will also learn some very valuable skills that will help you down the track when traveling again.

4. Avoid Exchanging Money At The Airport

A very common mistake that many new, and seasoned, travelers make is exchanging their money at airports. It may be convenient, but it is expensive.

Many airport money exchangers will charge a commission fee while also offering a lower exchange rate than you can often find elsewhere. 

Therefore, if you wish to get the best bang for your buck, we suggest that you get your money exchanged ahead of time. That way, you’ll avoid the unnecessary commission fees while also securing the best rates you possibly can.

A good way to do this is to buy foreign currency online.

Exchanging your currency in this fashion is quick and easy. Plus, you’ll be able to pick up your money from literally thousands of pick-up locations throughout the world.

If you don’t wish to do it this way, that’s fine. Another good option is to take yourself to a specialist money exchanger, which you will find within major cities. Small specialist money exchangers often offer really good exchange rates because of the competitiveness of other outlets nearby. 

One downside is that they don’t often offer fewer common currencies or on really busy days they may even run out of some currencies. Therefore, it’s a good idea to ring ahead to ensure they have what you need on hand.


So, what are you waiting for?

Don’t put off the taking a gap year simply because you’ve figured you can’t possibly afford it. We are here to tell you most certainly can. The world is your oyster and there is no better time to explore it while you are young with little responsibilities.

Do you know there’s another great way to save more money and get yourself off on a gap year sooner?

You can achieve this by employing the very helpful services of Emma.

Emma is a money management app and she’s here to help. She will help you stay away from pesky bank fees and wasteful subscriptions, stick to your monthly traveling budget, and make sure you aren’t worrying about money while having the experience of your lifetime abroad.

Emma is available for download on both the App Store and Google Play Store.

Edouard Daunizeau

I look after all things Growth here at Emma. I come from France and have spent the last few years scaling consumer tech startups in the UK and beyond. 🚀