ABTA is revealing the most popular destinations and activities for gap year travel as well as advising young people about how to have a rewarding experience and how to stay safe, especially following high profile tragic incidents in the last 12 months involving young travellers in Zanzibar and Malaysia.

Top gap year destinations

ABTA members specialising in gap year travel have reported increases in bookings over the last twelve months with Australasia, South East Asia, the USA and South America being the most popular destination choices.

The top gap year destinations reported by leading ABTA Members specialising in gap years are:

1. Australia
6. Bolivia
2. Thailand
7. Argentina
3. USA
8. Vietnam
4. New Zealand
9. South Africa
5. Peru

ABTA’s Top Tips for Gappers

· 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.

Gaining work experience and funds rather than just having an extended holiday
Although your gap year still represents an opportunity to relax and enjoy yourself, increasing numbers of gappers are looking to gap year specialists to provide them with opportunities to gain work experience as well as using this as an opportunity to fund and extend their trips.

Most popular gap year activities
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.

Looking for adventure
Adventure gap years are also proving popular, with gappers looking to take part in overland tours, trekking, cycling and scuba diving. The more traditional round-the-world backpacking gap year still remains popular with gappers also looking for cultural options.

Victoria Bacon, head of communications, ABTA 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.”

For more information visit: www.abta.com/gapyear

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