A guide to gap years for parents
Parents, we feel your pain. It can be pretty tough to let go of your (not so) little ones, especially when it comes to travelling. A lot of Real Gap Experience customers are first time travellers, and as responsible travellers ourselves, we know how important it is to stay safe on the road. Rest assured, the priority of the Real Gap Experience gang here in the UK and Australia, and in-country, is to keep your kids safe and to ensure they have the best time ever!
It's for this reason why we've put this page together for you, so we can answer any impending questions you may have. In the meantime, we reckon it's definitely worth reading more about us.
One thing we do want to make clear is that the personal and fiancial security of our customers is of the highest priority, and something we take extremely seriously.
Our quality control team complete risk assessments on all our programmes abroad. Of course we cannot eliminate every possible danger or risk on the road, but we aim to reassure participants and their loved ones, that we consider their safety paramount. We have a 24/7 emergency helpline in place just in case any accidents do occur, and if a minor incident takes place then it's logged by our team in-country and assessed by our Customer Operations team in the UK.
Still a little worried? We run a safety awareness course, which is great for travellers who want to learn the basics. It's incredibly informative, and will clue your kids up on everything from basic first aid, to cultural and religious differences to how to act in challenging circumstances. Want to find out more? Jump over to our safety course page.
Being part of the TUI Travel family (you know, Thomson, First Choice... ) brings a load of reassurances. We adhere to the UK's legislation regarding travel operations, and operate under ATOL number 6527. Don't worry, your money is very safe with us!
Our flight inclusive holidays are ATOL protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of an insolvency, the CAA will ensure that your children not left stranded and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
Still not convinced? Grab a cuppa and read our survey all about student travel and improving a CV. We quizzed students, lecturers and employers about all things travel, and ends up 85% of employers would encourage students to go travelling to improve their confidence, independence and decision making skills. For the whole report, click here.
01. Staying in touch with your son or daughter
Living in a world of social media galore, staying in contact with your teenager is easier than ever. The most popular way for our customers to talk to their parents is via email. A good proportion of our projects have access to wifi, or will at least travel into an area where wifi is available. If this is the case, they could go one step further and Skype/Facetime you! (There's nothing like actually 'seeing' each other!) If you've both got access to a smartphone, then apps like WhatsApp are great for keeping in touch (in non-tech talk it's like texting, but over the internet). You can have a load of people in a WhatsApp group, so if siblings end up going away together then you can keep tabs on them in the same WhatsApp conversation. Perfecto! If you want to talk to your teenager over the phone, then you could ask them to buy a local sim in country. This will keep the costs down, meaning you could chat for a couple of minutes every other day without it killing your mobile contract.
02. Is my son or daughter ready for a gap year?
A decent gap year programme can provide an ideal link between the regimented lifestyle of school, and the unstructured temptations of uni. At RG we offer tailor made gap year trips, so we can plan the perfect trip for your teenager. We have internships and work abroad placements up for grabs too, so not only can gap years educate, but they can boost the old CV too! Living away from your parents on a structured, well organised adventure could be just what your teenager needs to get some independence, and learn more about the world. Ultimately it'll be down to you to see whether they're ready, but from our experience we've seen even the shyest Real Gappers open up and really learn about themselves when they're on the road!
03. What is a gap year?
A gap year or career break can be whatever you want it to be. Some people travel solo or with a group of friends. A gap year can be anything from spending a month or so in one destination to an entire year away backpacking and travelling around the world. Some people might opt for work on a volunteer project with animals, children or within a community, whilst others may choose to find paid work abroad simply as a means to make their gap year cash go further on their travels. A gap year is usually taken before, during or after university or college but to be honest, you can take one at anytime!
04. Managing gap year money
In our experience the safest, easiest and most convenient option for gap year travellers is to carry a Visa or Mastercard. Banks do charge for each transaction on credit cards, but using them is definitely by far the simplest way for your son or daughter to access their funds. It's also a good idea for your son or daughter to back up their credit card by taking away with them a good supply of travellers' cheques. These can easily be exchanged at most banks and also at airports, (again there is usually a charge for this). As with credit cards, if they are lost or stolen they are also easily replaced. If your son or daughter is planning on finding paid work abroad then we advise they contact the travel advisor for that particular programme. We try and take the hassle out applications and paperwork by doing as much of the advance financial leg-work as possible. We can even set up the bank account. We have loads of ideas for gap year fundraising.
05. Gap year preparation
Gap year preparation puts minds at ease prior to departure and also helps to ensure the trip goes smoothly throughout its duration. Our experts can put together anything from a full year backpacking round the world to just a few weeks away working on a volunteer project worldwide. Your son or daughter will be assigned their own travel advisor who, aside from helping to plan and design the trip, can offer advice on everything from negotiating a good deal on the flights, right down to what they should pack. Our travel advisors are all exceptionally well travelled and experts on countries that we operate in. We are more than happy to take calls from parents should you have any queries relating to your son or daughters trip. All of our customers are set up with a personal on-line account, containing just about every piece of information you or your son or daughter could wish to know before they leave.