Is it time to take a grey gap year?

Esther Shaw / 01 December 2016

Here’s our guide to some of the financial issues you need to think about before jetting off around the world.

The gap year was once the domain of the school leaver, looking for excitement and adventure before heading off to university.

However, extended breaks abroad are becoming increasingly popular among those in their later years.

But while the idea of taking time out to explore a new country – or countries – as a “grey gapper” may sound appealing, you need to plan carefully.

Here’s our guide to some of the financial issues you need to think about before jetting off around the world.

How to save money on holiday by going to university

Plan ahead for your budgeting and spending

The key to a successful grown up gap year is forward planning.

You need to set aside time to research the cost of getting to – and living in – your chosen destination.

This will help you work out the total cost of your time away.

It can be really helpful to draw up a budget of all your predicted spending, including travel, taxes, transfers, accommodation and food.

By planning in advance, you can be sure of having enough money to manage your budget during your trip, without leaving yourself out of pocket for your return.

Essential tips for saving money on holiday

Keep up with your mortgage and other financial commitments

While it’s easy to get carried away with planning your adventures, you also need to be realistic about your day-to-day finances.

This means working out how much you need to pay your mortgage and other bills while you’re away.

The easiest approach is to set up standing orders and direct debits for all your outgoings; you can then manage your money remotely by logging on to internet banking.

If you’re worried about being able to keep up with your mortgage, look into renting your home while you’re away to help cover your monthly payments. If you’ve paid off your mortgage, you could use the money you make from letting your home to help fund your travels.

Top five tips for paying off your mortgage

Save up before you go

Once you’ve calculated roughly how much you need to cover your trip – and how much you need to cover your financial commitments back at home – you can focus on building your cash reserves.

A good approach is to start slotting money away into an easy-access savings account or individual savings account (ISA); that way, you can get your hands on your money when you need it.

Equally, as the rates on savings accounts are at rock bottom right now, it might be worth considering a high-paying current account instead – but make sure you read the Ts and Cs before making any decision.

Remember, the more you save now, the more you can enjoy yourself while you’re away.

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Ensure you have the right cover in place

If you are travelling in Europe, you should ensure you have an EHIC card. The card applies within the EU and will give you access to state healthcare at a reduced cost – or sometimes for free.

But it’s important to remember that the card is not a substitute for travel insurance.

No matter whether you are travelling to the Continent or much further afield, it’s essential to get comprehensive cover in place.

When choosing a policy, the key features you need to look for are medical treatment, repatriation, and cancellation.

If you are finding it difficult to get cover at an affordable price as an older traveller, approach insurers specialising in policies for those in their later years, or for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

What cover does the EHIC really offer – and are cards still valid?

Plan your travel money

Before jetting off, it’s worth researching the currency you need for your planned destination – or destinations.

As you might need several different currencies, you might want to consider a prepaid travel money card.

One of these cards can be preloaded with multiple currencies and then used to pay for goods in shops, bars and restaurants. The best ones won’t charge you for ATM cash withdrawals either.

Equally, if you are set on taking debit and credit cards away with you, take cards specifically designed for use abroad, as that way, you can avoid getting stung with hefty fees every time you withdraw money or make a purchase.

How to get a deal on holiday money

Save money on accommodation

While you may not fancy “roughing it” in a hostel at this stage in life, this can be a cheap accommodation option, and a great way to meet other solo travellers.

For those travelling together with a group of friends, significant savings can be made by finding a place on Airbnb.

Equally, if you are going to be in one place for a decent stint, you could save money on accommodation by signing up to a house-sitting site. This will mean you can live rent-free in someone’s house for an agreed period while they are away.

Tips on booking holiday accommodation

Further tips:

Take precautions when organising your trip, and check that the firm or site you are booking through is ABTA or ATOL registered, as this will give you an extra bit of protection.

Before heading to a far-flung corner of the globe, log on to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website to get country specific advice. Visit

Ensure you have a valid passport, and check whether you need visas for any of the countries you are visiting – and whether these need to be purchased in advance.

Research your destination carefully before you head off on your travels. This should include vaccinations, local laws and the rules of the road.

Make use of passes and schemes which enable you to save money on travel. In Europe, for example, the Interrail Global Pass costs just €200 for five days of travel through 30 countries over a 15-day period.

Leave a copy of important information, such as passport and tickets at home – or with a trusted friend.

Alternatively, find out more about taking an expertly planned Escorted Tour with Saga...

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.