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Is it time to take a grey gap year?

Esther Shaw / 01 December 2016 ( 01 July 2021 )

Read our guide to some of the financial issues you need to think about before you decide to take time out and jet off around the world.

An older lady takes a grey gap year to travel and see 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:

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.

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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 or your bank’s mobile app.

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.

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 consistently low, 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.

Ensure you have the right cover in place

If you are travelling in Europe, it’s important to remember to take out adequate 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.

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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. If you're using your regular cards make sure you look into how much your bank charges before you leave British soil. The charges will mount up, so it's worth considering a card with zero fees for spending abroad.

Planning when to buy currency is tricky as exchange rates are one of the hardest things to predict. You can monitor rates online.

Watch out for places that have offers or so-called preferential rates on currency, which is common from banks trying to win your custom. They might be good deals compared to the rates usually offered by that brand, but could still be beaten by others. Don’t rely on marketing to guide you, do your own research.

Commission-free outlets do not offer good value if their exchange rates are inferior.

It is also important to check up on any restrictions on bringing in cash to certain countries.

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.

Booked your holiday? Protect it from the moment you buy Saga's Travel Insurance.


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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.