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Should I Book with a Gap Year Company or Travel Independently?

Have you decided to go travelling, but can't decide whether to take the plunge and opt for completely independent travel, or whether to book an organised gap programme through an established gap year company, such as Gap 360?

As with anything, there are pros and cons for each option. Take a look at our list of advantages of travelling independently vs booking through a gap year company below and make up your own mind!

Advantages of travelling independently rather than booking with a gap year company:

  • It can be cheaper. Gap year companies bundle together all the costs of a trip into one package, including accommodation, transport, excursions, and commission. Travelling independently means that you're in complete control of the individual costs.
  • More flexibility and freedom. Travelling independently means that you are free to choose your own itinerary, so you only visit the places that are of interest to you. Plus, if you really like a place, you can stay longer without worrying about what time the tour bus leaves.
  • You choose who you spend time with. If you meet a great group of people as an independent traveller you can make the decision to travel around with them. And if they annoy you, you can simply leave them and move on to a different group!
  • A sense of achievement. It can give you greater satisfaction and confidence when you travel independently, rather than booking with a gap year company.

Advantages of booking with a gap year company rather than travelling independently:

  • Expert advice and support. Good gap year companies employ travel advisors that have travelled all over the globe. You can ask lots of questions and find out everything you need to know about your chosen destination. Many companies also offer 24/7 support for emergencies. This will give you (and your parents) the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, you have someone to call for assistance.
  • Join a buddy list. Some companies will provide you with contact details of others members of your group so you can get in touch in advance of your trip and find a travel buddy. Great for first time travelers!
  • Hassle-free planning and booking. Makes planning a lot easier. Booking with a travel company is less daunting than travelling independently as everything is organised for you, leaving you to concentrate on having a good time.
  • Safer travel. Booking with a travel company can be safer as you are travelling with others and are often accompanied by an experienced guide or have access to local staff. The projects and placements should have been thoroughly researched and risk assessments should have been completed.
  • Be prepared. You normally receive very detailed pre-departure information which includes lots of useful advice about accommodation, placements, country information, kit lists and details on all the travel essentials, so you can be really well prepared for your trip.
  • Get the best deals. Booking through a travel company often works out as great value for money, as many trips include accommodation, meals and other perks, so you are covered for lots of travel costs in one umbrella payment. Special offers often mean you can bag a great bargain too!
  • A one-stop shop. Many travel companies can also offer flight tickets and travel insurance, so you only have to visit a one-stop shop to cover all your travel needs.

Please note: If you do decide to book a trip with a gap year company, do your research and consider the following:

  • Is the company financially secure? Is your money protected? Do they hold an ATOL licence? Are they members of ABTOT or another trade organisation?
  • Fees and services can vary hugely. Do some research and get advice from other travellers.
  • Make sure the company has thoroughly researched all of the individual placements and has done a full assessment of the risks.
  • Read the terms and conditions carefully.
  • Check what is actually included in the price and find out what other things you need to factor into the cost.

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