A gap year will undoubtedly be one of the most treasured and unforgettable experiences of your son or daughter's life. Because of this, it's very easy for them to get caught up in all the excitement whilst they are planning their gap year, dreaming about the freedom they will have and the incredible things that they will encounter, and forget about the realities of what they need to do as gap travel preparation. Because of this, it may be up to you as the parent to sit your son or daughter down and start realistically planning their year abroad.
Gap year travellers have the tendency to underestimate how much their trip will cost and how much they will spend when they are out there. Obviously, you will have far more experience with budgeting and financing issues than your son or daughter, so although they might not explicitly ask for it, they will really appreciate your help and advice. Help them work out costs, draw up a budget and encourage them to save!
After you have come up with a rough figure which needs to be raised, it's then worth finalising where they want to go and what they want to do. Their initial response to this will probably be - Everything! You'll probably need to point out that funds have a limit and the amount of time they have to travel is also an important factor. Managing your child's expectations in this way will ensure they have the best possible time with the funds and time available to them.
It's most likely that your son or daughter will be staying in a series of hostels and budget hotels during their trip, or may even be camping or bunking on board a boat. Although there are some very spacious and clean hostels out there, standards vary enormously, so you might want to hint that they could have a few rough nights. It may not have quite sunk in yet that they will have to fend for themselves during their travels, so gently managing their expectations can go a long way to preparing them for the reality!
Depending on their planned destinations, your son or daughter may have to adjust quite dramatically to their new location, so make sure that they are well prepared. If they are planning on an adventurous trip, involving activities such as adventure trekking or extreme activities, this might include building up their fitness before they leave. It's also worth familiarising them with the customs and cultural differences of the countries they will be visiting. Your son or daughter may encounter ways of life and standards of living that are very different from their own, which can come as a shock. Managing your child's expectations will help them adjust to different ways of life around the world.
There is no way of fully preparing for a gap year, as you will always encounter surprising situations and unexpected events, but it is worth getting your son or daughter to face the realities of staying safe, and preparing them for what could happen while they are abroad. There will definitely be changes of plan, and there is always the risk of losing property or theft. Staying safe is an essential factor during their travels, and you can find lots of information and support on this on our travel advice pages.
Planning a gap year is a challenging and responsible task, and it's not surprising that your son or daughter's excitement and enthusiasm will probably mean that they need pointing in the right direction to get them going. Realistic planning and expectation managing will ensure that they can achieve and experience the most enjoyment that is possible within the restrictions of their budget and time-frame, resulting in a truly unforgettable gap year!