Travelling Independently vs Gap Year Companies

Gap year travellers

Travelling Independently vs Gap Year Companies

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?

Decisions, decisions...

Although there are undoubtedly advantages of choosing completely independent travel, there are many advantages if you choose to book your trip with a gap year company. Many people do a combination of the two, especially if it is their first time going abroad, or if they are travelling solo. 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:

  • It's usually cheaper. Companies make commission on the fee you pay them. Travelling independently means you know exactly where your money goes. You choose the type of accommodation, excursions and transport that best suits you and your budget. Plus the money you save from not going with a company can be put towards exciting activities and adventures.
  • More flexibility and freedom. 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. Doing your own thing and travelling at your own pace often adds to the adventure and experience. Even if things go wrong, or you have some challenging moments, you invariably learn from them, and they can make an experience even more exciting and make for great stories on your return.
  • You choose who you spend time with.If you meet a great group of people 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.
  • Organise your own activities. Once you start travelling independently, you soon realise that it's relatively straightforward and easy to organise your own activities. You'll learn that you can book an activity locally, which often works out cheaper.
  • A sense of achievement. It can give you greater satisfaction and confidence when you organise your own trip, rather than having everything done for you.

Advantages of booking with a gap travel company:

  • Expert advice.Good companies employ travel advisors that have travelled all over the globe. You are normally given a contact name and number or email address in advance of your trip, so you can ask lots of questions before you even reach your destination.
  • Travel support. Many programmes and projects will have in-country representatives who will meet you at the airport, provide you with a local orientation and most importantly be on hand if you experience any problems or need advice and support.
  • Emergency numbers. Many companies will 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.
  • Variety and choice. There will be a wide variety of projects, work placements, programmes and tours to choose from. Some companies can also arrange tailor-made trips around the world or help you build your own trip.
  • Convenience and speed. If you are short of time, travelling with a company can be a quick and convenient way to see the country.
  • Go off the beaten track. Some parts of the world are less accessible than others or can be expensive to get to; using a dedicated tour company can make things easier and cheaper and you can see some stunning sights off the beaten tourist trail.
  • Make friends in a group. Good for first time travellers or travellers going it alone. Often companies put you into groups, giving you the opportunity to meet people and make friends.
  • 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.
  • Hassle-free planning and booking. Makes planning a lot easier. Travelling with a company is less daunting as everything is organised for you, leaving you to concentrate on having a good time.
  • Safer travel. It 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.
  • Budgeting. Helps you budget as the fee you pay before you go normally covers most of your major expenses such as accommodation, transport, food and excursions.
  • 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.