How to have a mini gap year

Not everyone can take a year-long break, but a six-week ‘mini gap year’ could be just as life-changing

Rosie Murray-West – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Rosie Murray-West | Independent Money Mentor

Award-winning personal finance and news journalist

A two-week beach holiday is a wonderful thing, but if you’re craving a longer getaway you could consider a ‘mini gap year’ that is somewhere in between a summer vacation and a full-blown year of travelling.

What’s a mini gap year?

A mini gap year, or ‘snap year’, is designed to be slipped in between leaving one job and starting another, or you can create time by asking to take unpaid leave and adding it on to your holiday allowance.

They’ve become more popular in recent years, with volunteering organisations offering shorter ‘gap year style’ experiences for those with less time to spare, with trips lasting six weeks to three months.

Gemma Lay, General Manager at POD Volunteer, a gap year travel company in Cheltenham, says that increasing numbers of volunteers join the company’s trips “as they would like to use their annual leave to contribute to something ethical and worthwhile whilst on holiday.

“You contribute your time, energy and enthusiasm to one of our projects. On your return you will feel that you have used your mini gap year in a meaningful way. Volunteers often comment that their experience volunteering was life-changing and return with a different outlook on the world.”

Getting your employer onside

Sounds good? The first thing you need to do is work out how you are going to find the time for an extended trip, particularly if you work full-time. Asking for unpaid leave to add to your ordinary holiday time is one strategy.

As a UK employee you have the right to request unpaid leave, such as a sabbatical, but not the right to have it. But you may be successful if you can point to transferable skills you can offer from your time away.

Recent research from Opodo showed that 44 per cent of workers think a sabbatical would make them more employable. Half think it would reduce stress, while 41 per cent thought it would improve mental health. A coherent plan may help get your gap agreed.

Deciding where to go

The crucial thing about the mini gap year is that it shouldn’t just be an extended package holiday. It is time to use wisely, either by volunteering, or by immersing yourself in travel that wouldn’t be possible in a short time.

You could look at companies that offer short volunteering trips, such as POD, which has projects caring for Sun Bears in Cambodia, or assisting at a wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica, or The Leap which has ten-week programmes including a trip to the Philippines and Borneo, helping with orangutans and reforestation projects.

Things to think about

A mini gap year requires more planning than a standard two-week beach holiday. Annual multi-trip insurance doesn’t always cover longer periods away, or high-octane pursuits, so check you have adequate cover. Think about house security while you are away – a house-sitter may be one option – or you may want to raise some travel cash by opting to Airbnb your home while you’re away.

Ensure that you are up to date on visas and vaccinations before you travel. The cost of these can mount up, but no-one wants to ruin their trip of a lifetime by being unwell or unable to cross the border when they want to.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.