How to have a silver gap year

A year-long trip around the world is increasingly popular with the recently retired

Rosie Murray-West – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Rosie Murray-West | Independent Money Mentor

Award-winning personal finance and news journalist


Gap years used to be the preserve of the young, with an extended trip between school and university such a rite of passage for fortunate youngsters that it was satirised in the viral Gap Yah comedy sketch. Increasingly, though it’s older people who have the money and time to take a longer break.

Gap years for the over 50s

Over 50 and still have a thirst for adventure? You’re not alone in wanting to head off around the world. So-called ‘silver gap years’ are becomingly hugely popular with those who either never got the chance to travel the world when they were younger, or who still feel there is more to explore.

“Many people, as they go into their 50s and 60s, have a lot of life changes like the kids leaving home, retirement or maybe just a change of jobs,” says Martin Lock, CEO of older people’s website Silversurfers.

“With more time flexibility and many over 50s having more disposable income it’s the perfect time to recharge the batteries and life and seek new adventures. This group has over £320 billion of disposable income per year and many have paid off their mortgages so it’s a perfect way to enjoy themselves.”

Don’t forget to budget

Careful planning is the key to getting an extended gap year right, especially if you are worried about how your budget will stretch. If you own a property in the UK, renting it out for the duration of your trip is one way to help pay for it, but remember that you must pay tax on your income through a tax return, and ensure that there is someone in the UK who will look after the property so you aren’t worried about it. You can claim tax relief on using a managing agent, which helps. If you’re not renting your home out, think about how you will keep it secure while you are away, whether by using a house-sitter or relying on a family member or neighbour.

Before you go, research average daily budgets for your destination(s), and for any ‘must do’ experiences for while you are away. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of vaccinations, malaria pills and visas, all of which tend to mount up, depending on what destinations you choose.

Silver gap year accommodation

As an older traveller, you may have a lower tolerance of travelling on a budget staying in hostel dormitories, but many now have double rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Using Airbnb can help you to cut costs and spend time with local people, and can be cheaper than hostels in some places. Accommodation with facilities that allow you to cook for yourself and to wash your own clothes can keep costs down further.

Before you go, ensure that you can manage your money remotely by setting up internet banking and have your post redirected for a year to a trusted friend of family member via the Royal Mail redirection service.

Gap year insurance

Insurance for longer trips may be more expensive than you expect, but it is vital. Ordinary twelve month multi-trip travel insurance policies tend not to cover long continuous stays, so you may need to find a specialist gap year insurance provider. It is particularly important as an older traveller that you are upfront about all pre-existing conditions, otherwise you might not be covered for hospital stays and medical conditions.

This sort of planning is key, but be careful not to over-plan your trip, either. One of the great joys of extended travel is flexibility, so while a rough idea of where you are going and when is useful, give yourself space to stay a while somewhere you enjoy, or to skip on if an experience is not as pleasurable as you expected.

Want to travel and get paid? Check out our guide to working holidays.

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.