Gap Year

The 9 Habits of Successful Gap Year Travelers

Olivia Christine Perez
Olivia Christine Perez

Traversing the globe as a writer and marketing consultant, Olivia writes for Go Overseas about topics including gap years and general travel advice.

The 9 Habits of Successful Gap Year Travelers
Photo by CIEE Middle Eastern Studies in Amman, Jordan Alum

If it is your first time taking a gap year, you’ve probably been wondering how to make it the best gap year ever. Should you volunteer abroad? Study for a few months? Learn a second language? Venture off the beaten path and explore new territory? With a gap year, the world is your oyster -- so naturally, you’ll want to make the most of it.

Planning a gap year can be overwhelming, and regardless of whether you choose to go solo or with a group, it can feel pretty intimidating for travel newbies. Lucky for you, we share expert tips and advice to help you have a memorable journey. While preparing for your year abroad, think about these 9 habits of successful gap year travelers and how you can improve your gap year with them.

Habit #1. You Use Checklists & Factsheets

If checklists aren’t your thing, they should be! Organization is key when traveling, and with ever-changing rules and regulations in other countries and tourist attractions, you’ll find a list of must-do’s can make a difference in your gap year.

To make your gap year as smooth as possible, take an hour to compile all you need to know into a fact sheet and checklist (like the address you’ll be staying at and the items you need for your upcoming program). You’ll keep your mind clear and available for when it is most needed -- like problem-solving.

Go Overseas Tip: Want to dedicate your gap year to volunteering abroad? Here’s the information and checklists you need to plan a volunteer trip overseas.

Habit #2. You Have More Patience Than the Average Traveler

Any experienced traveler can attest to the importance of patience before and during your travels. Whether it is to watch for the best flight deals or get into a popular attraction, you have control over how you wait. You could stomp your feet and whine about it, or you can converse with a stranger, read a book, or observe your surroundings.

Successful gappers are not just anxious for the destination; they’re here for the whole journey.

Habit #3. You're Digitally Savvy

The 9 Habits of Successful Gap Year Travelers: Digitally Savvy
Photo by Anna., GIVE Tanzania Alum

Travel has evolved to be intertwined (and even dependent) on the Internet and digital world in many countries. Gap year travelers who are eager to adjust to these new digital processes will find it easier to get around and along their journey.

Check in online before getting to the airport to avoid mishaps, buy tickets online when you see large crowds outside of a bucket list landmark, plan transportation on a phone app to get around, and connect with locals and loved ones back home over WiFi!

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Habit #4. You're Not Afraid to Get Old School

While tech savvy is key for many travel experiences, not every country is developed enough to provide citywide Wifi or complex booking systems online. This is where getting back to your roots (or your parents’ roots) is key.

Successful travelers know how to read schedule timetables, analog clocks, and count cash in local currency. They can read a map, decipher east from west, and whip up a meal if needed. Technology is great, but life still goes on when the power goes out!

Habit #5. You Embrace Light Packing

Don’t get bogged down by materialism (literally). For the best gap year experience, pack only the essentials: you’ll appreciate the carry-on ease when flying, lighter weight when trekking between destinations, ability to stow your bags close by for safety, and lack of baggage fees. Regardless of the trip length, a backpack and a small duffel or luggage is truly all you need.

Go Overseas Tip: Packing may seem overwhelming if you are going to study abroad (which is a much different wardrobe than say, backpacking for fun). Good thing we have a light study abroad packing list to help you get started.

Habit #6. You Wake Up Early

The early bird always gets the worm -- and that’s the case with travelers too. During your gap year, you’ll find that transportation, tours, and even the best photo opportunities kickstart early in the day.

The most successful travelers go easy on the late nights and savor early mornings to make the most of their days abroad. Set an alarm with soothing sounds to wake up on the right side of the bed.

Habit #7. You Remember to Make Financial Health Checks

The 9 Habits of Successful Gap Year Travelers: Financial Health Checks
Photo by Kasondra, USAC Thailand Alum

Good financial health is important when traveling. If you are going to spend a gap year abroad, channel your inner successful traveler and be sure to notify all financial institutions associated with your accounts about your upcoming itinerary. Download their respective apps on your phone and set up minimum balance alerts.

The most successful gap year traveler checks on their budget at least weekly to ensure financial longevity abroad.

Go Overseas Tip: Here’s 25 professional tips on doing your gap year on a budget.

Habit #8. You're Ready to Become a Negotiator

At some point -- whether shopping at a local bazaar or trying to get a better taxi fare -- you’ll find yourself needing to negotiate overseas. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but some cultures embrace haggling and inflate prices in anticipation of such.

Expert gap year travelers put their timidness aside and respectfully negotiate when needed; always asking questions, offering suggested alternatives and doing enough research to know when they see a good deal.

Habit #9. You Exude Spontaneity & Curiosity

The more you embrace spontaneity during your gap year the more you’ll experience. While this doesn’t mean foregoing an exercise in caution when appropriate, it does encourage a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness.

Comfort zones are nice, but successful gap year travelers are always willing to try something new if it helps them immerse with a new culture. They find it to be the best way to learn and return home with plenty of stories to tell!

Go Overseas Tip: Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s why going overseas is the perfect time to take chances.

Stay in one location for the whole year, or explore multiple destinations -- it's up to you! Now that you have expert tips for a successful gap year, get started on choosing the destination of your dreams.