While many students may feel pressured into diving straight from high school into college (or college into uni, if you're a Brit like me), there are so many good reasons for taking a gap year. I didn't, and I've regretted it ever since.
Going on a year's worth of travel is your golden opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, raise your cultural awareness, and buy yourself some vital thinking time before making the move into work or further study. And despite what some folks might sneeringly claim about gap years being an excuse for a lazy and ignorant students to evade reality for another year (envy sure is an ugly thing), evidence increasingly cites them as the reason why young people do better in their subsequent studies and careers. Even heavyweights like Harvard encourage you to take a year out.
Of course, you shouldn't take for granted just how much planning goes into arranging the perfect gap year. There's loads to bear in mind, both when you're preparing for the trip (where to go, affordability, visas, flights, vaccinations, insurance...), and once you've set off on your journey (accommodation, health and safety, local customs, foreign languages, where your country's embassy is...).
These 15 essential iPhone apps will help you nail down all the pre-travel details, ensuring you have the best gap year ever. When will another opportunity like this come along? Quit messin' around and go see the world!
STA Travel Hostels, Hotels, Activities, Sightseeing Tours & MySTA Itinerary
STA Travel trumpet themselves as the "experts in student and youth travel," and their round-the-world flights and gap year packages are second to none. The official app offers a totally tailored experience where you'll quickly find the cheapest accommodation, plus the coolest adventures and activities. Your entire itinerary can be saved together in the app, and making and modifying your bookings is easy-peasy.
Make your gap year one to of the record books by doing good for others. Kiwanis International is a global community of volunteers dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time. Search the database of 8,000 clubs worldwide to find Kiwanis clubs near your destination, make volunteer friends, and keep abreast of news and events.
There are many things you can do on your gap year to help raise money for worthy causes, from sky-diving and bungee jumping to sponsored treks. The brilliant JustGiving app is the perfect way to manage your fundraising. Get notified when people donate, track your progress, and connect with sponsors. You can also pay the favor back by sponsoring others and tracking your donation history.
Staying organized is vital when you're planning a gap year, especially if you'll be hopping from country to country. TripIt stores essential travel information like flight confirmations, hotel reservations, and rental car bookings into a fully customizable and easy-to-follow digital itinerary. It even lets you share what you're up to with friends and family via email and social media.
Travel insurance is a no-brainer when you're going on a long trip, but Tripwise is more than just an app for accessing your insurance docs. Even non-policy holders can enjoy the travel tips for over 100 countries included in this sleek app from Travel Insurance Direct. Get essential info about passport, visa, and vaccination requirements, staying safe, locating your nearest consulate, health guides, and more. There's even handy phrasebooks according to destination to help you with the local lingo.
minube is the perfectly beautiful "Yelp meets Instagram" travel app for getting all the inspiration you need to plan an epic trip. Discover places to eat, sleep, chill out, or meet up, and check out real traveler reviews using the integrated "Drunken Translator" feature for any that aren't in your language.
Trover is the ultimate app for shutterbugs who love to travel: a community of like-minded wanderers seeking share-worthy things to see and do all over the world. Browse geo-tagged photos with tips and recommendations from around the world, save inspiration to your bucket list, and showcase your travel snaps to the world.
Jet Lag Rooster ain't the prettiest app in the store, but this simple calculating tool offers explicit advice on how to beat jet lag. And trust me, there's nothing uglier than jet lag. Enter your travel details for precisely timed instructions on when to avoid and seek light in order to reset your body to the new time zone.
Couchsurfing is a backpacker's best friend, particularly if you're on a tight budget. But if crashing on a stranger’s couch for free doesn't appeal to you, this well designed app is still great for hooking you up with fellow travelers and finding nearby cheap and free events. With its global community of over 9 million travelers in 120,000+ cities, you'll never be a lonely traveler with Couchsurfing.
The universally popular Airbnb is a great option for travelers on a budget who want more than just a sofa. With over 600,000 listings across 34,000 cities, you're sure to find a suitable resting place to recharge your backpacking batteries.
This one doesn't exactly need an introduction. With strikingly accurate (it ain't like the old days) instant translation between 90 languages from text, photos, and voice, you shouldn't be allowed to own a smart device if it doesn't have Google Translate installed on it.
Most of us have long trusted xe.com as the go-to website for converting currency. And when you're out and about, the official XE Currency app is just as trustworthy, keeping you up-to-date with over 100 currencies for quick calculations. Even better, it works offline with the most recent rates, so you can work out how much that bag will cost, even when you don't have coverage.
Lugging your rucksack onto a packed train or queuing hours for the fun-bus to your next destination can get a little exhausting. BlaBlaCar gives you a break from slumming it on public transport whilst still saving you some dosh. And with verified profiles and passenger reviews, you can be sure your driver is safe behind the wheel.
If you're traveling far away, you're susceptible to catching bugs and being munched on by creepy crawlies that your home environment hasn't taught your body to cope with. Sickweather displays real-time alerts of illness, outbreaks, and more on a map of your surrounding area, so you can prepare for - and avoid - any nasties that threaten to ruin your trip.
Whenever I travel, it's always the food I talk most about on my return. If you're a shameless glutton like me, then you'll love Foodspotting. The app crowdsources user recommendations and drool-worthy food photos to help you discover new, exotic, wallet-friendly delicacies near you.