After deciding to take a year off, I needed to work out what I was going to do with all that time and make sure that I wasn’t wasting my time and money. The internet is brilliant, but it’s huge and it’s not always easy to find useful resources, here some of the websites I found useful .
Tour operators and Travel Agents:
Intrepid: www.intrepidtravel.com ♥
Intrepid specialise in small group travel, they have adventures all over the world. Trips range from backpacker trail basics trips using public transport and staying in hostels, to comfort options with nice hotels and more meals included, they cater well for solo travellers giving the option for your own room in some cases. They have a responsible travel outlook, employing local guides and staff,using local transport and accommodation providers and have their own not for profit sustainable development programme; The Intrepid Foundation.
Whilst travelling in Thailand, I visited Myanmar with Intrepid on a sailing adventure in the remote Megui Archipelago, a trip which would have been difficult to do independently due to the need for permits to the marine park and the amount of time visas take to be issued. I met some amazing people on this trip, and got to experience a remote and untouched part of the world, I would definitely travel with them again.
Exodus Travel: www.exodus.co.uk
More activity based than Interpid or G, I have booked a trekking trip with them in march to the Atlas mountains, great booking experience and good value for money their trips can be booked with or without flights and for the trekking trips they provide a kit bag and detailed trip notes.
G Adventures: www.gadventures.com
Similar to Intrepid, organised small group adventures worldwide, ideal for people wanting to do something different with their annual leave or want to take the hassle out of organising your own trip. They run a great blog with stories from around the world. They ‘give back’ through their sustainable development foundation: Planeterra.
Responsible travel: http://www.responsibletravel.com
A great resource for finding unusual holidays, all the trips on the website have a responsible tourism ethic. They have a wide variety of trips on their websites from expeditions in the mountains of Nepal through to family holidays in Europe.
Dragoman: On my bucket list is a good old fashioned overland tour, spending weeks on the road with a group of I haven’t booked one yet but I spend a good deal of time browsing their trips. Dragoman offer overland tours across most regions from a few weeks to epic trans-continental journeys of a life time in purpose built trucks.
Volunteering Abroad ;
Giving Way: http://www.givingway.com/
‘Not for profit’ organisation specialising in connecting volunteers with projects directly. They support a range of projects and NGO’s not found elsewhere. They do charge a small upfront fee for joining the network but searching the database is free, and once a member they offer you get unlimited use of the network including an area for connecting with other travellers
One World 365: http://www.oneworld365.org/
Directory of meaningful, holidays, paid work abroad, courses and volunteer opportunities. As well as searching for specific projects you can also search for organisations offering specific types of activities such as diving, sailing, teaching or language courses.
Working Abroad http://www.workingabroad.com/
Not for Profit organisation for volunteers and travellers, helping to connect volunteers with potential placements working with grassroots organisations NGO’s around the world. The website includes helpful advice, interesting blogs and a searchable database of volunteering organisations and projects
Projects Abroad: www.projects-abroad.net ♥
International company organising Internships and Volunteer projects in developing count
ries around the world in various fields from conservation to Public Heath and Human Rights.
Mainly aimed at ‘Gap Year’ market, they accept people of all ages on most projects. My six weeks in Cambodia was arranged through them. I was initially a little concerned about the size of Projects Abroad as an organisation and the fact that they are a company rather than a not-for-profit organisation, however they are clear about where their money goes and the sharing of funds allows projects like mine to function.
Hotels and Flights:
I’m too old for traipsing around hostels and inspecting bathrooms for hours before finding somewhere to stay and every now and again I like to upgrade myself to a bit of luxury. Not always the cheapest but with their ‘Genius’ loyalty scheme and their handy app it’s good for last minute accommodation. Their reviews and maps are also useful when in a new destination.
Sky Scanner: www.skyscanner.net
Great search engine for flights, particularly good if you are flexible on time and exact destination.
Google Flights: www.google.com/flights/
Another good way of finding flights, there seems to be a difference in the way Google works compaired to Sky Scanner so its sometimes worth trying both.
Trip Advisor: www.tripadvisor.com
More of a booking site now, but I still glance at the reviews if struggling to decide on accommodation. I always worth sneak a peak at traveller’s profiles from negative reviews, especially on budget accommodation, some people have very high standards and tight wallets.
Travel Insurance: www.worldnomads.com
Flexible insurance policies, allows you update and extend your cover as you travel, you can also start your policy after you have left your home country. This was great for me after my diving project as many insurance policies only cover you if you start your policy from departure of your home country.
Search Engine that plants trees as you search! Works like google, but the ad revenue is used to fund projects, mainly in the developing world.
Other cash back sites are available, I have used this for a year of two and made nearly £100 pounds back.
My gap year was part funded by selling belongings I no longer used, and after downsizing from own flat to friends sofas and my parents’ house I had a lot of things to sell. I have also picked up many a bargain on eBay it’s great for second-hand guidebooks and travel gadgets.
As a bookohlic my amazon account and my kindle mean I can maintain my book addiction without the need for an extra set of luggage.