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Gap Year Survival Guide from World First Travel Insurance

14 February 2010 15:59

Up to 49% of gap year travellers leave home without the right travel insurance cover

More young people than ever before are booking and planning their, perhaps unexpected, gap year in good time for the February peak in departures. To help the estimated additional 25,000 students who are taking an enforced gap year in 2009/10, worldwide travel insurance specialists World First are starting their 'World First Gap Year Survival Guide' using a range of social media outlets including blogging, Facebook and Twitter.

The FCDO has released figures that 25% of gap year travellers are likely to suffer a bad experience whilst travelling , and other reports state that between 24% and 49% of young people take their gap year without taking out adequate (or any) backpacker travel insurance. With the cost of an air ambulance plus medical fees mounting up to well over £100,000 it is vital that all gap year travellers take out appropriate insurance protection.

Alice Draper, from the Foreign Office, comments: 'We believe that the economic climate is encouraging some graduates to defer their careers and take time out to travel instead. This is leading to a greater demand for information, and we have seen a 75% increase in visits to over the past year .

'Recent research shows that young independent travellers see this website as a valuable resource, and with more students travelling we will ensure that our activities in schools, colleges and universities are at the heart of our Know Before You Go campaign for the forthcoming year. We are also delighted when other organisations, such as our partners, start their own campaigns, as long as they are pushing out the right information to gap year takers.'

This is why World First Travel Insurance has launched its Survival Guide in order to reach as many gap year takers as possible, and raise awareness of the potential dangers of not taking adequate protection. It will be using its range of social media applications to actively engage with travellers, and give them advice as promoted by the Know Before You Go campaign and also encourage them to share good practice and tips.

World First's social media streams include:

'It is concerning that one quarter of young travellers don't have appropriate cover, particularly as it is so easy to get travel insurance quotes online and when a comprehensive policy with us starts from £90,' says Martin Rothwell, Managing Partner of World First. 'Travel insurance should be a number one priority, especially for gap year travellers and backpackers who are likely to be enjoying adventurous activities and moving around a lot. Travel insurance does not just cover lost possessions or cancelled flights but, far more crucially, medical expenses and repatriation.

'We have been using social media for some time to reach customers,' continues Rothwell, 'and this Survival Campaign is a perfect way to reach out not just to potential customers but travellers in general. We want young people to understand the highs (and sometimes lows) of travel and also that not taking out travel insurance is not just a false economy but could cause extreme financial difficulty.'

Below are two of World First's Survival Guide Case Histories, as found on Facebook. They are encouraging other students (via social media) to join in.

The Seasonnaire's Guide to a successful Ski Season
Charlotte, 22, decided to work in a ski resort after graduating last year. As well as being keen to learn to ski she wanted to work abroad in order to pay her way through the season. 'I wasn't paid very much at all,' she explains. 'But since the company covered accommodation, food, ski hire and lift passes, all I really had to spend money on was drinks and going out. And it certainly didn't hurt that I was dating the bartender at our favourite bar!' Charlotte's top tips to getting that dream job as a seasonnaire:

  • Look for jobs well in advance. Recruiting for resort jobs begins in summer, but there are also last minute vacancies since people drop out before and during the season. Do your own research and contact companies directly, since competition is fierce and the more you apply the better chance you have!
  • In the meantime, get a hospitality job in a bar or restaurant - the experience will be really beneficial once the season starts. Remember: the more smoothly your work goes, the more free time you'll have on the slopes!
  • When you get a job, make sure that your employer covers your travel and medical insurance, and if not then get your own policy. One in ten skiers is likely to suffer an injury, and that's just the holidaymakers. Out of the 25 or so at the company that I worked for, about 6 or 7 had to go to hospital with injuries during the season.

The Solo Backpacker's Survival Tips
Lewis, 23, worked for six months after leaving school in order to fund three months of travelling in South America. 'I had a really fantastic time, although I was the victim of theft once,' he says. 'I had my backpack stolen from right next to me in a bus station. I was really annoyed as I consider myself a vigilant person. But it just shows that these things can happen to anyone, and luckily I was insured so I could replace my clothes and things without going broke.' Matt's recommendations for making the most of your travels:

  • Set a budget for each month or each country you visit - there is always so much to do that unless you have limits you could easily find yourself blowing the budget in a very short amount of time, no matter how cheap living is!
  • Invest in a distinctive or brightly coloured backpack. Mine was stolen right in front of my eyes - if I'd had a bright orange backpack or something then I would have seen him get away!
  • Research the local scams before you go somewhere new. So many of my friends have fallen for the trick when someone spits or squirts ketchup on you, and someone else offers to help you clean up whilst a third person picks your pockets. If you are aware of the most common scams then you are far less likely to fall for them.
  • Stay positive! Yes, you hear stories about thefts and scams but at the end of the day if you are careful then you are doing the best you can, and the experiences that you have far outweigh the concerns. If you have a good travel insurance policy then you are covered for losing 'stuff', and no-one can trick you out of the awesome memories that you'll make!