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Gap years for grown-ups: turning a setback into an opportunity

17 March 2011 15:34

Elderly travellers riding a moped

Elderly travellers riding a moped

Gap years are no longer reserved for students in-between education and employment. Many people who are facing redundancy or have recently lost their job are turning what first seems such bad news into the ideal opportunity for a career break.

And why not? It is not often in life you get a second chance if, in more prosperous times, you went straight into work from college or from one job to another. It's true that you are more likely to have bigger financial commitments, but if you have a reasonable pay-off that money can go a lot further in other countries and you can reduce outgoings if you rent out your home while you are away.

But with responsibilities back home you do need to carefully plan what you are going to do, where and why. Being out of the UK downturn for a few months may, you feel, revitalise your job hunt when you return. Plan carefully and you could pick up new skills while you are away or, indeed, find work abroad to help fund your trip.

Getting the right travel insurance needs to be a priority too. First considerations are where you are going, for how long and what you will be doing; as these will affect the type and cost of a travel insurance policy. There may be particular activities on your 'wish list' you need to get cover for, such as diving, white water rafting and bungee jumping. Don’t assume a standard policy will cover them, often they don't. Even something as simple and readily available as hiring a moped needs to be specified in your insurance. It is better to be covered than not and it won't cost a lot more to get the right policy.

Common sense needs to prevail when you are abroad too. You should not over indulge in alcohol or illegal substances while on holiday. Take necessary precautions, such as wearing a helmet when riding a moped. Any claims resulting from incidents when you were intoxicated or not wearing appropriate safety equipment will probably not be covered.

You also need to get adequate cover for the items you are taking with you. People on lengthy travels regularly take expensive gadgets with them to stay in touch with family and friends back home, keep on top of domestic affairs and to keep a record of their trip of a lifetime. Expensive phones, laptops, cameras and mp3 players are taken along as standard, but do check your limit for valuables on your travel insurance policy. The average backpacker travel insurance policy gives just £200 for an individual item and £1000 in total.

Think about your health too when choosing travel insurance. Any pre-existing medical condition needs to be declared, even something as common as asthma. It probably won't increase the premium but if you become ill because of it and you failed to tell insurer you won't be covered. If you are taking medication, or you've had any treatment in the last twelve months your insurer needs to know about that too.

You will receive your policy documents before you depart. Read them carefully and make a few copies of them so you can put one in your carry-on and check-in luggage, a set with your travel documents and a copy with a full set of all your documents with a contact back home.

Along with the right travel insurance you should keep up to date with the latest travel alerts on the Foreign and Commonwealth website. Anyone travelling to destinations where there is a perceived higher risk is advised to use the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office LOCATE service. It is designed to ensure that anyone travelling to foreign shores is accounted for and not forgotten should anything happen in the destination during a stay. To register for the LOCATE service travellers need to visit the FCDO website and provide information about travel plans and some personal information.

With careful consideration and a bit of research to get the right travel insurance, you are equipped to make the most of a well-earned break and gain new experiences that you will remember for all the right reasons.