Final exams and the end of term are on the horizon, which for many, signals a year ahead filled with dreams of traveling to far-flung countries and foreign lands. Each year, however, many college and university leavers put themselves at risk of having their trip of a lifetime ruined by not making some simple preparations before they go…

Get comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for everything you think you might do while you’re away. If you’re planning on riding a moped or taking part in extreme sports, make sure you read the small print to check your insurance covers you. If it doesn’t ask your insurer to make sure it does.

Book an appointment with your GP or a travel clinic as soon as possible before you travel to get the necessary vaccinations and medication you may need for your trip.

Know the laws and customs of the destinations you’ll be visiting. Get a good guide book and read the FCO’s travel advice at – it is important to respect the local culture as pleading ignorance won’t get you off!

Take a record of key information by photocopying your passport, taking your insurance details, and making a note of your credit card number and cancellation details. Leave copies with friends and family and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.

If you are travelling within Europe, ensure you take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you.  This will entitle you to free or reduced cost emergency healthcare in most European countries. Remember though, this is not a replacement for insurance – you will need that as well.

Register with the FCO’s LOCATE service.  Registering details of your trip as well as emergency friend and family contact details will help the FCO to find you in the event of a crisis and inform next of kin of your whereabouts. LOCATE can be found at

Working while you travel is a great way to help finance your trip, allowing you to stay away for longer. If you are planning to earn a bit of extra cash abroad, make sure you have the correct work permit and visas. Also, ensure you properly check out any potential employer before your interview and let friends or family know where you are going and who you are meeting.

Many gap year travellers want to make a contribution to a community abroad and volunteer while overseas. Voluntary work can be very rewarding although the same factors which can limit the value of gap years generally, such as language and cultural barriers, apply here too. Volunteering projects require careful structuring, planning and support. Volunteers will get more benefit the longer the project and the closer it matches their skills.

For more information please visit: