How to Cover Your Gap Year Cost

by Published

Thinking of hitting the road to get some gap year traveling on? Hold your horses! Before you take off running you’ll need to make sure you’ve got enough dough stacked up. Now if you’re a trustfund baby, you’re pretty much covered (lucky you!). But if you’re like most folks, you’re gonna have to rack up some bread to get your globe-trott on. So, if your pockets are hurting for gap year travel money, don’t give up on your voyaging dreams! There are ways to come up with the cash. So, let’s hash out some ways to fatten your wallet and learn how to cover the cost of a gap year!

girl in hat looking at beautiful landscape

Gap year scholarships can help make your dreams of adventure become a reality

How to cover the cost of a gap year

Step numero uno on how to cover the cost of a gap year? You need to decide how you want to get your wanderlust on. Do you want to go abroad with a formal gap year program or just galavant on your own? This is important because the cost of gap year programs will differ from the cost of planning your own excursions. Each route will require a different approach to planning for expenses, but both are guaranteed to offer exhilarating experiences. No matter what track you decide to take, you’ll need to make a smart gap year budget to make all this magical traveling stuff go down.

What does a gap year budget really look like?

We're going to break your gap year budget down for you, based on whether you're striking out solo or doing a formal gap year program.

Creating a gap year budget when traveling with a program. 

So, you’ve picked a winning gap year program to go overseas with. Right on! Your first question is probably, “how much does a gap year cost?” The cost of gap year programs vary from company to company, so it’s hard to give an average gap year cost. However, each program’s website will tell you exactly how much to pay to join. This amount will cover certain costs of being abroad like housing, in-country transportation, travel insurance, meals, trainings, and more. So, give the program info a thorough read so you know what gap year expenses will fall under your program’s fee.

You’ll also need to budget and pay for any gap year costs that aren’t listed under your program’s fees. So, think about what else you’re gonna need (and want) while living it up overseas. Dying to see the Taj Mahal? Dreaming about a Moroccan desert tour? Or maybe you need to budget for round trip airfare and money for snacks during your days abroad. Research the costs of any extra stuff you might need while overseas and jot it all down on a list. Their total will give you an idea of how much more you need to budget for in addition to your program fee.

Sunrise Czechia

The average gap year cost may be higher than you’d expect, but sunrises in beautiful places make it worth it.

Creating a budget for a solo gap year

So, you’re the type who prefers to do things on your own. You’re cool with traveling independently and want control over every detail of your gap year itinerary, like your housing and day-to-day travel excursions. But you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed wondering, “how much does a gap year cost when I’m planning it on my own?”

By traveling solo, you’ll have the freedom to plan your gap year and it’s expenses down to a T. Your gap year cost will all depend on what you decide to do and eat, and where you choose to crash each night. Heading abroad for a year? Make a “travel for a year budget.” You’ll want to draw up a spiffy gap year budget and write down every potential cost you can think of (a spreadsheet or notepad will do). That grand total will give you the low-down on how much to budget for your solo gap year.

Tip: You can find super helpful and free cost of living calculators all over Google. They’ll make organizing your average gap year costs a lot easier!

So, now you know how much your gap year will cost ya. It’s time to compare that amount against how much moolah you’ve already got. Friendly reminder: don’t panic about how to pay for a gap year if your calculations come up short on travel funds. You’re in good company because plenty of your gap year predecessors have looked financial obstacles in the eye and crushed them! Let’s dig into how to pay for a gap year.

Alright, dish out those secrets on how to pay for a gap year

Save up! 

One of the best ways to cover the cost of a gap year is by saving. Now you might be thinking, “duh!” However, by starting early and using some smart techniques, you can totally bank more than enough traveling funds to pay for a gap year cost.

island from above

Make room in your travel for a year budget for island hopping!

Ways to save money to cover your gap year costs:

  • Get a (legal!) side hustle. Helping your neighbor’s kids with homework, working a few hours a week at a local diner—part-time work is always a surefire way to save up money. So look around you and see where you can make money. There are opportunities to make gravy everywhere!
  • Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Do you really need those Hulu and Pandora subscriptions right now? And think about how much you can save by cutting out those afternoon Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks (they seriously add up!). So, reevaluate your spending habits and get them in check to start saving smart for your gap year funding. Financial discipline is a major key to figuring out how to pay for a gap year.
  • Tip: need some help with becoming a more savvy spender? Download a budgeting app to your cell phone—it will keep you honest and plugged into how much cash is pouring in and out of your accounts.
  • Set aside any extra money you’ve got coming in. If you’re American, put your tax refund into your gap year savings account. Expecting some birthday bills from Gramps? Take those wads straight to the bank toward your gap year funding. Resist the temptation to spend any extra bucks and drop it into your savings.
  • Sell some stuff! Do you have a lot of stuff just hanging around that you never use? Adopt a minimalist lifestyle, round up all your old junk, and put it up for sale on eBay or have a yard sale. A few bucks here and there from willing buyers will add up! 

Savings tips: Open a savings account just for your upcoming travel and have it automatically pull in a set amount of cash each week or month from your main account. You should also set a timeline for reaching your gap year savings goal. Then give yourself a (cheap!) reward for reaching each savings milestone—a little pat on the back is a great way to keep your momentum going strong!

Do a work abroad gap year. 

Why eat up your savings during your gap year when you can build them up even more? You heard right. If you want to plumpin up your money in the bank do a gap year work abroad program. You can take a paid teaching job, bartend on a Mediterranean cruise, do admin work Down Under, help Chinese kids learn English online—there are even gap year programs that will arrange a job, accommodation, and sundowners for you! Work abroad gap years are the perfect way to quench your thirst for travel without tapping you out. And contrary to popular belief, you can get paid to volunteer abroad too!


Seeing your first puffin? Priceless.

Apply for gap year scholarships and grants. 

Don’t overlook travel grants and scholarships as a way to cover gap year funding. There are heaps of promising financial aid opportunities out there just waiting to be scooped up! Applications for financial awards may be need-based depending on gender, ethnicity, or a certain humane gap year cause (like women’s empowerment gap year volunteering) and the application process will probably require you to submit an essay.

Planning to do charitable volunteer work while on your gap year? Seek out NGOs and local charities who may offer gap year scholarships for noble causes. If you’re a student, stop by your school’s financial aid office for guidance on gap year aid. And don’t forget about #bae—the internet! It’s a huge resource for finding travel grants and scholarships. Now, if you find scouring through thousands of financial aid programs on the web to be a mind-boggling, hop on back over here to GoAbroad. We’ve got a nifty database of gap year grants and scholarships that’s a lot easier on the eyes to sift through.

Plan cheap gap year ideas. The beauty of seeing the world is that some of the best experiences don’t have cost an arm and a leg. Simply walking, observing, drawing in your sketchbook, writing in your notebook. These can be incredibly powerful and meaningful experiences, and will only cost you time (and maybe a few bucks for those books!).

Cut down your gap year budget by planning free or cheap ways to sightsee. Instead of having a fancy schmancy New Year’s dinner at the Hilton, grab some kapana (succulent Namibian bbq’d beef) and take in all the sights and sounds at the open market. Remember, that old adage of “living like the locals” always goes easy on the purse. So, don’t underestimate the value of budget travel and cheap gap year ideas. 

Fund your a gap year with the help of friends and family.

Another way to cover the cost of a gap year? Fundraise that paper! Now, for a lot of folks, the word “fundraise” brings on the jitters. The thought of asking people for gap year funding gives them the heebie jeebies. Yet, the truth is fundraising is a totally legit and common way to cover the cost of gap year travels. So, push past those butterflies and lay aside your pride. It’s time to ask for some help to send you overseas.

So how do you set up a successful fundraiser? Take the easy route and give this user-friendly FundMyTravel tool a spin—it will walk you through how to launch super effective crowdfunding. Now, you might still feel icky about the idea of asking people for money. So, here’s a few tips for getting rid of the awkwardness that comes with asking for gap year funding.

  • Research tips on how to ask someone to donate money to support your travels. Simply knowing knowing how to phrase your “ask” can make a world of difference and you’ll sound way more convincing too! Google’s a great place to find ideas or ask someone experienced in crowdsourcing for advice.
  • As soon as you decide to do a gap year work on deepening the relationships with anyone you plan to ask for donations. It might sound phony, but the better you know a person the higher the chance of them supporting you when they land on your fundraiser website. Sending a few quick hello emails to a mentor or old boss updating them on your life and genuinely asking about theirs will start the ball rolling!
  • Target people or orgs that who would identify with your mission. Let’s say you’re going to be volunteering with kids in the favelas of Brazil on your gap year. Think about approaching an org that does work around children or youth empowerment for donations.
  • Sell yourself! Make your previous accomplishments and future goals shine bright on your fundraising material. Explain how your gap year will enhance your future, why there’s a need for your travel plans, and how your gap year project will better the world. You want potential donors to be crystal clear about your intentions so they’ll be more inclined to support them.
young men walking into sunset

Fire up your applications for scholarships for gap year students. Adventure is on the line!

Your gap year cost is worth the investment

So, you might have landed here overwhelmed about funding a gap year of solo travels, bummed about your bank balance, and clueless about how to cover the cost of gap year programs. Now, you can thwack those feelings of doubt and put your gap year game plan in action. With early planning and a sound strategy, raising the cash for an epic gap year experience is an exciting and pretty empowering process. 

From scholarships for gap year students, gap year grants, cheap gap year ideas, and all the other tricks you’ve learned about funding a gap year—there’s no need to stress about what to do in a gap year with no money. So, get out there and start hustling for that gap year green stuff!

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