Financial tips for a golden gap year

We explain how to finance your travel bucket list

“The things you regret in life are the opportunities missed,” says Heather Cowper from travel blog Heather on her Travels.

But it doesn’t seem as simple as it might have done at 18 – what about all the responsibilities? The mortgage, the pension, the grown-up-but-not-quite-independent children?

Taking a leap into the great unknown doesn’t have to involve a financial leap as well. Some of the best trips can be done on a shoestring with the right amount of preparation and planning. And for those who want a bit of luxury, there are always ways to free up some cash so that you can make a splash on your travels.

Save and invest

If you know you need to save a certain amount to make a trip happen then I’d try to break that down into something that’s more tangible and realistic,” advises Heather. Making small changes can add up to a good saving at the end of the month.

If you’re looking for somewhere to invest your spare bits of cash, online investment services such as Wealthify allow you to build personal plans to suit your needs and withdraw funds at any time. You could also consider paying more into your pension pot, accessible from the age of 55, and take advantage of the tax relief benefits – a simple way to boost your travel pot and bring you one step closer to booking that flight.

Equity release

Freeing up some of the financial value of your home, is one way to fund your long-awaited trip. You can use it as an income while you are away, meaning you can pay for that dream helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon without dipping into your savings. Remember, it's important you consider the benefits, costs and risks before deciding whether a lifetime mortgage or equity release product is right for you.

Withdrawing money from your pension pot

Nowadays you have a lot more control over how and when you spend your retirement money, with one option being to take a tax-free 25% lump sum once you’ve stopped working. You can either take out your funds gradually or take out the entire lump sum at once, depending on what best suits your tax status. So when you fall in love with the cherry blossom trees in Japan, you know it needn’t be the last time you’ll see them.

Look out for deals

I look for the free or low-cost things to do first,” says Heather, “then I mix these activities up with a few splurge activities that may be costlier.” Find free museums, collect coupons, look out for credit card deals and enter competitions – you might just find a hidden gem that you can recommend to others next time.

Travel off season

One of the great benefits of not having young children is that you’re no longer tied to school holiday travel. Take advantage by booking a trip during the cheaper off-peak season. "Do a bit of research on booking sites to get a feel for the cost of travel,” says Heather, and consider overnight and midweek flights to cut the cost. Discover a boutique pension, a kooky self-catered apartment or venture into the great outdoors to set up camp under the stars – there are plenty of cheap alternatives to hotels.

Plan ahead

Now that you’ve carefully planned your money to give you enough for your big adventure, think about spending it wisely to make it go further when you’re out there. Set some time aside to do your research and draw up a budget of predicted spending. “If you’re on a tight budget, it might be better if you choose to visit parts of the world where living costs are lower,” says Heather. Get some books, colour code a spreadsheet or even put some pins in a map to decide where you want to go – the destination might be part of it, but how we get there is all part of the fun.

Ready to take that adventure you always dreamed of? Read advice from some of the UK’s best travel bloggers for insider tips on how to travel solo and protect your health while away.

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