ICE looks into UK’s gap year plans

Have you ever thought about dropping everything and going on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a far-flung destination? It’s a romantic notion, and one that millions of people across the world are on board with, either saving up a chunk of cash and taking a much longer holiday, or working as they travel.

But there is always an element of risk about upping and leaving your life for a year. Will you be able to survive without your usual income, and will you have anything to come back to? To find out more about what the UK thinks about gap years, we surveyed over 2,000* people, asking them whether they were considering a gap year, how they’d facilitate it, and what might stop them from taking one.

A popular plan

Overall, when asked if they were considering taking time out of work or study to travel in the next five years, a whopping 43% of people said they were thinking about it. 39% of people said they weren’t considering taking a gap year and 18% were unsure.

Younger respondents were more likely to say they were heading to distant shores, with 65% of 18-34 year-olds saying they were planning a trip, although 52% of 35-44 year-olds, and 31% of 45-54 year-olds were also positive on heading abroad for a long period. Only 19% of those aged 65-plus were actively considering gap year-style travel.

Across the country, respondents in London and Dublin were most likely to say yes (58%), with those in Sheffield being least likely. 61.3% of those surveyed in the northern city said no to the idea—the nearby Peak District is pretty lovely, after all!

When it came to the sexes, men were much more adventurous, with 83% saying yes to a gap year, compared to 59% of women. In terms of who respondents would go with, partners (19%) and family members (10.8%) were most popular, with 9.3% instead deciding to go it alone.

What’s stopping people?

Going on a gap year isn’t the cheapest or easiest of plans though, requiring thousands of pounds and the bravery to detach yourself from life back home. When asking the public what would stop them from taking a gap year, lack of money was the biggest, and perhaps most obvious hurdle, cited by 52% as their reason for abandoning the idea.

This was followed by family and childcare responsibilities (18%), concerns about being too old (17%) and having partners reluctant to embrace the idea of a gap year (16%).

Men were more concerned about the impact on their career than women (13% and 10%, respectively), and also saw settling down and having a family as a bigger barrier too (10% of men versus 8.5% of women).

Interestingly, Dubliners were most concerned with needing to save for a house (15%) and Londoners were scared about the impact on their education (12%), while those in Leeds were most career-orientated – a fifth were concerned about the impact on their jobs and careers.

21% of 45-54 year-olds thought they were too old to travel, while 22.1% of 18-24 year-olds were saving to buy a house – the age group most likely to say so. Given that property prices are so out of reach in some parts of the country, it is hardly surprising that travel might be taking a back seat for more young people.

Funding a gap year

All gap years differ in price depending on how much you decide to trim your living costs, where you travel to and for how long, but they regularly run to thousands of pounds.

60% of our respondents were most likely to use their savings to fund their adventures, followed by credit cards (15%) and working while travelling (15%). 20% of 18-34 year-olds said they’d rely on their families for some funding, while 75% of 18-24 year-olds would save up – the highest proportion of any age group. 25-34 year-olds were most dependent on credit (25%), while 45-54 year-olds preferred the idea of a working holiday.

Those surveyed aged 65 and over were most likely to use their pensions to fund their trip away, and when it came to using pension money, there was a huge gender difference – 63% of men would dip into their pension pot, compared to just 9% of women.

If you’re thinking of heading away, take a look at International Currency Exchange’s travel money and prepaid currency cards. With branches all around the world you can get great deals on foreign exchange, wherever you are.

*Survey carried out by TLF Research on a sample of 2,007 UK respondents.