Whether you’re planning a gap year adventure for once you finish school or are going to be doing some travelling this summer, the chances are you’re pretty excited about what awaits you. This will especially be the case if you’re at the point of actually booking your flights, accommodation and so forth.

To make sure that enthusiasm and excitement doesn’t turn into a nasty shock, however, it’s worth being mindful of the ways you can make sure you take precautions when making your gap year travel arrangements. There are unfortunately people in the world who prey on the naivety of gap year adventurers, and there are also umpteen unforeseen things that can go wrong on a gap year.

But while it’s not usually possible to have full control over or predict every possible negative circumstance, there are certainly steps you can take to prevent things going wrong on your gap year, as well as measures that can lessen the negative effects of things going wrong.

Here are our top five tips for keeping you safe and secure when making your gap year travel plans:

1) Look for the travel company’s affiliation credentials and investigate their reputation

If you’re going to embark on a gap year adventure that’s organised in whole or in part by a travel agent, it’s essential to look into the company that you’re planning on booking with. As a minimum you should check that they’re registered with the relevant bodies that regulate and vet travel companies, such as the Association of British Travel Agents. An extensive trawl of the Internet to find past customer reviews is also a good idea.

2) Always, always buy a good travel insurance policy

This tip can’t be stressed enough. You might think that you’ll be shaving a couple of quid off your gap year expenses by not getting travel insurance, but in reality you’re just exposing yourself to untold inconvenience or astronomical costs if something does go wrong during your gap year travelling.

3) Pay for flights with a credit card

It’s unfortunately not unknown for airlines to go bust, and when they do, your travel plans can be thrown into disarray. But that’s not the worst of it. When a company goes bust, they are almost never in a position to refund their customers who’ve they’ve left in the lurch. If you book your flights on a debit card, you’ll not be seeing your money again, and you won’t have any flights. But if you pay by credit card, while your flights will still have been cancelled you may at least be able to get your money back, under certain circumstances and depending on your card provider.

4) Read up on the common local scams

Different parts of the world are prone to different scams. Some cities are pickpocket hotspots, for example, while in other places unscrupulous accommodation providers wait at bus and rail stations and try to hassle new arrivals into accepting a place in their establishment for a highly inflated price. Fortunately, it’s very unlikely that the places you will be travelling to on your gap year will represented unchartered territory for backpackers. As such, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and the other usual suspects are packed with great tips regarding local scams to be on the lookout for.

5) Let people know about your travel plans

A crucial part of staying safe is letting people know where you’re going and when. This rule applies when you go out for an evening when at home, so why shouldn’t it also apply when you’re on the other side of the world on your gap year? And it’s not just a question of keeping your folks back home in the loop, but also the gap year friends who you end up getting to know through the hostels you stay in.

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