What age can you take a gap year?

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Today I want to help you understand the right age you can take a gap year. Truth is, gap years are still consistently popular and have no signs of going away. However, not everyone is confident that they’re the right age to go on a trip like that.

But is there really a “right” age? Everyone completes stages of their life at different times. There is no definitive schedule for people to live their lives. So why should there be only a short window in life where it’s acceptable to go away on a gap year? Nothing else in life has to follow an exact order, so why does this?

So let’s take a look at the various age groups you might find taking a gap year of their own. I’m confident you’ll see that your age is a perfect age too.

backpack next to a river

What’s the earliest age you can take a gap year?

Generally speaking, 18 is the youngest age most people would take a gap year. However, that’s not the only rule. In some instances, someone might take a year abroad during high school or 6th form. It’s not very common, but it does happen and this could be between the age of 16-18.

In other circumstances, some children could go on a family gap year with their parents. Again, this does happen, albeit not too often.

Travel Insurance

Since 18 is deemed to be the first year of adulthood in many countries, this is the age most travel insurances start allowing plans.

That’s not to say travel insurance refuses to insure children. They often won’t accept under-18s on plans on their own – they usually need to have an adult too. The exception to this rule is paying extra with parental permission from a few selected travel insurance companies.

Check out why you should get travel insurance for your gap year here.

My favourite insurance brands are True Traveller & World Nomads. Each company insures British citizens on their long-term trips around the world!

What age can you take a gap year?

Below I am going to outline the various age groups and the most common reason they might take a gap year. Remember, these points are not everyone’s truth, but just the majority. Not everyone’s journey is the same but there are certainly some patterns. Don’t forget that there are always exceptions!

We will also briefly touch on the positive reasons for taking a trip at each age and the disadvantages of gap years during each age range as well.

Need help planning your own adventure? Check out my step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip abroad for the first time. Plus, my Travel Resources page is always being updated with the most popular sites and brands I use, personally.

Graphic that reads 18-20 which is the ideal age to take a gap year

18 – 20 years old

When you look at generalisations, this is the first age group people think of when they hear someone’s taking a gap year. It’s the age when people are legally identified as an adult. They want to experience freedom on their terms for the first time. This is the typical age you’d expect someone to finish their high school or 6th-form studies before heading off to university or work.

Pro of going at this age: It allows you to get some world experience and have some freedom before diving into 3+ years of studying or your career.

Con of going at this age: Many people fresh out of high school haven’t got that much money saved. This can make it harder to afford an entire year abroad.

graphic that reads 20-30

20 – 30 years old

This is the second most thought-of-age group where gap years are considered. Throughout this decade you’ll find young adults who want to explore the world. Within this group, you’ll find people that have finished university, so they want to travel before getting serious about their working life.

Others might want to get some experience working overseas on a working holiday visa. Most WHVs are only available until the age of 30 except in a few select countries which allow participants until the age of 35.

Pro of going at this age: Celebrate finishing your studies and explore before you start working.

Con of going at this age: Some people want to start work as soon as they finish their degree to start paying back their student debt as soon as possible.

What is a working holiday visa? Check out these 8 countries you can take a working holiday visa as a British citizen.

graphic that reads 30-45 which is another age group to take a gap year out

30 – 45 years old

Did you know the most common age to take a sabbatical in the UK is 38? This is because you’re still young enough to build your career when you get back. Plus, you’re already established enough within your industry that your job will stay safe during the break.

It’s a typical time for people to start mortgages, plan weddings, grow their families and are finally financially stable. This is the prime age group where people know where they want to go and are lucky enough to make it happen to celebrate preparing for their new mature stage of life.

Pro of going at this age: Financially stable and confident in their career, they’re happy to take a break before returning.

Con of going at this age: If you are planning to have a wedding, baby or a house, this costs a lot of money. Even being financially stable, it can be expensive to do them all too close together.

graphic that reads 45-65

45 – 65 years old

Many people consider taking an adult gap year during this stage of life for two main reasons. One is because people become empty nesters after their children have grown up. The second is because, statistically, you’re likely to finish paying off your mortgage around age 59.

This means you won’t owe the bank any more money and can celebrate finally being an official homeowner with no more home debt! You spent so much of your life caring for your children that now you can have some time to start your own adventure.

Pro of going at this age: No (or minimal) mortgage payments, which means you have more money left over each month.

Con of going at this age: You’re likely to be still working, so you’ll need to request time off, which can be difficult, especially if you go before you’re ready to retire; they may not hire you back!

graphic that reads 65+ - a good age to take a retirement gap year

65+ years old

Unless you’re wealthy and can afford to retire before you enter your 60s, you will likely retire at the standard retirement age, if not later. (At this rate in the UK, I wonder if our generation will be able to retire before 80, but that’s another story).

Many people that retire in their 60s take a payout from their retirement fund and do some travelling to enjoy the start of their retirement. And why shouldn’t you want your freedom after 35+ years of working hard?! This is the best time to finally tick off some travel dreams now that you don’t need to request any holiday days off from work.

Pro of going at this age: You no longer have to request time off of work and have permanent freedom in the future.

Con of going at this age: You might not be as physically able as you once were, which can restrict some of your travel activities. Plus, It’s often hard to get affordable long-term travel insurance after this age.

To summarise, the age to take a gap year

Hopefully, this article has shown you that you can take a gap year at any age or stage in your life. It’s all down to preference! A gap year isn’t something that needs to be done at one particular age but instead can be taken at any time you wish.

Have you ever felt “too old in age” to take a gap year? Did you end up going?

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