The adventure generation: Gap years and holidays

Posted: 18 Feb 2019 - 12:55
Gap years and travel
Big numbers of students dedicate big budgets to their pre-university travels. With so much to plan and purchase, the decision-making and guidance for students looking to travel is a complex process. How can you make it easier for them to find what they need?

The sense of freedom and independence that draws students to university also draws them to delaying that decision, in place of travel. And even if that wanderlust can be sated via a gap year, it remains an itch to be scratched by regular holidays, despite the tight budgets of student life.  

Gap years

The romance of spending a boundless year abroad is irresistible for 13% of students, amounting to almost 100,000 trips booked for the year between school and university. 81% arrange the whole thing themselves, and 74% plan to fund the trip independently, a not inconsiderable feat when average spending over the trip is £2,083 per person. That’s not including £518 on pre-travel purchases like clothes/shoes (56%), insurance (43%), toiletries (43%), and luggage (26%).

Those relying on travel agencies primarily opt for STA Travel (10%) and Gap 360 (4%). Choosing between agencies largely came down to recommendation (43%), but ease (25%), flexibility (23%), and cost (23%) were also important. With agency arranged packages still  relatively unpopular among students, a huge amount of research is carried out by each individual, giving brands multiple opportunities to access their market while searching for hotels, flights, experiences, transport rental, pre-travel purchases, and more.

And don’t forget, the number of students who enjoy gap years during university, opting for some time away from their studies, and those who undertake the adventure after graduation. With these included, that original 100,000 trips rises to around 230,000 in total.


For a notoriously thrifty demographic, holidays are still common features in the calendar for students. Almost three-quarters of them are planning a getaway in the next year, amounting to some 1.5 million students. And, as for when they take them:

Summer: 49%    Christmas: 26%    Weekend/short breaks: 20%    Easter: 17%

Overseas students dedicate the most money to their annual holiday fund, at £2,019, while Northern Irish dedicate the least, at £732. English and Welsh students are both around £900, with the average student spend at just under £1,000. 55% of students pay for holidays themselves, with 45% relying on some family input to the bill. 

The potential outlay for travelling is surprisingly high for students, reaching as much as £8,000 for those who take a gap year and annual holidays over the course of their studies. Showcasing their independence and eye for good deals, students are more drawn to organising trips themselves than opting for package and agency deals, which are often marked up for the convenience factor. All in all, students are willing and able to invest serious sums into their globetrotting – a trend that doesn’t look like diminishing any time soon. 

Discover more about the spening habits of students in our latest lifestyle report.


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