With school back in session and fewer families on the road, autumn is the perfect time to take a gap year. Fewer tourists on the streets allow you to explore places more authentically. You'll be surrounded by locals going about their daily lives who live and work in those destinations. This way you'll be able to get a deeper understanding of their beliefs, values and culture.
As the ‘off-season’, autumn also boasts as one of the cheaper times for airfare and accommodation. With lower demand, plane tickets and hotel rates drop several hundred dollars in price. In addition, autumn guarantees mild temperatures which are perfect for exploring a new destination for an entire day.
Autumn is the perfect time to take your gap year as your hard-earned money will go further, the crowds will be thinner, and cooler temperatures make it an ideal time for exploration. Read on for inspiration to plan your gap year itinerary in autumn.
Where to Go
For students who are fans of exciting and far-flung destinations, here are several places to enjoy during the autumn season. You may just like it so much you’ll want to enjoy Autumn twice in one year. Spend the first quarter of the year (March – May) in the Southern Hemisphere and then jet to the Northern Hemisphere in September!
Being among the top ten largest countries in the world, it’s a place that needs significant time to explore. When jetting to Australia, remember that the seasons will be opposite to what they are in the northern hemisphere; autumn in the United States is actually Spring in Australia! It's one of the most beautiful seasons to visit as the jacaranda trees bloom and the streets are filled with lavender petals. Mild temperatures also create the perfect opportunity to explore small beach towns like Byron Bay and natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru.
Since it can be quite expensive to travel down under, you can apply for a working holiday visa. Main cities like Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane have hospitality or tourism jobs for young travelers. If you’d rather volunteer or intern, there are also plenty of wildlife organizations to get involved with, for example.
Since the summer months are notorious for monsoons in Nepal, autumn (starting in September) provides relief from the wet season. The dry weather of autumn is perfect for exploring the country to its fullest extent. The dryness provides exceptional visibility, perfect for trekking in the Himalayas.
During Autumn, Nepal also celebrates two Hindu festivals: Dasain and Tihaar. A 15-day celebration, Dasain is considered one of the most important festivals of the whole year. Based on the Hindu religion, Dasain celebrates the defeat of demons by the gods. It’s a time of renewal that families celebrate by cleaning their homes, buying gifts, and reuniting with family.
Celebrated in November, Tihaar is a five-day festival of lights that honors animals, siblings, and Laxmi, the goddess of luck and prosperity. This is an exciting time to visit Nepal to learn and immerse yourself in Nepalese culture and tradition.
Did you know autumn is the season for olive harvesting? Agrotourism in Greece is steadily growing, which allows more and more people to experience the process of harvesting olives -- all the way from picking the fruit to creating pressed olive oil!
If you are looking to work during your autumn gap year, consider being an au pair with Au Pair International in Greece. In exchange for 20 to 30 hours a week taking care of children, accommodation and food are provided. The rest of the time is yours to visit archeological sites, sail around the islands, and live like a local.
(Pro-tip: if olives aren't your thing but you dig the idea of spending some of your gap year harvesting, there are always opportunities to WWOOF on vineyards in France instead!)
Planning Your Trip
How to Plan a Gap Year in Autumn
Planning a gap year and traveling overseas can be overwhelming and daunting, but you can minimize the anxiety and create a more enriching experience by purposefully structuring your gap year. Taking a gap year is about learning about yourself, exploring different values, and getting real-world experience.
To ensure a meaningful year abroad, it's best to plan how and where you want to spend your time. One of the best ways to do this is to enroll in a gap year program. This is a safe and low-risk option that provides logistical guidance and curates an educational and social experience for the group. Gap year programs are also tremendously useful for connecting you with internship or volunteering opportunities.
Gap programs are great, but you may want to venture out on your own as well. A good way to structure your time is to participate in a program for several weeks or months, do a month of travel, and continue with another program or job. This type of schedule allows for planning but also leaves room for flexibility!
Your planning may also depend on which countries you want to visit. For example, you may want to attend the festivals in Nepal, but you're also interested in conservation work in Australia. You can plan the dates of the festivals as independent travel and organize a conservation internship the month before or after.
Health & Safety
When taking a gap year trip, consider general health and safety precautions. For example, know where your valuables are at all times when passing through touristy locations. Use a cross-body bag or wear your backpack in front of you to deter pickpockets.
Additionally, you should always have travel and medical insurance. During long-term travel, bags get lost, flights are canceled, and viruses are inevitable. Especially in places like Nepal, food-borne bacteria is common. To make it easier on yourself and your loved ones at home (not to mention your bank account), make sure to purchase each of these for worst case scenarios. Better to have the option and not need it!
When traveling overseas, also take the time to update your vaccines with your doctor six to eight weeks before your departure. Boosters for Tetanus, Polio, Mumps, Measles and Hepatitis A are recommended for Nepal and Greece. Typhoid, Meningitis, and Rabies are also vaccines worth considering depending on where you go.
Other Need to Know
If you are taking a gap year between high school and college, be sure to make all the necessary arrangements with your university. Most colleges will allow (and even encourage) you to take a gap year as long as you complete all the paperwork for a one-year deferral.