Xtreme Gap Year


Xtreme Gap Year is a new kind of travel company: We focus on adrenaline travel. What is that? Well put it this way, we believe when you do some incredible things and push your comfort zone as you travel it gives you the best travel experiences.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Thailand in Review

One word to describe my four weeks backpacking Thailand with Xtreme Gap would be "crazy". During that month, I went from living beside elephants in rural Thailand, to fine dining at the top of the Baiyoke Tower, to snorkeling off the coast of Koh Tao, to dancing at the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan. Xtreme Gap had everyday planned with tons of different activities yet enough free time to explore and have fun at night. I made some great friends from all over the world through this program and we definitely share some unforgettable memories.

The only thing that was a bit lacking about Xtreme Gap was the service as they weren't super communicative and I really didn't know what to expect of the trip besides what was on the website (though there is tons of info there). Both our tour guides were great at leading us around and giving advice but sometimes it felt like we had to tell them what to do. There also were quite a few times we had to pay for activities which we felt was a bit strange. But all in all we got from place to place safely and on time and the trip was overall amazing. Just "trust the process" as everything works out great and you'll have an unbelievable time! I would definitely recommend!

Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Pick Another If You Can

I did the Xtreme Thailand Experience which was good but not necessarily because of the company. The people I had in my group were so cool and the tour guide we had was the best.

I initially had a problem with Xtreme Gap because they are very vague with their itinerary and the information on their website, which opens door to confusion that they DO NOT want to be accountable for. For example, I picked the Open Water Diving option yet they have SPECIFIC swimming requirements that I can't reach which wasn't on the website. If I had known, I obviously wouldn't have picked it because am I trying to drown in that water? Yet they do not want to give me the difference back when I pick another option. I'm certain this has happened with others and they still haven't changed it by adding more information to the website, indicating they enjoy scamming people. I had let them know that this had clouded my time here (1 week in, out of 4 weeks) and for 100 quid basically they're saying "that's your problem". For a big company like this, I'd expect better.

The staff that answer the emails are rude and quite frankly, unprofessional. It's been a week since I've sent my email and no response.

Take what you want from this but I'd suggest if you want a more enjoyable, honest experience, then go with a different company because they all do the same thing anyway.

What would you improve about this program?
Add more information onto the website, be more honest, accept accountability and adopt an attitude where you put the customer first.
Response from Xtreme Gap Year

We feel very saddened by this review, but it was not unexpected. Our response here is not directed at this particular customer, because we have had multiple emails backwards and forwards, it is just a set out our side of the story. Here is our version of events.
This particular client has requested moneyback and if we did not oblige her she threatened to leave negative reviews on the Internet. The client states in the review she actually enjoyed the tour, putting a 1/10 mark clearly does not represent a truthful and honest review she is simply using it to try and extort a refund out of us. I say extort because this is exactly what it is. She's essentially saying pay me some money back or I will damage your business.
As we have explained to her a refund was not possible she is now just leaving this review out of spite.
If this was an accurate review and a genuine reflection of her experience fair enough but she's just using the review to enact a refund. This obviously puts us in a difficult position, but unfortunately we have to stick to our principles and this negative review is the price we have paid.

So what happened in this case? She booked a free diving course as part of an option of this trip. Prior to booking she was told at three points and in our terms and conditions that the trip was a non-refundable and if they did not complete certain sections of the trip it would be a non-refundable.

Halfway through the trip, bearing in mind she booked a free diving course (and on our site there is an explanation of what this is next to a guy clearly diving underwater) she wrote to us and said she couldn't swim and wanted a refund to change her trip to another option.

Because we book with our suppliers well in advance and we are committed to paying them whether people turn up or not, we informed her that I was not possible however at our own expense we would happily move her to another programme option. She then requested the difference in cost between these options.
Whilst unfortunate for this particular client, we stated that she had to take some responsibility for what she had booked. Her point was our site was not clear enough that free diving meant you had to have an ability to swim, however we disputed that.
As we explained, we were already paying for her free diving course whether she turned up not, and now we would pay for her Thai boxing course as well again that wasn't an option. At no point were we rude, it's just we weren't giving her the answers she wanted, not only that we were happy to change her trip option free of charge. At this point she started threatening us.
It then turns out that she could indeed swim. Which leads us to believe she possibly overspent or wanted more spending money on the trip and figured a refund might be a route to doing this.
So if she could swim, she could still complete the free diving course and all of this was over nothing in the first place.

While sometimes not convenient, we are very open on our website and prior to booking that refunds are not possible once you have booked on a trip.

In this case, we book our clients options many months ahead in order to facilitate the smooth running of our programmes. As you can imagine we have large groups that undertake this particular program, with groups up to 26 people, and if we were to have people cancelling last minute or changing options it becomes logistically impossible to organise these trips.

Our suppliers in this case the free diving school, have to roster staff many weeks ahead in order for us to deliver our programmes smoothly. This means we cannot refund once clients have booked and paid for their trip in full. This is stated quite clearly three times prior to the point of payment so this is not something that was just sprung on this particular customer.

This is the last email we received from the client:

"Hi, This back and forth is tiring and I'm over it now. Thanks for changing my week 4 option "for free". I'll just leave my bad review and go; it'll put at least 3 people off which is way more than the initial £110 anyway. Have a lovely day."

Despite our best efforts we were not going to win with this one.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Best 5 months of my life!

If anyone is considering travelling to Australia with Xtreme Gap my advice is do it! I had the 1st 5 months of my life travelling up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns.

I opted to choose a gap year company because I was travelling on my own, and this company struck me as the most fun. In all it was pretty good value, I saw quite a few shorter tours which were around the same price, so I was a bit sceptical as to whether the package would deliver on my expectations.

Sarah at Xtreme Gap Year was very helpful with answering all my questions before I went away, and I had quite a few of them! She came up with some great suggestions for things for me to do whilst I was away. As for meeting people, I found this pretty easy to do once travelling. The structure of the trip was such that you are constantly meeting new people, and there was a great mix of different adventures as well. I got to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, go skydiving but my personal favourite was Fraser island. I was paired up with a group of 6 people in a Land Rover, and got to spend a couple of days camping out under the most amazing stars.

I can understand how this trip wouldn't be for everyone however, because it's flexible you have to set the dates for when you want to do the activities, but actually I found this super easy. Everywhere you stay you can do this in person or via email or telephone. So for me this wasn't an issue, and was a small price to pay for the savings I made compared to more expensive two-week fully guided tours.

What would you improve about this program?
The Xtreme Gap Year website could be better, I found it a bit confusing but the substance of the trip was very good.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Loved It. Full of diversity and fun experiences.

I joined the South Africa experience and I have to say I loved it. For me it was a genuinely life changing trip. After 5 weeks I have seen and done so many different things, I cannot explain how much it has affected me personally. Week one in Cape Town volunteering was an extremely humbling experience. Getting to spend some time with the children of the community, who have absolutely nothing was very enriching for me personally but moreover I feel I have definitel done some good as well. Everything was well-organised, and I was made to feel welcome very quickly, although I did have a slightly shaky start at the beginning but I would put that down to culture shock more than anything else. Nikki and the team are very helpful and clearly care a great deal about the lives of the street children.

My contact at Xtreme Gap Year, Shannon was very helpful to me personally in helping me plan my trip. She was full of good ideas as to what to do which is why I ended up in the South Africa experience. I'm very pleased that I did. Part of the trip included a road trip through the garden route. I was put in a smaller group of 6 people, and whilst I didn't know anyone in the beginning I soon got to know everyone. This was one of the highlights of the trip. The guide was very knowledgeable and kept the group in good spirits. It was a good itinerary overall, but there were some long travel days. The different activities included, plus the places we went to made up for this however.

I tried surfing in Jeffreys Bay which was great fun, although I have to say I don't think it's turned me into a surfer! My final couple of weeks were spent on a game reserve which was a great way to see lots of wildlife and experience the bush. It was very hard work, but very rewarding as well. I was fortunate enough to see a buffalo giving birth, and we work to lots of different tasks during our time there.

The communication from extreme was excellent throughout, they certainly know a lot about the destinations, and my experience the South Africa experience was faultless. I would definitely recommend.

What would you improve about this program?
meals could be included during the road trip
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Bad package altogether!

Would not recommend this package to anyone. The schedule of the first few weeks make no sense. Doesn't give you the opotunity to meet people before moving places and starting all over again. Very unprofessional when I wanted to change my trips as I believed their trip didn't give the best experience. Would not refund me. I Think they are making the trip out as something it isn't! Don't book through xtreme gap year! Worst decision I've made!

Response from Xtreme Gap Year

Dear Laura,
We are very sorry to read your review and receive a 1 star rating. Whilst we understand the disappointment you face in not being refunded at your request, we did communicate that if you choose not to go on a section of a trip and notify us after departure we are unable to refund you. Our suppliers have been paid already and charge 100% cancellation fees.

You were made aware of this at the time of booking and at several stages through out.

Despite this we were able to arrange for you to reconfirm with our suppliers so you did not loose your money.

Cancellation charges are common with travel companies. For instance if you booked a hotel, did not turn up for your reservation and then asked for your money back 3 days after you were due to check in this would be non refundable. They certainly would not move your reservation forward so you could still stay. We are trying our best to help you Laura so please be fair.

While we genuinely appreciate the feedback of all of our travellers, we do feel some of your comments are premature. We would welcome you contacting us again to discuss your concerns as we are still in the process of helping you. Giving a review of the first few weeks of the trip 5 days into your trip (your start date was the 28th August) is unfair.

You have not even experienced the first few weeks yet, only 3 days.

We understand that your main concern is meeting people, and that you have made new friends in Sydney who you wanted to remain with, and due to this you chose not to depart on the surf section of the trip as organised, and requested a refund to stay with them.

This is a shame as we have over 25 people booked on this section and you certainly would have made new friends and had an incredible time. You still will, as our reservations team is still awaiting to hear from you as to when you wish to reschedule, we encourage you to contact us asap to help get you back on track.


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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Sander Claassens

Job Title
Sander Claassens is the Director of Xtreme Gap Year North America and originally from a simple town in The Netherlands. He is now happily living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where he enjoys the good life in the Caribbean and spends a lot of time in the water, besides running the North America office. He has a bachelor in Digital Communications but found he was not much of an office guy. He worked for years in the hospitality and travel industry, ending up running a very busy and well-known hostel in Amsterdam, and this way he’s always been meeting many young travelers and showing them a good time. Running Xtreme Gap is his way to combine his qualifications and experience with his passion: traveling. His motto is: sharing is half of the fun, so he dedicates a lot of his time enabling young people to travel the world. He gave his heart to the ocean and you will never find him too far from the coast.

Meet Sander!

How does your organization differ from other ones in the industry?

Sander: Being an international company, run by travelers themselves from all over the world and with offices in 5 different countries, we stand out when it comes to expertise and offering unique travel programs to many different countries and extended support. Traveling is all about learning other cultures and having fun with all kinds of people from all kinds of different backgrounds and cultures.

Traveling with Xtreme Gap means that you really get into the culture of a country instead of just being a tourist going sight-seeing, never really getting out of your comfort zone. Doing things together that you would never do back home, like jumping out of a plane or riding a camel in the desert, means that you get close with the people you travel with really quickly. With many of the Gap Year companies in USA and Canada you end up traveling with only people from your country, which is nice too, but we believe the whole international set-up of your group really adds to the experience.

What is your favorite story of a participant's experience in the program?

Sander: We had 2 girls come do the Xtreme Mexico Experience where they spend 3 weeks in Mexico with activities and Spanish included. On their last day, we took them for a one hour drive into the jungle where a well known Irish artist played a set for only 40 people or so in a ‘cenote’ or underwater sinkhole. It was absolutely magical and the setting was stunning. To see the look on their faces was priceless, floating on some paddle boards in the middle of the Mexican jungle watching this guy perform an amazing set. That was one experience that they will probably not top any day soon.

Which program is your most popular among gappers?

Sander: Working abroad is becoming more and more popular. It is an excellent way to go traveling even if your bank account is not in such a state that traveling is an option. US citizens can get a 6-month working VISA for Australia and New Zealand and Canadian citizens also for the UK. Not only can you combine traveling and making some extra money, it is also a great way to really get into a country’s culture and actually live as a local for a while.

It will be a very valuable experience that looks amazing on your resume and can really divide you from people who do not have this experience. If you travel between high school and college or university it will also make you a lot cooler than people who haven’t been so bold as to travel and work abroad!

What would you tell a parent who's reluctant to send their kid abroad?

Sander: I know it is not an easy thing for parents to let go of their children and the idea of sending them abroad must be a disturbing thought sometimes. But (millions) of young people travel all around the world every year without any incidents. Traveling is really easy nowadays, it has changed so much over the years and with modern technology it is also so much easier to stay in touch with the home front. And even most developing countries already have some form of infrastructure focused on tourism.

Xtreme Gap makes it possible for young people to have the adventurous travel experience they want so much, but in the safety of a group of like-minded travelers and local guides and with the support of Xtreme Gap Year’s year-long experience sending people all over the world. We believe that traveling is a unique opportunity for (young) people to learn about themselves and this world and they will grow so much from it.