FAQs from Parents

So, your child has announced they would like to take a gap year, or take some time to travel abroad? Maybe they have presented you with benefits of taking this time and now you are very possibly left with a hole filled with questions of your own.  

Before you child hops on a plane overseas, it may be great for you to first sit down and ask yourself a few questions.  Over the years, we have found that parents of gap year students often come up with a similar set of questions.  Our goal here is to help answer those.

What should a parent know when their child is considering a gap year?

We highly encourage both parent and child to become involved in the decision-making process. It is important to remember that supporting your child’s direct involvement in the pre-departure process will ensure they are fully prepared to travel overseas. 

Some other tips we have for parents of children travelling abroad are: 

Know your child’s program

Have the discussion of what level of supervision your family is comfortable with.  Some programs at Gapforce are highly structured, where participants will have duties from morning to night they will be expected to complete, while others are a bit more flexible, allowing time for self-exploration. Be informed and involved in your child’s decision to enroll in a particular program, and ensure all pre-departure information is shared with you. Make sure to know where you can locate your child’s emergency contact information before they depart. 

Talk with your child about health and safety 

All Gapforce programs include regular safety briefings, however we would encourage you to discuss common sense health and safety procedures with your child in advance. These may include behavioral expectations, a communication plan, and emergency plans related to travelling abroad. 

Be prepared

Keep all emergency contact information handy, this includes making sure your contact is provided to your child, along with contact information for a close relative, good friend or neighbor, that will be able to reach you in case of emergency. Keep a copy of your child’s passport details. In the event that their passport goes missing it’s much easier for the embassy to issue a new one if they have the old details readily available.”

Safety. Safety. Safety.  Tell me about it all. 

Safety is the number one priority on all Gapforce programs. We cannot remove risk from overseas travel altogether but by following a clear set of processes and management systems, we aim to reduce your level of risk compared to independent travel in the same location.

You can read all about how we manage safety here

How can I get in touch with my child while they are abroad? 

Depending on the program of interest, cellphone coverage may or may not be widely available, with fees charged from your provider.  Sometimes there are also international calling cards available.  Often, WiFi access will be available at certain points throughout the trip.  If participating in a Gapforce group travel program, the Expedition Leader will have an emergency phone at all times, to be able to contact headquarters for 24/7 support. 

Should you need to contact your child urgently and cannot get through to them directly, please contact our operations team on 020 7384 3028 or operations@gapforce.org (Mon-Fri 9:30-6 GMT).  If there is an emergency out of these hours, you can also contact your child’s group leader using the phone number and email address provided in the Facebook information shared in your pre-departure documentation.   Please note that the leaders phone number is strictly for absolute emergencies. This is the line of contact between our field projects and our London head office, and it needs to be kept clear in case of any kind of field emergency. 

Due to the nature of many of our programs, it is not unusual to receive low or no correspondence from your child.  Saying that, please contact us if you have any concerns, as we can provide you with an update of how the group is getting on. 

Who participates in programs at Gapforce? 

This depends a bit based on program of interest. Generally, most programs tend to have an age range of 18-24.  Programs that are more independent in nature, like internships or homestays, or that are focused on gaining a certification or in preparation for a career goal, will likely have a more varied age demographic.  The minimum age for any program at Gapforce is 18. Programs are culturally diverse, and participants are welcome to join regardless of where they call home. Historically, our five largest participant markets have been United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Germany and Switzerland.  If you would like to know what the demographics are for a particular trip, with an upcoming departure date, please contact us.  

What do the accommodations look like and what will they be eating? 

It is highly likely your program will include a variety of accommodation spaces.  From camping, to homestays and hostels, to eco-lodges and sailing boats, the key is your group will remain together throughout the program.  Expect to be in the heart of the action, surrounded by like-minded-travelers.

For meals, your child will have the opportunity to eat like a local, which is one of the best parts of travel! Some programs include 3 meals a day, others allow for more flexibility with choice.  

To learn more, including information on how much to budget per week, please review program itineraries. How can you receive a program itinerary? You guessed it, please Contact Us. Make sure to note your program of interest, and if you have any dietary restrictions.

While my child is abroad, what should they do if they have questions or problems?

We are always a phone call or email away, and will gladly assist participants during their time abroad. However, due to time differences and distance, we find that it is much easier for participants to work directly with our on-site staff in-country. Often, problems on the ground are resolved in minutes by working with the staff there, as opposed to the UK-headquarters.

Prior to leaving, we will supply your child with local emergency contacts. Other than our Gapforce Expedition Leaders, staff at all our partner institutions are extremely helpful and accessible.  Remind your child that there is a team available to react quickly, and resolve any problem. 

What happens after booking? 

We always recommend booking at least 3 months before you plan to depart. Generally, the booking process is quite easy. A 10% (non-refundable) deposit saves your place in the program. Further payments are then due 3 months before departure (50% of the remaining balance) and 1 month before departure (remaining balance). If you would like to read the fine print, we recommend you read carefully our Terms and Conditions information upon booking.

Depending on the program, self-applications close 1-2 months before departure, or whenever the program fills to max capacity. Some programs are known to fill as much as 6 months before departure, so make sure to keep checking in with availability.  

If you do not see departure dates on a program page, this either means the program does not have any upcoming dates for the year, or self-booking is not permitted. If self-booking is not permitted, we will be in touch with how to complete the application process. So, please check your emails. 

Once your child is all booked in, they will receive welcome information to get them started via email.   The location of your child’s pre-departure information will be provided in these initial emails (kit list, flight information, etc.) and you will be granted access to upload travel documentation.

Your child will also be put directly in contact with their operations co-ordinator, who will be the main point of contact for pre-departure questions.  

What are the main things my child will need to prepare? 

All of the nitty-gritty pre-departure information will be provided upon booking.  But if we break things down to the basics, for all programs, your child will be responsible for preparing:   

  • Flights: please book your flights to and from the program. There may be a specific arrival (and/or) departure time noted in your pre-departure documents, so make sure you read carefully
  • Visas: it is your responsibility to organize your own individual visa requirements for planned countries of travel by checking and preparing terms of entry
  • Travel Insurance: please insure you are fully covered for all activities you plan to participate within your program
  • Vaccinations: we are not doctors, and do not pretend to be. Therefore, we cannot give  medical advice or recommendations for vaccinations. Please therefore get in contact with your doctor quite soon
  • Kit List: you will be provided with a detailed kit list after booking.  Make sure you prepare all items on the list, and if you are unsure about anything, ask us! 

More questions?

Saying that, it is very possible you will still have a few more particular questions after reading.  To this we say, great! We even have a team of program advisors that are always happy to discuss your family’s unique needs, so Contact Us today.