What to do in a gap year

From working as a rep or an au pair in another country to volunteering and summer camps in the USA, the options for a gap year programme are endless. You could even just spend the entire year relaxing on a beach. It’s entirely your choice. Struggling to decide what to do in a gap year? The Mix is here to help.

A young man is thinking about what to do on a gap year. This is a full-body image.

What do you want to do in a gap year?

A lot of the time, gap years get a bad rep when compared to heading off to uni. But the truth is they can be a gateway to new experiences, friendships and skills. Whether you’re considering college, uni or work afterwards – taking a minute to get away during the year after high school/college can be really beneficial. 

According to Tom Griffiths of gapyear.com, non-students are actually the fastest emerging group taking gap years. We reckon this is probably because of their flexibility. On a gap year you can chill out, build up your CV, or help out local communities and make a difference in the world. Essentially, any opportunity that you’ve thought of is probably out there. 

Au pair and childcare

Au pair work abroad can be a good way to experience the life, language, and culture of a country. So if you’re considering learning a new language, this one could be for you. Not to mention, it can help you get some good work experience if you’re considering a profession that involves interacting with kids.

What: Looking after the children, baby-sitting some evenings, and doing light housework; you may also be expected to cook for the children.

When: The work involves living with a family for roughly 1 to 12 months (usually au pair work abroad will be a minimum of six months). You’ll most likely be expected to work for about 30 hours a week over six days. We know it might not be ideal but the good news is you get to earn some money.

Working on holiday camps, and other tourist resorts

There are loads of gap year programmes for holiday camps with young people. We’re talking in the UK, if you’re looking to save money, and practically every other part of the world (mainly in the USA though).

What: There are normally vacancies in catering, shops and laundry jobs. Plus they’ll be looking for people who can act as group leaders, entertainers, counsellors, couriers, and sport instructors.

When: Usually for the entire summer. Although if you’re planning on working abroad there are opportunities all year round, like being a ski instructor in the Alps.


What: You could take some time off for formal study at home or abroad. This’ll help you in your future studies or job. For example, a lot of people really enjoy teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) during their gap year. And there’s the added benefit of earning money while you do it. Or you could take part in an exchange programme such as Erasmus. If none of that sounds appealing, then there’s always the option of doing some informal study.

When: Anytime.

Gap year travelling

When people consider what to do in a gap year, travelling the world is usually pretty high on the list. Honestly, this is a great choice. Whether you’re going to South Africa or Costa Rica, travelling will allow you to gain new life experiences and learn so much about yourself. Just bear in mind that if you’re gonna organise this yourself you’ll need to plan well in advance.

What: Exploring the world. Your schedule could be packed full of extreme sports, a spiritual journey, or simply a chance to immerse yourself in other cultures.

When: Rely on the net and browsing through some guidebooks. They’ll tell you when the best surf is up, where the best walking routes are, or when the biggest arts, music or religious festivals are on. That way you don’t miss out on some quality gap year experiences.

Volunteering: home/abroad

Volunteering can be immensely rewarding. It’ll give you the chance to live and work in a country. You’ll also meet tonnes of new people from all over the world during your gap year programme. And they could easily become some of your best friends.

What: This’ll probably involve working on interesting projects for free. You’ll have to decide what type of work interests you, e.g. working to help people in need, or working outside on environmental and conservation projects. It’s worth mentioning that working for organisations that give advice and counselling to people can help if you want to do social work later.

When: Anytime


Kibbutz are rural communities where work, income and property are shared by its members. They can be found all over Israel.

What: Kibbutz welcome volunteers to live as part of their community to experience this unique way of life. This means that it’s the perfect gap year idea. The types of work at a kibbutz can include: catering, looking after children, agricultural work, or light industry. You’ll be expected to work as hard as the kibbutz members, which means six to eight hours per day, for six days of the week.

When: There are opportunities to live and work on a kibbutz for a few weeks or for a few months.It’s totally up to you.

I’ve left it too late to find a gap year placement

Most organised gap year placements take place between January and April, but don’t worry. There’ll always be others throughout the year. If you’ve only just decided gap year programmes are for you, hop onto gapyear.com, where you’ll find all the remaining gap year opportunities. They have everything from wildlife conservation to becoming an adventure instructor – but be prepared to pay for most of them.

For more information check out our FAQ article about gap year work abroad here.

Next Steps


gap year

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 31-May-2022