8 Affordable Gap Year Programs: Awesome Trips with a Small Budget

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Not everyone is ready to jump straight from high school to college. College is a big decision and sometimes it makes sense to learn yourself before you start down an important life path—i.e. Your life path.  

And for those people, there are cheap gap year programs

man sitting on mountain top

You can still get views like these on your gap year without completely emptying your pockets.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of young people graduate high school and set out into the world to explore it and themselves. Gap years are full of cross country van rides, international adventures, and self-exploration. 

For those looking for a more structure, gap year programs offer the gap year experience with a little more support. And, they don’t necessarily need to break the bank. In fact, we have some downright affordable gap year ideas for you. 

Do cheap gap year programs mean less quality experiences?

DEFINITELY not! This may be a bit of an over-simplification, but consider the main factors in the cost of a program: 

  • The Location of the Program: Is your final destination Paris (high-cost location) or are you headed to Cambodia (a low-cost location)?
  • The Amount of Support You Receive: is the program providing you full support with visas and housing or are they just getting you through the front door?
  • Is the Program All-Inclusive?: Does the cost of the program include all food, housing, insurance and activities? If so, the cost will be higher up front, but you will spend less money throughout the year.

None of these three factors have to do with quality as much as they do the expectations you have for the program. A Toyota Camry and a Lamborghini are both “quality” cars, but they provide different types of “quality.” Gap year programs at all prices points can be of equal quality as well, but with differing expectations their perks and supports. 

One more time for the people in the back: inexpensive gap year programs do not = low quality gap year programs.

[Get matched with affordable gap year programs]

Why are gap year programs so expensive in the first place?

It is true, gap years are more expensive than other types of programs. But keep in mind, this is the cost for an entire year of living abroad.

It is important when you are pricing programs to make sure to compare the price of each program to your current yearly cost of living and then figure out how much additional money you might be spending. $5,000 dollars seems like a lot, but when you spread that across an entire year and take into account the money you would be spending anyway if you stayed home (food, rent, etc.), you will find many affordable gap year programs.

man and woman picnicking by a waterfall

Choosing off-the-beaten path locations will save you some green while surrounding you in some green.


Keep in mind as well that even a cheap gap year is an investment. Unlike a fancy watch or a pair of shoes, a gap year provides important personal and professional growth opportunities. Gap years are not material or frivolous; they are an investment in your development as a person. 

Our round up of cheap gap year programs in 2018-2019

If you are reaching for a paper bag at the thought of spending thousands of dollars, just wait. It is important to remember that if you spend $5,000 for a year, that averages to a little less than $500 a month. $500 dollars sounds more doable right? 

Below are a few programs across three different price levels. We qualify “cheap” as under $1,000 a month, so here’s the inside scoop for affordable gap year programs under $12,000.

[Save and compare cheap gap year programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

Programs for Less than $5,000 Per Year

Proof that there are great programs for less than $5,000 for the year! These cheap gap year programs offer a ton of bang for their buck. 

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1. Volunteering Solutions Gap Year in India

Taking a gap year to India only makes the travel experience a gigantic one. Volunteering Solutions provide placements to our overseas volunteers in two climatically opposite, yet, equally enthralling locations in India; namely, Delhi and Palampur (Dharamsala).

Related: Read Volunteering Solutions Reviews 

interexchange logo

2. InterExchange Gap Year in Thailand 

This position will allow you to gain a deeper awareness of Thailand’s people, culture and language, while promoting a global community through language education.

Orientation in Bangkok and Chiang Mai will help prepare you for teaching in a local setting. Once on the job, you should expect to work 35-40 hours a week. The ability to teach Math and/or science will increase your value to schools, and potentially your salary, but is not required.

Related: Read InterExchange Reviews

Programs from $5,000 to $10,000 Per Year

Below are a couple programs between that fall into our middle tier. Between $5,000-$10,000, these programs will offer a bit more in terms of hospitality, itinerary, and on-site support.  

woman on mountain top with arms outstretched

How much money can you save with affordable gap year programs? Thiiiiiiis much!

technion logo

3. Technion International Gap Year in Haifa, Israel

Spend ten months living, studying, and volunteering at Technion International—Israel’s most prestigious technical institute. This Gap Year program offers high school graduates the opportunity to combine academic studies, leadership development workshops, Jewish studies, community service, cultural experiences, and unforgettable trips. 

Related: Read More 

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4. GapForce Ultimate Europe Tour

Embark on a European adventure every June and July travelling safely and comfortably between cities via train with maximum time exploring. GapForce is based in London which will ensure you see all that is new in Europe alongside British, American, Australian, and Canadian students to make your first European tour the adventure of your lifetime.

Related: Read GapForce Reviews 

[The Best Gap Year Programs in 2018-2019]

Programs from $10,000 to $12,000 Per Year

With these programs, you certainly get what you pay for! Becoming a snowboard instructor swooshing down the slopes anywhere in the globe or spending a year living in Belgium, these programs will make for an unforgettable gap year.   

cross cultural solutions

5. Cross-Cultural Solutions Spanish Immersion Gap Year 

Soak up the Latin American culture and learn the Spanish language. Cross-Cultural Solutions’ Spanish Immersion Gap Year is specifically designed for a full language experience, all while YOU make a real impact. No matter where you end up, each country promises to astound you with it's ecological diversity, off-the-beaten-path destinations, rugged coastlines, bustling markets, and delicious food!

Related: Read Cross Cultural Solutions Reviews 

seamester

6. Seamester: Transatlantic Gap Year, Med to Caribbean

Seamester offers unique educational voyages where you’ll learn some of the most important lessons beyond academics: teamwork, hard work, and personal responsibility. For more than 40 years, Seamester has been changing student’s lives.  This program is designed to provide engaging learning experiences with real outcomes. It’s just not something you can get in a classroom. 

Related: Read Seamester Reviews 

Group of hikers looking down at riverbend

Exploring this green ol’ Earth shouldn’t cost all your green.

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7. EA Ski & Snowboard Gap Year

This is the most sought after instructor programs on Earth. EA Ski & Snowboard Gap Year has developed the perfect program formula to save time, money and stress for new instructors. In the words of a recent graduate, "Nowhere else could I get everything I need to be instructing in this uniform by Christmas time—epic!!"

Added to that no other company can matchᅠ EA's global resort networks spanning Canada, USA, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland.ᅠThis means more open doors for EA interns and graduates. You’ll be shredding pow-pow in no time. 

Related: Read EA Reviews

yfu logo

8. Youth for Understanding Gap Year in Belgium

A Youth For Understanding USA (YFU) study abroad program is an experience that will immerse you in the lives, cultures, and communities of a real family in one of more than 40 countries around the globe. Whether it’s a full year, semester, or a summer, you’ll learn exactly what life is like for teens in another part of the world. 

Related: Read YFU Reviews 

BONUS: Affordable gap year ideas & tips

If you are still a little uneasy the cost of taking a gap year, never fear! There are still ways to drive down the cost and find cheap travel abroad that fits you (or your parents’) budget. 

1. Look at Scholarships and Financial Aid

There are all kinds of scholarships that will provide financial support for your gap  year. You can check out GoAbroad’s Travel Scholarships directory for scholarships and grants to help pay for your gap year. You can also start a fundraiser on FundMyTravel, to get friends and family to pitch in and make your gap year dreams a reality.  

2. Pay Attention to What’s included in Your Program

More expensive certainly doesn’t mean better and that is especially true with gap year programs. Maybe your travels would be just as special without thar helicopter ride or dinner cruise. Make sure the program provides the experience you want and not just the one you think you should have.  

Woman in open vehicle on safari

With these inexpensive gap year programs you’re still in for an amazing ride.

3. Go to Cheaper Places 

A year abroad in Paris and a year abroad in Cambodia are going to hit your wallet in vastly different ways. If you want to take a gap year without racking up debt, look at programs in more affordable locations. South America, Southeast Asia, China and certain parts of Central or Eastern Europe can make your trip far more affordable. AND, who knows, you might be surprised at the places you love most. It’s not all Spain, France, and New Zealand, you know! 

4. Plan for Cheap Travel Abroad (Eat locally, minimize souvenir purchases, hostel dorm rooms, etc.)

Daily expenses can sneak up on you over the course of a year. A few souvenirs here and splurging on a nice hotel there can really add up. To save some cash (and enjoy a more local experience) try and keep your eating out local or cook for yourself, avoid costly tourist traps, and be on the lookout for cheap alternatives to cash-intensive activities. 

5. Use Your Student Discount (your HS I.D. card probably counts?!)

You can students discounts on a ton of travel related purchases like , , and . Before you book anything, do a quick search to find student discounts. Leave no stone unturned! And if you don’t have a HS I.D. anymore, you can get an which will open the doors to a whole host of discounts and deals. 

Gap years don’t have to leave a gap in your savings

The truth is, whether you take a $5,000 or $12,000,000 gap year, it is going to be the experience of a lifetime and one you won’t soon forget. Just make sure you budget ahead of time, you chose the program you want do, and then you jump in head first!

Start searching for affordable gap year programs

Topics:  Money Tips, Top Picks