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Gap years become snap years for half a million money-worried Brits

Press release: 10/05/2011

  • Travellers are abandoning the traditional gap year for a five week ‘snap year’
  • The number of Brits taking longer trips has declined by 69% over the past five years
  • Job insecurity and worries are limiting the time travellers spend away
  • 2.75 million Brits are planning a ‘snap year’ over the next 12 months

Sabbaticals are being skimmed and gap years trimmed as tightened purse strings mean Brits can no longer afford lengthy breaks in exotic locations.

In the age of austerity, endless months of long-haul travel are a thing of the past, as the gap year becomes a five week 'snap year', according to new research from LV= travel insurance.

The findings show that while 2.75 million Brits[2] will be taking an extended break overseas to volunteer, go back-packing or take a career break in the next 12 months, over a fifth of these have been forced to limit the duration of their trip due to financial concerns, with the number of people taking longer trips[3] declining by 69% in the past five years. Less than one in ten (8%) of those taking trips abroad in the next year plan on being away for four months or more – with the average extended or 'gap' trip now lasting just five weeks.

These concerns are being fuelled by job insecurity, with younger 'snappers' particularly anxious that they won’t be able to find employment on their return – and one in seven of those currently in work were only able to negotiate a short sabbatical from their employers.

Cost-cutting isn't just about limiting travellers' time away. One in ten 'snappers' are planning to work during their break, while over a quarter (27%) are choosing to visit budget destinations where the pound goes further, such as Thailand and India. Close to a third will be 'sofa surfing' with friends and family for part of their trip and one in ten (11%) are abandoning flying for train and coach travel in order to save money.

Traditionally, gap years are known as a 12 month rite of passage for students before or immediately after university. But the LV= study shows that longer breaks are now most commonly taken once young people have entered the job market, which allows them to experience the world without compromising their study. This is further borne out by LV= research that shows higher-income over-50s are taking advantage of retirement to increasingly fund 'grey gap years' - 1.6 million over 50s have taken extended 'sabbatical' trips away in the past five years[4].

Backpackers' favourite Australia is the most popular destination for snap year travellers, with extreme-sports mecca New Zealand and the USA also topping 'snappers' itineraries. Reflecting the shorter length of these trips now many however will stick closer to home with France and Spain also featuring in the top five 'snap year' hotspots for the next year.

With so many travellers looking to cram multiple activities into their trips away, LV= is warning 'snappers' to plan their breaks carefully. On average one in ten travellers needs medical treatment after falling ill while on a long break, while almost a third (29%) experience other problems such as falling victim to scams, being mugged or robbed. These problems cost holidaymakers an average of £443 to address, although almost a third of travellers affected do not have adequate travel insurance in place.

Most travel insurance policies will cover a wide range of overseas pursuits, from canoeing to abseiling, to activities such sky diving. Yet travellers who choose to work while they're away may need separate insurance, even if they're volunteering, as they will not be covered under most standard policies. LV= is therefore urging prospective 'snappers' to double check that their travel insurance policy covers any planned adventures and to speak to their insurer if they’re in any doubt about their cover.

John O'Roarke, managing director of LV= travel insurance, said: "The findings show that with financial concerns at the forefront of Brits' minds, long periods of overseas travel to far-flung destinations are no longer a feasible option for many people. However even for shorter breaks, planning the practicalities of a trip is essential, especially if you are hoping to cram multiple activities into a tight timescale. Prospective 'snappers' should make sure they're protected with the right travel insurance to ensure their big adventure remains a trip to remember for the right reasons."

All research unless otherwise specified was conducted by Opinium Research. Opinium interviewed bespoke samples of 515 UK adults who have been on an extended holiday and 520 adults who intend to go on an extended holiday in the next 12 months, between 31st March and 7th April 2011.

[1] According to ONS population statistics, there are 49.5 million adults aged 18+ in the UK. According to Opinium research, 5.56% of adults are planning extended breaks of more than 4 weeks in the next 12 months = 2.75 million. The LV= research shows that 22% of those planning an extended break in the next 12 months are limiting or reducing the amount of time they are planning on going away for due to financial concerns. Therefore 0.22 x 2.75 million = 605,000.
[2] According to ONS population statistics, there are 49.5 million adults aged 18+ in the UK. According to Opinium research, 5.56% of adults are planning extended breaks of more than 4 weeks in the next 12 months = 2.75 million.
[3] 'Longer trips' defined as trips of 4 months or more.
[4] Data is from LV='s 'Silver Tourist Pound' report, conducted by Trajectory research between 21st and 23rd January 2011. The Trajectory research revealed that 12.5% of all trips taken by the over 50s in the last five years lasted a month or more. This equates to 1.6m trips of over a month were taken by the over 50s.


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LV= employs around 4,500 people, serves over four million customers and members, and manages around £8.0bn (as at 31 December 2010) on their behalf, via LV= Asset Management (LVAM). We are also the UK's largest friendly society and a leading mutual financial services provider.

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