Mind the Gap – North America

If you’re still mulling over a Gap year adventure – or you’ve only just decided to defer the next year of education –  you might well be revving up for a Gap year. And if you’re thinking of heading across to the pond, well that’s handy, because it’s the topic of the 5th in our series looking at Gap year locations and adventures. So, if ya’ll thinking of moseying on over to visit old Uncle Sam, or getting a bit “oh’ about Canada – here’s our guide to ‘gapping’ in North America… 

North America is a big place – some 9.5 million square miles to be exact – so choosing where to go and what to do might seem like a bit of a challenge. Well hopefully we can help a little with that – because we’ve got some select picks. Once again we’ve divided them into Job (for those that want to pay their way on a gap year) and Jolly (for the lucky souls to whom money is no object).


Before you even think about getting a job as part of a Gap Year in North America, you need to make sure you’re eligible – and apply for – a working Visa. For the USA you’re going to need at least 2 months for it to be processed – plus, you need to choose and confirm where you’ll be working – as your Visa will be restricted to that location (although it will allow for 30 days travel, so you can see the sights).

That restriction means your options are limited when it comes to working in the USA – but fear not. Limited options does not mean No options.

Summer, Summer, Summer (camp) Time.

America goes in for summer camp big time, so by far the most popular choice is a summer camp exchange programme. A great first port of call is the BUNAC (British Universities North America Club) website – now owned by STA Travel – it’s a business that evolved out of a not-for-profit organisation set up to promote exchange links for students. We suggest you start with the What is Summer Camp page – and if you like the sound of it, best get yourself booked onto one of the upcoming interviews – taking place in various locations all over the UK throughout September and October (there’s currently availability for the London date on September 30th).  

Work America

If summer camp and working with children are your worst nightmare – then an alternative is BUNACS work america programme – from New York on the East Coast to California on the West, from Maine in the North to North Carolina further South – they’ve got plenty of opportunities. Most of the roles will be typical student summer work – but the locations and experiences will make all the difference. Here’s BUNACs promo video – if you like the look of it, then head over to the Work America section of their website to find out more.


North America is a big place. So if you’ve got the wherewithal to take an extended holiday there’s plenty to do and see. A continent of extremes – you’ll find some of the largest and most unspoilt National Parks and in the world as well as the most commercial entertainment and gambling centres anywhere on the planet. Whether you want to ride the one arm bandit in Las Vegas or cross a continent on the mother of all road trips – North America really does have it all.

Route 66

Fans of Chuck Berry, or – more recently – Disney Cars will have heard of Route 66 – the mother road. “It winds from Chicago to LA… more than two thousand miles all the way…  So it’s a bit different in scale than a drive to Edinburgh. Whilst you might not have the budget (or qualify for the insurance of) to enjoy the delights of a ’65 Mustang on your trip – if you’re over 21 you should be able to rent a vehicle that will take you cross-country comfortably. If you’re not, then team up with some older dudes. As well as stunning scenery and renowned American hospitality, you’ll find this trip weird and whacky – as Christina Owen’s Post on Gap Year.com attests.

New York, New York (on the Cheap)

New York’s expensive right? Well, traditionally yes – most of the well-known sights cost a fair old whack to visit, and unlike the good old UK, most of the museums charge an entry fee. But – as with any big city – there are things you can do that won’t cost you a bean. You could walk the Brooklyn Bridge to get an amazing view of Manhattan, you could simply take a stroll round central Park. You could take a tour on shanks’ Pony and marvel at some of the classic architecture – such as the Dakota and Flaitron buildings – just don’t get too stiff a neck with all that looking up.

And – as ever – don’t forget – if you are heading West and need somewhere to keep your UK belongings whilst you are gone, then one of our London storage units is safe, secure and – if you’re not sure how long you will be away – flexible.