Getting a job is important. It is a way to become independent, whilst also saving money either to fund travelling later in the year or as funds for University. It also looks good on your CV, will probably make finding part-time work at Uni easier, and gives you are great sense of condidence before you head off to Uni.
The TSR Guide to Summer Jobs has lots of useful information and links about finding short term work in areas ranging from overseas holiday resorts, theatres and theme parks, to supermarkets and office work, and not necessarily just for the summer.
'Free' or cheap gap-year ideas
Not everybody will have endless funds in order to finance their gap year plans. Whilst some will organise things years ahead and have time to build up their finances through working or fund-raising, for others this may not be a possibility.
Travel in the UK : You would be surprised how much there is to see within the UK and if you have family at the other end of the country or friends already at university and they are willing to have you to stay for a few nights or even weeks, do it. Not only does this allow you to get a glimpse of what it means to live in halls or be at Uni, its cheaper than hotels.
Travel to Europe : out of school holidays, package holidays are a great deal cheaper, especially if you can go 'last minute'. Within Europe many budget airlines will fly you for less than £50 to places like Italy, Greece, Spain or France, or even to Morocco or the US. This is an excellent time for really taking advantage of cheap deals on offer.
Voluntary work in the UK : if you can live at home and your family will support you while you do something useful/meaningful in the UK, a good place to look for voluntary work and internships is Charity Jobs.
Working Holiday Visas
Working Holiday Visas are available for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and various other locations. These allow you to travel and work in these countries for 6 months to a year. You usually need a return flight ticket (to prove you intend to go home again) and some money in a bank account to finance the bulk of your trip (so you have some cash to rely on if you can't find a job).
Be aware that there are commercial companies who will try to make out that you need to use them to arrange a working holiday visa and/or a job. You don't. They will charge you money to arrange something that anyone with a bit of common sense can easily sort out for themselves - and cheaper. Look at the visa section of the relevant country's consulate website for information about applying for a Working Holiday visa - often listed under 'Temporary Visas'. Look on job search websites for job ideas, and student flight companies can help with flights advice.
Work Experience Abroad
If you are looking for work experience to add to your qualifications, why not look for internships abroad? Working abroad during your gap year will give you the opportunity to truely experience a country while gaining invaluble skills that employers and universities highly regard.
'Journalism In Bolivia The Bolivian Express gap year program is a one to twelve month scheme for students with journalist aspirations. You will work in the Bolivian Express office in La Paz, Bolivia, taking part in all aspects of article research and production. In addition you will be provided with photography lessons, cinematography lessons and magazine design lesson by experts in their respective fields. You will also be provided with accommodation in La Paz, alongside Spanish lessons at a variety of levels. You will receive Bolivian press pass on arrival and will be paired with locals in La Paz and encouraged to explore Bolivian culture, eventually producing four pages of content for the magazine each month. Bolivian Express
Hutong School Provides internship placements (for all levels of experience) as well as excellent Chinese courses. Live in Beijing, acquire skills in your field of interest, and learn the language. Comprehensive packages available including cultural activities and student support. Hutong School
Gap Medics Specifically if you are looking at going to University to study either Medicine or nursing then Gap Medics can provide medical work experience in Hospitals in the Caribbean, India and Tanzania Gap Medics PS. Don't expect Medical Schools to be amazingly impressed by this on your UCAS application. It won't make you a better doctor and they know this. They will be far more impressed with you volunteering in a Drug Rehab Centre or an Aged Care Home in the UK.
Travel abroad and learn foreign languages for free
If you're treating a gap year as an opportunity to broaden your skills as well as a chance to take some time out between your studies this could be the option for you.
There are a lot of companies offering language lessons in others countries but they are often extremely pricey, particularly if you are hoping to learn from scratch.
Language for Exchange offers the perfect opportunity to meet or just practice with other language speakers. This is a language exchange community which allows people to make contact with those from other countries and organise their own exchanges.
The idea is that you get to know each other online before agreeing to spend a certain amount of time staying with them in their country to live the local life and learn the native language. In turn, they can come and visit you for the same amount of time.
You can find over 18.000 members from 140 countries, practicing 80 languages and the service is Free of charge! Just pay for your plane ticket to the destination of your choice if you opt for the exchange programme.
Teaching English overseas
For those who are hot-to-globetrot, but lack the necessary readies, teaching English as a foreign language - aka TEFL - could be just the way to go –literally! No experience is necessary and with TEFL courses available for less than £200 it's a really cost-effective way to fund your travels.
PoD Volunteer offers a 120 hour accredited online TEFL course  Students can learn the skills required to teach English to students and intensive training and will equip you with invaluable teaching and classroom management skills. A TEFL course is a world-renowned qualification and is a great addition to your CV or resume. To find out more about the course see: http://pod.lovetefl.com/pod-120-hour.html
PoD offers opportunites for volunteers to teach English in Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam and Ghana. PoD is a leading non-profit organisation arranging ethical, inspiring and supported volunteering opportunities around the world. Check out PoD
Structured work programmes
A number of companies are operating gap year schemes which are a great opportunity to gain work experience, as well as earn a competitive salary. Unlike applying to typical jobs, the roles on these jobs are more similar to graduate positions, so you’re likely to pick up some essential skills for your future employment. See Gap Year Programmes for more information.
Companies offering overseas 'volunteer placements'
Remember that many/most such companies are there purely to make money. Be very conscious of the impact your 'volunteering' might have locally - will it for instance take a job away from a local person who needs it far more than you need to feel good about yourself? And be aware that anything shorter than a month is frankly a holiday with knobs on, not 'volunteering'. Think carefully about why you are volunteering overseas - would you time be spent more usefully volunteering in the UK?
International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ is the world's leading volunteer travel organisation, placing thousands of volunteers abroad every year and offering a variety of projects, including Teaching, Childcare, Medical, Construction and Renovation, Community Development, Turtle Conservation and Wildlife Conservation. They pride themselves on providing affordable, safe and responsible volunteer programs in 28 different countries, and the affordability and transparency of their program fees have played a significant role in establishing IVHQ as the world's most popular volunteer travel organisation. Visit their website: IVHQ
EDGE of AFRICA is an organisation funded by international and local volunteers. Their conservation work extends to wildlife research and environmental restoration, focusing on endangered species and sensitive ecosystems. Volunteers tend to join initiatives for a minimum of 2 weeks but 4-8 weeks is recommended. EDGE of AFRICA also offers the opportunity to combine volunteering with gaining work experience in South Africa and undertaking internships in various fields such as Law, Marketing, Event Management, Hospitality and Agriculture. Visit the website: EDGE of AFRICA
British Exploration Society British Exploring is a small and personal organisation organising only a handful of expeditions each year. Opportunities exist on month-long summer expeditions for Explorers aged between 16 and 20 and those over 18 can also experience longer gap year expeditions to the Arctic and Desert.
Volunteering Solutions - Volunteering Solutions offers some of the most affordable and safe volunteer abroad programs for gap year travelers. The organization has over 100 different programs to offer at 20+ destinations worldwide. Some of its most popular volunteer abroad programs include, Street Children volunteering, Medical and Healthcare, Childcare volunteer programs, Teaching, Community Development, Wildlife and Conservation, and more. VolSol, also, offers some specially designed short term volunteering options for college students. For more details, visit their website Volunteering Solutions
Rainbow Voluntours, India - www.rainbowvoluntours.co.uk Volunteer in India in Kerala or Kolkata on rewarding and fun community programs with underprivileged children, women and youth on education, childcare, empowerment, health and construction programs. They offer a very wide range of responsible programs and tours that are unique and give a real experience of India. Programs start from 1 week upwards and can be combined with yoga, trekking, cycling and other adventures. They operate from their offices in India and have a great team of hardworking project managers giving support, training and programs that are well organised. Visit their site by clicking here
RAINBOW UK and RAINBOW.COM SITE
PoD www.podvolunteer.org offers projects in Belize, Cambodia, Nepal, Peru, South Africa, Ghana, Thailand and Vietnam by providing passionate and committed volunteers. They work with long term projects where there is genuine benefit to local communities. Projects last from 1 week to 6 months with year round departures. You can help work with disadvantaged children, communities, animals and conservation projects including: caring for elephants and wild animals; joining an Amazon jungle conservation project; scuba diving and marine conservation; community building projects; volunteering at orphanages and care homes; teaching English and running summer English camps. PoD
Camps International Camps International operate a permanent network of international volunteer camps in the heart of rural communities and wildlife conservation areas in Kenya, Tanzania, Borneo, Cambodia and Ecuador. Camps offer you the chance to make a real difference by volunteering in over 100 community, wildlife and conservation projects. As well as benefitting the local area you will enhance your CV meet new friends from around the world and have great fun. We are multi award winning including "Best volunteering organisation in the world 2008" Res Travel awards and "Eco Warriors 2010" in Kenya. Camps International
BUNAC - Established in 1962, BUNAC offer great value work abroad, internships and volunteer programmes in every continent. The work and travel programmes in Canada, USA, Australia, and New Zealand help you gain independence, confidence and international work experience, while BUNAC’s wide range of volunteering and teaching placements in Africa, South and Central America and Asia offer the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those less fortunate. The Summer Camp USA programme also gives you the chance to work as a camp counsellor in America during the holidays. BUNAC
i-to-i is the UK's leading provider of meaningful travel opportunities. It has 500 volunteer projects in 23 countries around the world in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America and sends more than 5,000 people to volunteer abroad each year. It also provides teaching English as a foreign language courses (TEFL), paid teaching placements, life skills programmes and working holiday programmes. However, there has been some criticism of this company for failing to give enough back to their partners in the field. i-to-i
Gapforce (formerly Greenforce) is regarded as one of the UK's leading providers of gap year programs and has been running trips for over 20 years. They offer a very wide range of gap year programs and expeditions that are organised by their own UK-trained expedition staff. Gapforce headquarters are in the UK and USA. Further information can be found at their website including an overview of their projects and training courses. Gapforce
Global Vision International is very highly regarded as being a company, yet offering responsible travel in the form of projects and expeditions. They offer a very wide range of these, and operate from a farm in the UK, but also have an American office. Further information can be found at their website. There is also a charitable trust attached to the company, which aims to promote responsible travel and give financial support to overseas projects.
GVI UK and GVI US
African Conservation Experience Join conservation placements in game and nature reserves across southern Africa. Take the opportunity to fly in a helicopter to capture game for tagging or administer tranquilisers on captured animals. African Conservation Experience
Big Beyond facilitate ethical volunteer placements in Africa for adventurous and ambitious individuals looking for experiences far beyond the norm, off the beaten path and the chance to truly immerse in another culture. The volunteer abroad opportunities are for people that want to genuinely be part of conservation and development in some of the most stunning places in the world, and are interested in working across a range of exciting high-impact community projects. Volunteer placements are always tailored to your skills, interests and level of experience, as well as the needs of the local community. They currently run project sites in Uganda, Malawi and Ethiopia. Volunteer involvement ranges from education, enterprise, environment, health or culture related projects. Incredible work experience for the CV. Big Beyond
Coral Cay Conservation Join projects in the Philippines, Tobago and Fiji to protect and restore coral reefs and tropical forests while learning to dive. Projects last for a minimum of four weeks to more than 16. Coral Cay
Earthwatch Volunteers assist scientists in 45 countries doing an exciting array of projects from protecting Robben Island's penquin population to monitoring greenhouse gasses at the Arctic's edge to preserving Amazonian dolphins.Earthwatch
Frontier Track the elusive sun bear in Cambodia, scuba dive in the Red Sea, conserve coral reefs in Fiji with many more projects on offer. Frontier
GapGuru Sign up for a gap year in India, Nepal, Chile, Ecuador, Tanzania, Sri Lanka or Romania. Work, volunteer, travel. GapGuru also offers paid placements, medical and journalism gap years, conservation with tigers and crocodiles, voluntary work in underprivileged schools and amazing journeys designed for you to simply explore these countries Gapguru
Gap Sports An opportunity to take part in sports and outreach projects in Africa and Latin America, ski/snowboard instructor courses and professional training at international golf, rugby, cricket and scuba academies. Gapsports
Gap Medics If you are considering applying for Medical or Nursing school then Gap Medics lets you combine some medical work experience with travelling experience in the Caribbean, India or Tanzania. GapMedics. Be aware that this sort of volunteering is not well regarded by Medical Schools - they often regard, rightly, it as little better than an exotic holiday. Time spent volunteering in a Drug Rehab Centre or an Aged Care Home in the UK is often more impressive.
Madventurer Pick and mix projects to create your own individual gap year such as a paid journalism placement in Uganda followed by an adventure to Timbuktu, or coach rugby in Fiji then get a PADI qualification.Madventurer
Karstaway Iinternships with sustainable development NGOs in some of rural China's most beautiful locations. Programs also include intensive mandarin lessons and outdoor adventure sport courses such as rock climbing, kayaking and surfing. Karstaway
Lattitude Global Volunteering (formerly GAP Activity Projects) Choose from a variety of placements in 20 countries in areas such as foreign language assistants, assisting with general activities in schools, caring for the disadvantaged, outdoor education and conservation work. Lattitude also brings hundreds of volunteers from overseas to work in the UK.GAP
Hutong School Volunteer and learn Chinese in Beijing. Great location in a traditional Chinese courtyard. Also the opportunity to do internships at NGO's. Accommodation, airport pick-up and support provided. Hutong School
Institute of Chinese Studies Study Chinese language in Beijing and have the opportunity to do a internship and/or do volunteering work. Located at the University in Communication, one can experience the bustling and relaxed city life. Several services are provided, including accomodation, airport pick-up, orientation and excursions. Institute of Chinese Studies
Yomps Lots for amazing Gap Year trips if you want to volunteer, go on adventures, or learn a new skill. Learning to surf in South America, scuba dive in Fiji, volunteer in Africa, learn Spanish in Venezuela and a lot more on their website. Yomps
Marine Conservation Philippines Help protect and conserve fragile marine habitats, such as coral reefs and mangroves in the Visayas region of the Philippines. Take part in local outreach programs and learn scientific diving. Volunteer duration at least 4 weeks. Volunteer Marine Conservation Philippines
VSO VSO run two programs for under 25's who are interested in volunteering - Youth for Development and Global Exchange. They provide fully funded placements as well as training and the security of knowing your work is sustainably. [www.vso.org.uk VSO]
Quest Overseas Quest Overseas is a volunteering & expedition organization that offers 3-month gap year adventures in Africa & South America combining language learning, volunteering & expedition, 4-6 week summer volunteer projects and 6 week summer expeditions. All volunteer projects and expeditions are team based - with 8-16 Gap Year and university students on each, led by one or two of our trained and experienced leaders. Explore, volunteer, make a sustainable positive difference, make new friends, be inspired. www.questoverseas.com