Foreign Office’s New App: Plan, Pack, Explore

Every year, thousands of young people head overseas to take a gap year or extended holiday before they begin university. But at the tender age of 18, most have never been abroad without their parents and

they are likely to be visiting countries they have not yet experienced, including more exotic locations that can have complex visa and passport requirements, as well as presenting health risks through the prevalence of tropical disease.

A gap year can be a rewarding experience in which young people learn more about the world and about themselves, but preparing for such an extended trip can be stressful both for parents and students. Such anxiety is normal and somewhat justified, as young people could easily land in trouble abroad if they are not well enough prepared.

To help young people prevent mishaps while overseas, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has released an app called Plan, Pack, Explore. The software can be used on both smartphones and tablet computers and provides a comprehensive guide to young people as they prepare to leave the country, and while overseas.

The guide includes a wealth of information on health concerns, culture, the law, visa and passport requirements and insurance issues for countries across the world.

If you are overwhelmed by the large amount of information offered, you can use the handy My Notes and My Checklist features, which allow users to bookmark information from the guide they wish to return to and add comments of their own.

Struggling to organise yourself? The app also includes a Holiday Countdown function, which provides an easy way to timetable your preparations.

Other features include a useful travel news feed from the FCO and a Quiz to test how well you have been paying attention to the guide.

The app is designed in a simple and usable manner, where every jot of the detailed guide can be accessed quickly at the touch of a fingertip. It is undoubtedly a very useful application for any young person going away, and could also be helpful for those who are going abroad on any extended trip – such as a career break – or to a country outside of the European Union, where different considerations need to be taken into account. What’s more, it’s completely free!

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