A Guide to Planning a Working Holiday – designed for first timers!

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Motivational posters tell us, “make your hobby your job and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. Yet we’re usually reading these words from the inside of a cubical, office or boardroom, so for many, the sentiment struggles to ring true.

The great news is that turning your career into an adventure is entirely possible, thanks to the concept of a working holiday. And there are many jobs you can do on a working holiday, these being the most common. 

While a working holiday may sound like an oxymoron, it is, in fact, a very simple way to combine your career with your passion for travel while living life to the fullest.

From England to North and South America, Australia and many countries in between, a working holiday is a thrilling and economical way to expand both career and literal horizons. While learning new tricks of your trade during the week, weekends can be spent exploring a corner of a new city and experiencing a completely new culture. But obviously, before all of this working holiday fun begins, there are some boring old immigration and general housekeeping chores to consider.   

I’ve already told you all about the benefits of a working holiday, so today I am going to tell you about the things you need to consider when planning a working holiday. 

Choosing a destination

A Guide to Planning a Working Holiday - designed for first timers!

Step one to planning a working holiday is to choose a location. Where can you get the most out of moving?

Many countries offer specific working holiday visas which are essentially designed for professionals in their 20s to jet set. They are usually dictated by a timeframe, meaning you’re allowed to live and work in the foreign land for one to two years, yet you don’t have access to public funds or the benefits of being a citizen.

Commonwealth countries are particularly welcoming to Australians, but the US, Europe and Asia are also awaiting your arrival. These are the countries that Australia has working holiday agreements with.

*You may even wish to take the exchange rate into account when choosing a destination.

Applying for a visa

A Guide to Planning a Working Holiday - designed for first timers!

Once a destination has been settled upon, dealing with the actual visa is essential. Consulate and embassy websites are the perfect starting point to discover what information is required and what paperwork must be completed. 

Naturally, a passport is needed but certain countries may also ask for a university degree, a specific amount of professional experience and a job offer before you can board the plane. Some may even demand you have a certain amount in savings.

Visas themselves also cost money, so budgeting for the expense is essential, as is ensuring that you have allowed for enough time between application, approval and departure. Then, armed with the legal documents secured in your passport, the real fun can begin.

*See my working holiday checklist for Australians Moving to Canada. 

Preparing for arrival

A Guide to Planning a Working Holiday - designed for first timers!

Setting a travel budget when planning a working holiday is a great idea. You want to make sure you have enough money for your visa, flights, travel insurance, arrival, plus some extra spending money. When creating your travel budget, make sure you take the exchange rate into consideration. Once you have your travel budget, these are my tips for sticking to it. 

Now that’s sorted, it is essential to look into practical information such as temperature and weather patterns, so you can pack accordingly. Just because it is summer where you live, doesn’t mean it is on the other side of the world. 

Customs & Cultures

A Guide to Planning a Working Holiday - designed for first timers!

It’s important to remember that different countries have different cultures. It is regarded as a common courtesy to understand them as much as possible before going through airport customs. For example, some cities require tipping after a meal whereas others consider it the height of rudeness if extra money is left on the table. Correct greetings will give the best first impression, particularly in the workplace.

Working Holiday Necessities

Upon arrival to your working holiday destination, there are a few formalities you must sort out immediately. You will need to arrange a local mobile phone plan, bank account and SIN (social insurance number) / TFN (tax file number) / the equivalent government ID to allow you to work. 

To acquire both a phone plan and bank account, the institutions will require proof of your working holiday visa, which can be found in your passport. 

If you do plan to use your local sim card, make sure you look into roaming charges and note that credit cards are usually off-limits for working holiday visa holders. Therefore having enough cash to cover your expenses is an absolute must.

I know you will want to start exploring immediately but I promise these duties won’t take long. You can take care of everything in one day if you are efficient.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is a necessity when planning a working holiday.  I recommend World Nomads.


A Guide to Planning a Working Holiday - designed for first timers!

When going on a normal holiday, booking a hotel or Airbnb is standard. When planning a working holiday, such an expense is both unnecessary and unfeasible. Instead, you should rent an apartment, house or sublet a room. 

Whilst viewing properties in person is obviously going to have to wait, it is possible to line up viewings or do a virtual tour. Doing so will help you feel prepared for arrival, and potentially even have a home ready for you to move straight into. 

Sites like Facebook offer many groups where rental properties are on offer for expats. For example, Aussies In LA is a network where Australians abroad specifically help others who need a place to sleep.

Finding a Working Holiday Job

A Guide to Planning a Working Holiday - designed for first timers!

Obviously getting a job is a key element of a working holiday. Likewise to finding accommodation, you can set up virtual interviews and have a job lined up before you even arrive. There are so many types of jobs you can do on a working holiday. On one of my working holidays in Canada, I had the dream job! Find out what I did here.

My advice for finding a job with ease on a working holiday is arriving at the start of the peak season when opportunities are ample. This is usually at the start of summer, and the start of winter for some destinations eg Canada.

Once all of the mundane elements are taken care of, it’s finally time to embrace just how fun and unique a working holiday truly is. I have been on two working holidays in Canada and the experience changed my life. 

My advice for your working holiday – take an open mind and heart and be ready to embrace the world. The best part is, the working holiday could be so successful it turns into a new way of life, you’ll never want to come home and the motivational poster will finally ring true.

If you are planning a working holiday, check out my working holiday checklist for Australians moving to Canada or download my Overseas Travel Checklist below.

A Guide to planning a working holiday / Working holiday resources and advice from someone who has done multiple working holidays around the world / Working Holiday Tips / Working Holiday Canada / Working holiday Australia / Working Holiday Ideas / Working Holiday Fun / Working Holiday Budget

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