Hundreds of thousands of British students opened their A level results this summer and thousands will have decided to take a year out to travel to volunteer, gain work experience or simply have the adventure of a lifetime.

In 2016, more than 92,000 students started their university courses aged 19 and many of those will have delayed going to university due to taking a gap year. This year, tens of thousands of school and college leavers are also expected to take a gap year trip before starting their courses in 2018.

ABTA has revealed the most popular destinations and activities for gappers and is advising young people on how to make the most of their travels.

Thailand has taken the top spot from last year’s number one destination Australia which is now at number two. Other destinations of note include South Africa and Argentina which have entered the top 10 this year.

The top 10 are: 1. Thailand, 2. Australia, 3. Vietnam, 4. Peru, 5. New Zealand, 6. USA, 7. Cambodia, 8. South Africa, 9. Argentina and 10. India.

Among the most popular trips for gappers are volunteering trips. ABTA Members have reported that gap year students regard these not simply as a way to boost their CVs but as a way of making a real difference and a positive contribution. Example trips include beach conservation in South America, forest conservation in Madagascar and medical internships in South Africa.

The clichéd image of a gap year as a year-long party is rapidly losing ground as many use it as an opportunity to gain work experience either on internships or in paid employment. ABTA Members have reported that 'partying' is the least important factor for people when booking a gap year, with students apparently planning for the future and seeing gap years as a way to boost their CV in a competitive job market.

According to ABTA Members, activity tours including trekking, white water rafting and biking, plus cultural tours to historic and fascinating cities are all proving popular this year. Many gappers prefer the security and company offered by travelling as part of an organised group and they find it a great way to share experiences with like-minded people and make new friends.

Top tips for gappers

• Check with your travel company and with the Foreign Office for 'dos and don’ts' and 'no go' areas for the country you’re visiting. They will also tell you about visa requirements and how to get relevant visas, which is especially important if you’re going to be working.

• Choose a reputable gap year travel company with a good track record that is a member of a trade association, such as ABTA, so you have a point of contact and support should anything go wrong.

• Get a good quality travel insurance policy and make sure it covers the activities you want to take part in as well as the length of time you will be away. The cheapest policies will not necessarily provide you with the level of cover needed for a lengthy stay overseas, or for extreme sports.

• Research local customs and culture before you go to understand more about the host destination and avoid unwittingly causing offence.

• Make sure you’ve had all the necessary jabs and inoculations; do this at least eight weeks before you travel.

• If you’re going to a country where malaria is prevalent always take anti-malarial medication and always finish the course.

• If you’re volunteering, think carefully about the kind of activity you’ll be doing, especially if the volunteering is with children. It is recommended you use an operator that matches you with suitable projects. Check that they do background checks when volunteers are working with children or vulnerable adults and that they will provide you with necessary support when you are abroad.

• Working, volunteering or learning a skill overseas will be enriching as well as challenging. It will most certainly be good for your personal and professional development.

• If you’re travelling to a non-English speaking country take some basic language lessons before you go and take a phrase book and pocket dictionary in the local language, you’ll find it much easier to fit in when you first arrive. If you’re going to rely on a mobile device for translation, check the costs involved.

• Tell your bank where and when you’ll be travelling to reduce the risk of them stopping your card.

• Keep electronic copies of all your important travel documents and leave a copy with someone at home.

• Keep a list of emergency contact numbers in a safe and accessible place.

• Above all, when looking at the different options, go with the project and adventure that feels right to you.