It's the most wonderful time of the year for many people. The holiday season typically involves vacation, spending time with family and enjoying delicious food. But for some folks, going home for the holidays isn't a possibility -- school or work can get in the way, or prices may be too high to make going home an option.
A few years ago, while attending graduate school in New York City, I couldn't afford the nearly $700 price tag to be with my family in Los Angeles during the holidays. It was my first time not spending the holidays with my parents and I wasn't sure what to do. Over the years, though, I've found some great alternate activities to do. If you can't make it home for the holidays, here are six things you can do instead.
1. Volunteer to help others.
Being alone during the holiday season can make you feel down. One way to combat that is to volunteer your time and help others. Consider volunteering at a local homeless shelter, serving a warm meal to those in need. Not only will you not be alone, but you'll also be making a very real impact in your community. You can use sites like VolunteerMatch to find the right opportunity for you.
2. Travel somewhere nearby.
Can't afford a cross-country flight, but have enough for a smaller getaway nearby? The holiday season can be a great time to travel elsewhere within your budget, as this is often considered the off-season travel period for vacation-goers.
For example, while I couldn't afford to go home to Los Angeles, I could afford a mini-getaway to Montreal. I took the train up from New York City, stayed in a hostel and explored. While many attractions may be closed on actual holidays, if you stay in a hostel, you can connect with others who are also traveling during the holidays.
3. Hang out with other friends who can't go home.
It's likely that you aren't the only one who isn't going home for the holidays, so consider finding others in your situation and hosting a friends gathering during the holiday. Host a potluck and enjoy each other's company.
Los Angeles-based artist Megan Levens says, "I always spend Thanksgiving with my friends. They are the family I've chosen. We do a potluck where the host cooks the turkey and everyone else brings sides, desserts, and drinks."
4. Relax and enjoy your time off.
The holidays are the perfect time to recharge. If you can't make it home, take some time to truly relax -- enjoy a day of doing nothing, binging on Netflix, curling up with a book or enjoying those elusive mid-day naps.
Most places are closed on major holidays anyway, so sit back, relax and do all the things you not-so-secretly wish you could do, if you only had the time.
5. Prepare for the year ahead.
If you're like me, you have stacks of paperwork, old clothes and miscellaneous items piling up from the past year. And if you're like me, you keep saying that you'll take care of those things "later" -- a time which never really comes.
The holidays are a great time to hit the reset button and purge unnecessary and unwanted items from your home and life. Consider organizing your desk, doing a deep clean of your home and purging old items. Mentally and physically prepare yourself for any New Year's resolutions you may be making. Having some alone time can help you get a step ahead of everyone, so you can rock your New Year's goals.
6. Side hustle and make extra cash.
One holiday season, I decided to make my own personal "make more money holiday." I secured two gigs -- one as a pet sitter and one as a kitchen helper on Christmas Day, where I helped organize the kitchen, prepare food and serve guests. Although there was a minor fiasco that involved burnt green beans, the family was otherwise very grateful for my help and paid me $300 for working Christmas Day. You can find a variety of gigs on TaskRabbit and Craigslist during the holiday season.
Not going home for the holidays can be tough -- especially if it's your first time not being with your family. Instead of thinking of it as a loss, think of it as an opportunity to relax, do something different or explore somewhere new. Using these tips, you can enjoy the holidays on your own terms.
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