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How to Survive Spending Christmas Abroad

This will be my third Christmas away from home.  When I say home, I haven’t lived with my parents for 16 years, so I really mean that this will be my third Christmas when I spend the day with my family.  Being away from our families and friends at Christmas and other special dates can be tough, but how do you and your families, cope?  If you are worried about being away and feeling lonely, I have a few tips that will hopefully help you, and them, survive spending Christmas abroad!

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Shop Online for a Special Gift

The wonderful world of the internet means that we no longer need to battle the hoards in the shops on Christmas eve, and nor do we have an excuse for not exchanging gifts!  Shop online at Amazon for great gift ideas – or if you are good enough at planning ahead you could send souvenirs home with friends or DHL!  Instead of buying physical gifts you could also look at buying gift experiences so they can have fun doing something instead of being at home thinking about you!

Shop online for that special Christmas gift at amazon
Shop online for that special Christmas gift at amazon

Send a Christmas Card or a Postcard

Postcards are great ways to let your loved ones know you are thinking about them, no matter where you are in the world.  The only downside is unreliable postal services, and you never really know when your postcard will finally arrive!  Moonpig is a great website in the UK, USA & Australia which allows you to personalise cards and gifts such as mugs, calendars and various other items so you can send a gift with your face on to remind your family of you whenever they take a sip of tea.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: World Map Christmas Gifts for Travel Lovers

Survive Christmas Abroad: It’s good to talk

Skype has made being away from home so much easier for me.  I actually “see” my parents more now than when I lived in Manchester, as instead of picking up the phone we arrange a skype video call.  It’s great to see each other, and although this is subject to sometimes very dodgy wifi connections, when we do chat I feel much closer to home than I really am.  I keep in touch with my family regularly through Whatsapp and Facebook too, I can’t imagine how it used to be when we had to wait for letters to arrive in the post!  On Christmas day, take the time to skype your family if you can, or at the very least a phone call.  It might make you miss them more, but you won’t regret it.

Surviving Christmas Abroad me taking a dip in Angel Falls - Happy New Year!
Me taking a dip in Angel Falls – Happy New Year!

Enjoy something new

Trying something different while you are away can be a great way to occupy your mind and forget that you are so far away from home.  Last year I started the year in a special way with a trip to Angel Falls, and taking a dip in the waterfalls on 2nd January helped me realise that this was how I wanted the rest of my year to be too!  Encourage your family & loved ones to do the same too – perhaps volunteering at a local shelter can help them take their mind off you while helping others.

Surviving Christmas Abroad: Keep Your Traditions

It is wonderful to experience new cultures and customs while you are travelling, but sometimes keeping a little taste of home stops you from feeling so far away.  Even a photo of a loved one, a familiar chocolate bar or making your favourite dish to share with new friends will help alleviate homesickness.  The screen saver of my laptop is a photograph of my family at my brother’s wedding, so every time I turn on my computer I see their smiling faces and feel a little closer to home.  Even watching a Christmas film like Love Actually makes me feel homely!

A taste of home - my Mum's Fry Up
A taste of home – my Mum’s Fry Up

In the End, It’s Just Another Day

Really, Christmas is just another day.  If you have strong religious sentiments or remember specific days for more personal reasons it can definitely be harder to deal with being away from home.  But, it is just another day.  Tomorrow you will feel better, and the next day even better.  Just get through these 24 hours, and after that, the only way is up.

Remember, nothing is forever.

If you are still finding it very difficult, perhaps it is time to take a trip home to take a break.  Long term travel takes its toll on us all, and sometimes we all need a taste of home life.  And nothing says I love you more than a surprise visit!  Although money restraints mean it’s not easy for most of us, there are always ways around it.  Or perhaps a trip home a few weeks later will be enough.  Once you have a flight booked, you have something to look forward to, and it can make you appreciate your last days travelling even more!

This was my welcome dinner at Hostel Home - I'm looking forward to Christmas here!
This was my welcome dinner at Hostel Home – I’m looking forward to Christmas here! credit: Hannah Jeffery

How to Survive Christmas Abroad: Make Yourself At Home

The most important thing is to feel comfortable at Christmas.  For me, that means finding something familiar – this year it’ll be a hostel, so I know I won’t be alone on Christmas day.  For me, part of travelling is accepting that there are some things I have to give up – but the compromise is worth it.  I miss my family and friends every day, and I hope they miss me too but also understand that this is my life now and that in order to do what makes me happy there are sacrifices to be made.  I am lucky that my parents accept my decision, even if they sometimes think I’m crazy!  I know whenever I do go back home, or even talk on the phone, that they want me to be happy.  And that they are proud of me for following my dreams.

Wherever you are in the world, I wish you the best for this festive season.  Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, just take a few moments to tell the important people in your life that you love them, and take the time to make new friends wherever you are, so that no-one has to feel lonely this Christmas.


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Last updated: February 16, 2020

23 thoughts on “How to Survive Spending Christmas Abroad

  1. Stuart Forster says:

    I’ve spend a few Christmasses on the road and it can feel somewhat different to other times of year. Here’s to good friends and family and the support that they give us.

  2. Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad says:

    Ahh these are great tips! I spent so many years away from my family due to work, but a couple of years ago was my first actual Christmas abroad and it was definitely strange! Moonpig was a lifesaver throughout our travels (birthdays etc) but I got cute koala & kangaroo Christmas cards to send out, which was awesome! And sending souvenirs home definitely makes a unique present. 🙂

  3. Becki says:

    I’ve been away for the past three years and this year will be my first one back and I’m already feeling all kinds of reverse culture shock.

    But I agree, when away, on finding a good Christmas dinner and then a marathon of movies, family calls, more movies and Skype.

  4. nicki says:

    This is something I have never done before but feel it is going to happen eventually. My concern is how the family will handle it – if they will feel like they aren’t priority.

    But I would make moms dishes!

    • Claire says:

      You’re right – I was worries at first about my family, but I’m lucky they’re so supportive. If they know that travelling makes you happy hopefully they should accept it.

  5. JM says:

    I spent 10 Christmas away from home and so far I am pretty happy about it. But still, spending Christmas at home is the best thing. This is specially if you are stuck in a place that does not celebrate Christmas as grand as Christian and Catholic countries.

  6. Paige Wunder says:

    These are some really great tips. My husband and I are going to be away for our first Christmas next year and he’s already really upset about it. I am excited to have a totally different holiday, but I’ll be using some of these to help it still be a really enjoyable day for him! Thanks for sharing! Xx

  7. Megan Jerrard says:

    Some fantastic tips here – it’s always hard being away for the holidays, but I too have found that we have so much amazing technology these days that it’s so easy to stay in touch, and even set up an iPad or phone at the Christmas dinner table with Facetime or video chat via Skype 😀 My dad streams his iPad to the TV so when we have SKype everyone can see us on the big screen :D!

    • Claire says:

      Technology definitely makes things a lot easier! I love the idea of plugging into the TV, instead of the Queen’s speech back home my parents can have me 😀

  8. Kate Carter Hickey says:

    Last year I was in Busan with my family away from home (ie. traveler friends). This year I’ll be in Sanya completely alone. These tips are great for an expat like me! I’ll surely miss my family, but you’re right…it’s only 1 day.

  9. Christina says:

    You could add one more tip – let your hair down and have a great time! I guess it depends on where in the world you’re celebrating Christmas as to whether you need to “survive” the festive season or just simply enjoy celebrating in a new place.

  10. Samantha Elisabeth says:

    I love these tips! This is actually my first Christmas home in two years, and I’m going to enjoy every second of it (my house was decorated before Thanksgiving!). I remember we all made our favorite food for my first Christmas abroad and played a bunch of funny games. Not only did it help ease the homesickness, it’s not one of my favorite Christmas memories!

    I also feel like many places that see travelers (hostels, foreign food restaurants in Korea, etc) are pretty sympathetic to major holidays. I always see stories or hear of them doing something sweet or festive!

    • Claire says:

      That sounds great! Silly games and good food always makes me feel happy wherever I am in the world 😀 You’re right too, at least with Christmas a lot of different countries have ways to celebrate it too to help us travellers!

  11. Stephanie says:

    I’ve had to travel for work over Christmas a few times. It can be hard at first, but Skype and FaceTime definitely help. Another perk is if you set a later date to celebrate, you can buy all of your gifts on sale!! Haha Shhh…don’t let the secret out. Enjoy your time abroad.

    • Claire says:

      haha great tip!! I used to do that with my family when my brother spent Christmas with his in-laws we would do exactly the same but a few days later. For us it really didn’t matter what day it was, just a good day together!

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