How to Make the Most of Your Winter Break

If you live in a northern state, chances are good that you’ve already seen snow flurries starting to fall, which means Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. Along with the holidays comes the anticipated winter break—no homework, a chance to see family and friends from back home, delicious home-cooked meals, and holiday get-togethers. On the flip side, some students may not look forward to winter break: there might be boredom, strained family relationships, or if you’re strapped for cash, holiday shopping might feel overwhelming.

If you’re looking forward to resting over your winter break, that’s certainly a good thing—especially after the stress of finals. Self care is important, and if you’re constantly running yourself ragged, you’re going to return to school exhausted. However, as your college years go by, you might get tired of doing a whole lot of nothing every time you head home over the holidays. Once you’ve had a chance to recover from all the homework and hubbub of the first semester, and if you’re looking for some creative ways to make the most out of your winter break, consider the ideas below.

1. Get a seasonal job

Christmas shopping makes for lots of shoppers and lots of busy stores. From coffee shops to retail to restaurants, there will likely be many seasonal job openings. If you take a trip to your local mall, you could fill out a bunch of applications at once and save yourself some trips. Another thing to keep in mind is that kids are off from school, so there are probably quite a few families looking for babysitters while they’re at work, Christmas shopping, or heading to holiday parties. If you’re not into babies, perhaps you wouldn’t mind watching pets! There are plenty of websites online where you can create a portfolio and get matched with pet owners who need a dog-watching pro while they’re at the family timeshare.

2. Take a trip

Winter break is the perfect time to take a short road trip. If flying out of state or out of the country seems like too big of an endeavor, consider driving to a new city nearby or doing an overnight trip to a friend’s cabin. If you have a bit of extra cash on hand, you might even consider booking a hotel for the night or renting an AirBnB and splitting the cost with a group. An experience like a trip is also a great thing to ask for for Christmas or your birthday. Trips are often occurrences that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

3. Get organized

Maybe your parents still have boxes and closets full of your things. By now, you’ve probably realized that you don’t need all that “stuff”—frankly, because you haven’t used it at all since you’ve been away at college! Now’s the perfect time to sort through your old belongings and determine what is a keepsake and what’s something you can donate. The same goes for clothes you didn’t take with you. Haven’t worn something in over a year? It’s probably time to let it go so someone else can enjoy it.

4. Study abroad

Some colleges offer short study-abroad trips to students, depending on your major and the school you attend. There are generally scholarship funds available for trips like these, and chances are good that even if there aren’t, the trip will be a lot less than the funding would be for an entire semester of traveling. If you’ve always wanted to study abroad but haven’t wanted to commit and entire semester to living in another country, this would be a great option for you. A trip to Europe or South America may never be available to you at this type of cost again, so take advantage of the opportunity!

5. Volunteer

The holidays are a great time to get involved with your community and help out. This doesn’t have to look like the quintessential scooping ladles of chili at a soup kitchen (although it certainly can!). It can be as easy as offering to help out in the nursery at church or shoveling your elderly neighbor’s driveway. Get creative and think about what types of things would be a blessing to those around you. If all else fails, gifting plates of Christmas cookies usually goes over pretty well with most folks.