Alone at Xmas: A Solo-Travel Survival Guide

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The festive season can be a tricky time, especially if you’re going to spend Christmas solo.

Maybe you’re living and working abroad and won’t get back to loved ones this year. Or maybe you don’t have many people around you and have decided to get away from home for a bit.

Either way, as someone who’s had many a solo Christmas, here are my tips for getting through it.

Who This is For

This is aimed at you if you’re feeling lonely about being on your own. I’ve had a lot of videos about this come up on social media in the last few days, and people seem to be split into two camps.

The first group is people who’ve chosen to be on their own and are excited about having time to themselves to do whatever they like.

And the second is for people who feel like it’s less of a choice and they’re feeling a bit low about the situation. This is for you.

Don’t Feel Embarrassed

I used to feel really embarrassed about spending Christmas alone. And despite me just hitting publish and putting this out there on the internet, it’s still not something I love to admit.

Not everyone understands, and you might have been subject to several questions from others when they find out. (Not all of which are very empathetic or appropriate to ask.)

But the truth is, lots of people spend Christmas Day on their own and for lots of different reasons. Don’t feel that you’re the only person in the world who isn’t having the most perfect holiday season.

Social isolation and loneliness are something of a pandemic these days so you’re definitely not the only person going through it.

Shift the Focus Away from Christmas Day

On that note, in the past, I’ve found it helpful to completely shift the focus of Christmas onto Christmas Eve.

Don’t Avoid Christmas Completely

The years that I’ve done nothing to celebrate Christmas weren’t great because I felt like I was still anticipating the day after it had passed.

There’s so much focus and attention on this one day in the UK, and I imagine it’s similar in the US. It’s a real cut-off point for things that’ll get done before it arrives or shifted until after. And if you treat the 25th like a normal day, I’ve found, at least, that my brain is still in waiting mode.

Feel Festive Without Spiraling

But sitting with your Christmas dinner for one on Christmas Day can send your mind spiralling and going into massive comparison-itis. So I’ve often found it easiest to treat Christmas Day as normal a day as possible and celebrate on the 24th instead.

It’s a way of joining in the festivities in a manageable way. I’ve either worked in the morning or gone into town to bounce off all the energy that’s around on Christmas Eve. Then headed home to have a glass of wine and start on the Christmas films/movies.

In the evening, I’ll have a little Christmas dinner. Obvs I don’t cook a big turkey for myself. But I have chicken and make it a bit more special than the chicken dinner I eat several times a week. I’ll get some bread sauce, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes and a nice pudding to indulge in.

In Athens, there’s a British food shop, and you might find there’s somewhere near you with tastes of home, too.

Remember You Can Make New Traditions

I personally didn’t do that on Christmas Eve this year because it was starting to become a bit of a tradition for me. I wanted to remind myself – and the Universe – that it’s not the way I want my Christmases to continue.

I actually thought everything had come to fruition this year, and I was going to have someone to do fun Christmassy things with. A guy I liked asked for my number, which literally never happens. And I was so excited because he genuinely seemed like a good person. I’m not really sure quite what happened, but nothing came of it. So it was Christmas for one again.

But, I made the decision that Christmas with someone special and my bucket list experience of Hogmanay in a castle are on the vision board to happen in 2024. I’ll have to update this post then with a picture from the ceilidh!

Remember that how you spend Christmas this year is not an indication of how you can spend Christmas in the future. So try not to get hung up on what it means for you this year.

By travelling or being abroad, you’re already creating a new tradition of doing something for yourself.

Travel to a Non-Christian Country

In 2022, I spent the Christmas period in Turkey. I didn’t do anything festive on Christmas Day. But being away and then coming back home still marked the occasion and created the same kind of cut-off.

Being in a different environment can be helpful. And going someplace where the 25th is a normal sightseeing day is easier than travelling somewhere you’ll be surrounded by couples and families celebrating the day.

Do Some Somatic Work

If you’re alone on Christmas and feel lonely about it, your nervous system’s probably going to be at least a little out of whack.

Do some self-care to stimulate your vagus nerve and bring your body back into a more balanced state. Because of the mind-body connection, doing these things can really help your mood and your head.

Look into these things, which are all doable on the move:

Singing/Humming

These are good for the vagus nerve, so go for your life with the Christmas carols.

Somatic Exercises

This account on Tiktok has loads of free videos of examples of easy exercises you can do (you don’t need an account to watch). Just a few minutes of them can change things up in your body and, therefore, your head.

EFT/Tapping

Emotional Freedom Technique feels a bit odd to start with, but it’s really good for physically tapping stress out of your body and reprogramming your mind.

It’s based on the energy meridians from Chinese medicine, and loads of Western research backs it up. It’s proven to be effective for lots of different things, so check it out. Tap with Brad has loads of YouTube videos, so you can find one that feels right.

Crying

I’m not sure if this is technically classed as somatic work, but crying definitely helps you regulate your nervous system. So, if you feel tearful, let it out. It’s ok to feel lonely and sad that the day isn’t how you’d hoped it might be.

Have a hot bath, listen to some melancholy music and wallow in it for a bit. I heard about a study recently that said listening to sad songs for 17 minutes helps you feel better! So do that, and then do one of the things above to help you move through it.

Volunteer or Work

Sometimes, the best way to take your mind off your preoccupations is to help someone else.

Places like food banks and the local homeless soup kitchen, regardless of the country, often need extra support at Christmas. And here in Greece, I saw one or two of the animal shelters shouting out for Christmas volunteers.

Volunteering (or even working) is a good way to get some social interaction and feel connected over the festive period.

Do Something Creative

Paint, draw, do a jigsaw, cross-stitch or bake something traditional in the country you’re visiting. Do something immersive that requires your focus. These things can be quite meditative, like reading a book, and take your mind off everything else.

Get Outside

There have definitely been years that I haven’t left the house, but it’s good to get outside for some fresh air, even if it’s just a stroll around the block.

Get Some Exercise

Ideally, get outside and do something in nature. Walking to the local park will do if you’re in a city.

But cycle, swim in the sea, go for a hike or do something wintery if that’s more appropriate for the weather. It’ll make you feel better. (Ideally, tell someone where you’re going and if you’re swimming alone, use a float/buoy.)

If not, then have a little dance around your space inside to get the endorphins flowing.

Let Yourself Receive a Gift

At this time of year, shop assistants seem to ask if you want things wrapped, even if it’s quite mundane stuff you’re buying. I’ve always said not to bother since it’s not a gift. But I decided to start saying yes, please.

If you’re buying something for yourself around this time, even if it’s just a souvenir, let the shop wrap it for you. Since they usually make it a little bit fancy, it’s still nice to appreciate the detail and have something to open, even if you did buy it for yourself.

Use Social Media Wisely

Social media can be a bit of a double-edged sword. You might find it helpful to hear about other people travelling alone or to connect with others. But it can be easy to get caught up in other people’s highlight reels on Christmas Day.

Decide for yourself the best way to deal with things. You might want to delete social apps for a bit or move them into a folder away from your home screen.

If you’re not expecting to hear from anyone, then it’s totally ok just to switch your phone off for the day and spend your time focusing on other things.

Be Gentle With Yourself If You’re Spending Christmas Alone

Your mental health can take a bit of a bashing at this time of year. So the main thing is to try and protect that. It can be difficult when you wish things were different.

But it can be helpful to remember not everyone spending time with family members is having a wonderful time, either.

Being on your own really is better than spending the day with a partner or spouse and feeling just as alone. And it’s better than being with family and having to walk around on eggshells or trying to dodge the screaming matches all day.

Christmas Travel Logistics

In terms of the logistics of travelling at Christmas, I’d aim to book early. Travelling solo is more expensive anyway since normally you pay the same for a hotel room or Airbnb regardless of whether there’s one of you or two to split the bill.

And at Christmas/New Year, prices for hotels and airfares usually increase. So book in good time to get the best rates.

You might get lucky with a last-minute hotel discount, but flights don’t usually reduce. And for hotels, you’re most likely to get a discount for the top-tier rooms that are left since the lower-priced options usually sell out. Be aware of that and plan accordingly.

Obviously, if you go someplace where the 25th December isn’t a holiday the prices will be more normal. However, expect rates to still increase around New Year, depending on where you go.

Here’s what you can expect from Athens at Christmas, and this is what it was like in Istanbul.

Suzie Young

Suzie writes informative posts for solo, nervous or first-time travellers to Greece, Turkey and other countries on her 50-before-50 bucket list. She became a Greek resident in 2020 and intends to visit every inhabited island (13 down!).

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