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International Solo Travel At Christmas: 5 Tips To Thrive

The thrill of the Christmas holiday is felt all around the world, with celebrations in countries on every single continent. You’re excited to grab your passport and explore a new culture during the most magical time of the year. The only catch: you’re traveling solo this time. 

If your solo travel will take you far from home this Christmas, you might already be feeling a bit blue or lonely. But there’s no need to spend your holidays sad; instead, follow these five tips for thriving as you travel during Christmas!

A man clicking a selfie in christmas attire with luggage in hand.

1. Remember: “Solo” Doesn’t Mean “Alone”

One of the most effective ways to thrive during solo travel at Christmas is to shift your mindset. Just because you hopped on a plane and crossed the border by yourself doesn’t mean that you have to spend Christmas alone!

Choose solitude if that’s what nourishes your would, but feel free to get to know others at the hotel or hostel- even if it is the staff who’s working over the holiday. Go to holiday events (like Christmas markets, concerts, or even religious services) to connect with others. These acquaintances can quickly become a makeshift group of friends for celebrating Christmas!

Here are some of my favorite destinations for solo travelers to spend Christmas.

2. Lean In To Local Traditions

Christmas looks different all over the world, and while you might see some familiar elements, it’s likely that your solo travel will take you far from what you might consider a “traditional” holiday. 

Make the most of this chance to learn about different cultural Christmas traditions. Visit museums, city squares, and/or religious events that can give you more insight into these local traditions. As with all solo travel, keep an open mind and heart: be present and celebrate in the time and space where you find yourself. 

Don’t be afraid to ask local people about their Christmas traditions, either! People are generally excited to share their culture, history, and holidays with travelers who are interested. Simply ask around for local bits of traditional information, and you’re quite likely to find a local who will explain the Christmas celebrations from a unique perspective. Whether it’s lighting lamps in the Philippines or grabbing a coveted Christmas bucket of KFC in Japan or South Korea, participating in local Christmas traditions can be a way to lean into the travel experience.

3. Connect With Your Family

If it’s safe to do so, take some intentional time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to call your family (or family-like friends) back home. If you’re traveling in a totally different time zone and/or with limited access to the internet, it can be helpful to set this time up in advance. Setting up a time to call your family also gives you a chance to look forward to connecting with them, and it shows your family that even though you’re not home for Christmas, your heart is with them. Intentionality is the key here!

Let them know that even if you’re half a world away, you’re thinking of them on this big holiday. Fill them in on a few of your solo travel adventures, and catch up on their Christmas celebration news, too.

4. Be Prepared

Aside from being open and intentional while celebrating Christmas abroad, you should also make some practical preparations for your solo travel. For instance, be sure to check the weather for your destination. Winter might be harsher than you’re used to, or you might be spending more time outside in the cold weather than you’re used to. Make sure you pack accordingly!

Also, people are often more susceptible to common illnesses (such as the cold or flu) while they travel in the winter. You can preemptively pack some over-the-counter symptom relief, vitamin C tablets, and/or vapor rub just in case. Having familiar cold and flu treatments already available in your bag is definitely preferable to walking around in the cold and trying to navigate the local medicine scene!

Check Closing Times ⌚

During the Christmas holidays, especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s likely that many businesses will be closed. This means that you should get any food, drinks, and other necessities before Christmas Eve. Make sure to get enough to last you through the holiday.

You can also check the opening times and availability of restaurants nearby so that you’re not left hungry on Christmas! If you find a place that’s open, be sure to invite your traveling pals to join you for a holiday meal. 

Have Cash Handy 💵

Having cash available during the Christmas holidays is an absolute must. Throughout the holidays, banks will likely be difficult to access. This means that if you need customer support for withdrawing cash or confirming card transactions, it could take a lot longer to get the help you need. Don’t get stuck on Christmas without access to your funds!

Make sure that you have enough cash to last you a few days, just in case. Of course, you should store the cash in a safe place!

5. Stay Generous!

When you think of Christmas, you probably think of presents. And while it is fun to get gifts on Christmas, it’s even better to experience the joy of giving. Just because you’re on a solo trip doesn’t mean you can’t experience that joy!

Before you even leave for your destination, pack a few small gifts in your bag. These can be typical things from your hometown, or handy travel tools that fellow travelers would appreciate. Wrap them with the intention of giving them away on Christmas day. You can give them to other guests at the hostel or hotel, staff who are working in the service industry instead of enjoying the holiday with their families, or people you meet at local Christmas events.

You can also organize a hostel-wide meal, whether you all prepare food together in the hostel kitchen or go out to a local restaurant. You don’t need to pay for everyone’s meal or provide all the ingredients, though. Let the invitation and intention be your act of generosity, and give others the chance to respond generously, as well. 

No matter who ends up at the table or who receives the gifts in the end, make sure to savor the happiness and generosity of the holiday!