The essential ‘travelling-home-for-the-holidays’ checklist
December can be a chaotic month for students (hopefully you’ve made it through the mid-term fatigue). You’ve probably lost the will to continue and yet still you have those final assignments to complete. If you’re planning to go home for the holidays, then that can be an anxiety in its own right and there’s still the small matter of actually getting home to think about.
So before you uproot yourself temporarily for a few weeks, check that you've considered the following before you leave:
Everyone is in a rush to get home during December to stay with family and friends over the holidays, or simply to visit; it’s not just students. This can make travelling a nightmare; especially if severe weather disrupts public services. If you can, finish your assignments earlier so you can book travel a week or two before Christmas rather than at the last minute (of course, don’t rush your work just so you can start the holidays sooner). If you do order tickets, how long will it take for them to be delivered to you? If you’re picking them up, remember to do this and consider what you’ll need to show to retrieve these.
Also, don’t forget your passport at home! Keep this in the front pocket of your trousers or somewhere which is in your sights at all times; busy airports and train stations can be havens for thieves who prey on those distracted and in a rush.
Start planning your route home now so you can book flight or train tickets in advance. Booking at the last minute or on the day will likely cost more. Look around for more affordable travel sites like Skyscanner and STA Travel. Keep in mind that usually students will receive a discount on internal travel, so keep an eye out for travel cards like the UK’s 16-25 card. Ask your friends what they use to book tickets, or how they’re planning to get home. Can they give you a lift some part of the way if they’re driving, or can they at least provide good company for the trip? In the days before you leave, keep an eye on the weather reports along the route you'll be going travelling. Bad weather can disrupt travel plans!
You shouldn’t pack too much as you probably won’t be at home for that long; you can wash clothes at home without worrying about utility costs. If you’ll be staying indoors with family most of the time, will you need all your evening out clothes? Plus, you’re the one who will have to carry it and transport this! If you’re flying, you’ll have limits on luggage anyway. Hopefully you’ll be used to doing your laundry yourself by now, so you won’t be using the holidays to get much-needed washing done. This might be the time to take back clothing or items which you won’t need from now on, and to bring back those you will need, depending on the change of weather.
Remember to pack your laptop and mobile devices, both to complete any academic work and for your own entertainment while travelling and for once you get home. However, if you can use a family computer at home, consider leaving your laptop at university (locked away and out of site, and not sitting on your desk). Many students forget to take additional equipment to charge devices, so remember these or your devices will be defunct.
If you have got work to do while at home, try and be selective with which books and resources you absolutely need. Can you access any documents online through an electronic version (online or on a cloud) or via a copy you already have at home? Can you make concise notes to refer to instead? Books, especially for English Literature courses, can be quite heavy and take up space in your luggage. Try and do as much preparation as you can so you are only carrying those you will end up using.
Make a list on your phone of things you need to pack, and then keep this list so you remember to repack everything when it’s time to return to university. Also, what will the weather be like at home in your country, and what should you pack to wear?
Lock all windows and doors to your accommodation. Move any expensive items or sensitive documents out of sight in your room (e.g. in a safe with a lock, under your bed etc.) or even ask a friend to look after them. Throw out food items in your cupboard or fridge/refrigerator which will go out of date while you are away. Tell your roommates or neighbours whom you trust that you’ll be away, and provide a contact number if they need to contact you for whatever emergency.
Also, try to leave your accommodation in a tidy state. With assignments now finished, you’ll have a moment to finally clean and sort out your living space properly; something which may have slipped by the wayside while you were buried under work. This way when you return, you’ll be ready for a fresh term even if you’re still a little sad having returned from home – there’s nothing worse than returning from the luxuries of home to an unmade bed and disgusting kitchen.
You may only have a week or two at home during the holidays so make the most of this quality time with family and friends. You should try and coordinate schedules with your very best friends so you can meet up; rather than spend a little time with a lot of people, try to spend more time with those closest to you. Unfortunately many students find that once they go away to university, they really have to be selective with which friends from school they can/want to stay in touch with – it’s all part of growing up.
While you may have suffered from long days and nights in the library, try not to waste your time at home sleeping. By all means, get some rest; but try and get the most out of each day. You may wish to avoid social occasions which involve large amounts of alcohol consumption too; while you can enjoy a drink or two with old friends, massive alcohol binges mean two things: nights which you can’t remember; and a whole day wasted while recovering from a hangover.
If you do have work to complete, make sure you find the right balance between socialising & relaxing, and completing this. Decide for yourself whether you can actually work at home; some can, some can’t because of distractions.
But whatever you do, take lots of photos with loved ones to return to university with, for when you’re feeling homesick.
While at university overseas, there are bound to be those moments where you think to yourself, ‘I really wish my parents were here to help with this.’ Give yourself a reminder of these instances so when you go home, you can ask them for help in person. These may be certain actions for looking after yourself, like folding laundry quickly or a particular meal you want to cook yourself; or it could be slightly more serious tasks or pursuits, like banking or discussing further study opportunities.
Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.