Surviving Christmas When You’re Travelling or Living Abroad Alone

by | Dec 5, 2022 | Live Work Play Travel | 6 comments

I’ve been an expat living and working in a number of countries around the world and I have spent Christmas abroad more than once. It is my first Christmas abroad that I spent alone in London that I remember the most. I spent it alone because I didn’t organise anything in advance and to be honest, I was glad when the day was over. But as I spent many more Christmas’s alone and abroad I was determined to ensure this time didn’t have to be spent lonely. Because I think travelling alone and being lonely are two different things. And the first Christmas I had alone was lonely. Since that time I have discovered ways to surviving Christmas when you’re travelling or living abroad alone. So if this is your first Christmas abroad and alone, here are my best tips based on my own experience so you don’t get the Christmas holiday blues.

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Plan Your Own Christmas Day


If like me, Christmas Day and the holidays are a big thing full of family, presents and great food the thought of spending Christmas alone not doing these things can be depressing. My first Christmas alone was spent in London. My flatmates were heading home to their families in different corners of the UK and my Aussie flatmate decided to go skiing in Switzerland. As Christmas Day approached, and I hadn’t organised anything I was starting to feel sad with so much Christmas joy going on around me. I was missing my family and was scared I’d sink into depression being alone on Christmas Day. This is when I decided to continue my Christmas traditions, even if I would be doing them alone.


My first Christmas Living Abroad Alone went like this


I bought Christmas foods and worked out a menu I would make myself for lunch. Then I bought myself a special gift, a new top actually, and wrapped it. I also ensured I had plenty of coins to ring my family. Yes, in the 1990s we had to put coins into a phone in those red phone booths London is known for. I still felt uneasy about the day as I bid farewell to my flatmates then work mates as they headed off for the Christmas holiday. Christmas Day arrived and I made it as special for myself as possible on the day. First, I slept in. Gave myself a present. Cooked a fabulous lunch. Had a snooze on the couch. Went out sightseeing. Nothing was open of course, but I enjoyed walking the quiet streets of London. Made a phone call home. Then home, to enjoy leftover lunch for dinner before watching Christmas shows on TV. My first Christmas abroad alone wasn’t too bad after all, because I planned it.


Embrace New Traditions


My second tip to surviving Christmas when you’re travelling or living abroad alone is to embrace new traditions. Yeah, if you are living and working abroad you will be discovering new cultures. Why not discover and embrace the Christmas culture of the country you are in. You may never be back there for Christmas again so find out the traditions of that country and discover them for yourself. Discovering this new Christmas culture will help you to forget about your usual Christmas’ at home. Imagine my Christmas’ in Australia. Usually hot and after opening presents, the day was often spent jumping in and out of the pool. Sometimes there was a trip to the beach. So imagine when I had my first Christmas in the snow! It was magical. And if that country doesn’t celebrate Christmas, why not NOT celebrate also and treat it as just another day. Of course you can create your own Christmas – when in Rome!


Treat Yourself to a Christmas Lunch


Just because you will be alone doesn’t mean you have to eat alone. Many places open for lunch on Christmas Day. You just need to plan ahead by finding out which establishments will be open. They will often have a set menu. And don’t worry about going on your own because many people do. So if you want some company just while you are enjoying your lunch, I would definitely do an internet search of establishments close to you to find out if they will be open on Christmas Day for lunch. And book yourself a seat. Remember, Christmas is a time for giving, so treat yourself! 


Keep in Contact with Family and Friends


Communications have improved immensely so no matter where you are on Christmas Day keep in touch with family and friends. You could easily FaceTime your family or friends and literally be in the dining room with them on Christmas. Don’t forget to consider time zone differences as you don’t want to be ringing when nobody is up yet. Plus you don’t want to be ringing at an extremely busy meal preparation time so their meal doesn’t burn! I would usually call my family in Australia from the UK on Christmas Day morning so I would catch them before dinner. This worked out well.


Volunteer at Christmas


One way to not spend Christmas alone when you are living abroad or travelling is to volunteer. Giving back at Christmas time is a great way to remind yourself you have a lot to be grateful for. There are many shelters for the homeless and orphans who would greatly appreciate a little bit of help on Christmas Day making and serving meals and help cleaning up afterwards. You will probably receive a free meal for your services. 


Work at Christmas


Another way not to spend Christmas alone is to work. There are plenty of restaurants that will be open that require staff. I have done caring work myself for many years and have worked on a number of Christmas Days in aged care facilities and in client’s homes. They appreciate having someone to spend Christmas Day with, even if it is only for a few hours. And it kept me busy and I didn’t think about my traditional Christmas I would have at home. And you may discover there are many others trying to survive Christmas on their own.


Celebrate an ‘Orphans Christmas’


While on my working holiday in the UK, I lived with a number of other working holiday makers from different countries, but mainly Australia, Canada and New Zealand. As we were all single travellers living and working abroad, we decided we would have our own Christmas together. We talked about the foods we would have at Christmas and decided on our menu. Each of us making a dish from our home country. We even did a Kris Kringle and I still cherish the broach I was given and I still wear it on my winter coat – not that I wear it very often in Australia!


Get out of Town


As I mentioned, I had an Australian flatmate who went skiing in Switzerland for Christmas. What I didn’t know at the time was he didn’t want to be alone for Christmas. This is why he went to a place where he would be occupied snowboarding all day. I followed suit and for my second Christmas living abroad I did a ‘Top Deck Tour’ through Europe. I met a bunch of great people on the trip. We each did a Kris Kringle for someone on the tour and there were some very creative Kris Kringle’s given from the fabulous European Christmas markets we visited. Our Christmas Day was in Austria in a chalet so we had a white Austrian Christmas! So get out of town and do something different for Christmas.


Have a Day to Yourself


If none of my above suggestions work for you this Christmas there is nothing wrong with a treat of having a day to yourself. There is no hard and fast way to surviving Christmas when travelling or living abroad alone. Time to do things, can be a great treat to yourself. Time to yourself to read a book, cook, watch TV, pamper yourself or shop online till you drop on sites such as Amazon! If you are after treating yourself by shopping why not update some of your travelling gear.


Are You Ready for Surviving Christmas When You’re Travelling or Living Abroad Alone?


I hope so! Have you ever spent Christmas abroad? I’d love to know how you beat and Christmas holiday blues and made it special! Let me know in the comments following.

Christmas Tree with baubles to helps surviving Christmas when you're travelling or living abroad alone.

Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!


Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from raileurope. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers and World Normads has policies for general and adventure travel.


Sharyn McCullum In A Black T-shirt With Her Live Work Play Travel Logo In The Shape Of A World.

Hi. Sharyn here. Savvy Australian female with a passion for travel and working abroad. I’m on a mission to provide you with my best tips, tricks and hacks to work abroad and travel the world. If I can do it, so can you!  Read more.


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Hi, Sharyn here. I’m the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve travelled all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline – thanks dad! I’ve been a travel writer/blogger and living a location independent lifestyle since 1993. My aim with Live Work Play Travel is to provide you with the info to start living, working and travelling around the world like I do. I currently live in Melbourne with my partner and 2 kids. 


  1. simplyjolayne

    Some great ideas for how to make what could be a lonely holiday manageable, even memorable.

  2. Abigail Dalton

    Love your ideas and how you spent your first xmas alone! Although, I think travelling during Christmas if you’re alone is the way to go! Thanks for the tips

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Thank you. There are a lot of ways to spend your Christmas if you celebrate it when travelling solo. Taking a holiday is a good one!

  3. Lisa

    As someone who has been away from ‘home’ for several Christmases, I agree with a lot of the stuff that you mentioned!
    Christmas in Japan isn’t a national holiday, so I’ve often had to work on Christmas day – something not many people realise!

  4. Chelsea Messina

    I spent last year alone for the first time and I was not a fan. Things were still pretty bad with COVID so I decided last minute that I’d stay home, but I regretted it because I missed the good food, and presents, and I guess sorta missed my family lol But I didn’t plan mine out as you did. Yours sounded wonderful.

  5. Samantha

    This is such great advice! One of the hardest parts about living abroad is missing family and not always being able to visit family.


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