It’s been a fair few years since my family has seen me home for the holidays, for no other reason than my insane addiction for traveling the world. Christmas 2010 was spent in the Qantas Club Lounge in Melbourne before catching an international flight to Edinburgh; Christmas 2011 was spent in New York City while dating Mike; Christmas 2012 was spent in Tasmania, (a little far out from my home State, though at least I was in the same country that year!), and Christmas 2013 in Florida, 9,433 miles away from home.
It’s not that I don’t love my family. I’m part of a very tight knit group. Though when you’re addicted to travel you often miss the birthdays. You’re overseas for the anniversary’s. You have to settle for video replays of weddings you should have been at. And you settle for Skyping in on Christmas day.
So how do you deal with Christmas when you’re never home for the holidays? This is how I do. How to stay in touch with people during the holidays.
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FaceTime & Skype
Apps like FaceTime and Skype are a godsend, and I have attended many family dinners through my computer screen. I wished my nephew a happy first day at school via video chat, counted halloween candy with both nephews online, and my webcam is always on when it comes time to open presents!
Depending on your time difference, you may have to suck it up and wake up at 5am, however you learn to take what you can get when it’s the only way of seeing your family on Christmas day. Use facetime for Christmas.
Additionally, international calls are incredibly cheap via Skype – something to the effect of 3-10 cents per minute depending on which country you’re calling to/from. So even if your parents, grandparents or siblings don’t have a computer, throw on $10 of Skype credit and start making calls! There’s nothing more special than receiving a phone call from the other side of the world just to say “Merry Christmas” and that you’re thinking of them that day.
If you are buying gifts for your loved ones, buy online and have them shipped directly. This saves more money than you could possibly imagine in international shipping costs. Ship gifts directly
Shipping birthday gifts last year from the United States to Australia was going to cost $80 for some clothes and a plastic toy for my 1 yr old nephew; 4 times what the gifts cost themselves! Or you can look into social shopping platforms like Grabr where travelers already heading your country of choice will deliver goods/presents for you in exchange for a small fee.
Related: Gift Ideas For the World Traveler
Personal Emails/Social Media Messages:
After moving to the United States my phone went silent. It’s too expensive for most people to send international texts, so don’t expect the 100 or so group text messages you’re used to receiving on Christmas or New Years if you’ve changed to a new number overseas. But it’s still nice to let your friends know you’re thinking of them. Stay in touch while traveling
Everybody on earth seems to post a “Merry Christmas” status update on Facebook or twitter, however make it personal by sending your closest friends private, personalized messages. They’ll appreciate the thought, and you’ll more than likely get messages back – everyone likes to feel loved on Christmas!
I learned quite quickly that staying in touch with friends and family back home while traveling is a two way street. Sure, you may not have heard from them, but you have the ability to start a conversation too. So don’t take it to heart if you don’t hear from people. You’re the one who left, so if you want to stay in touch it’s often going to be you who has to make the first move.
Celebrate Like a Local:
Christmas traditions vary from country to country, and each different destination has their own unique way of celebrating the holidays. Christmas in Australia includes a BBQ and a couple of beers. Christmas in Colombia includes huge fireworks displays. Christmas celebrations around the world.
Go out and celebrate Christmas with the local community, and embrace the differences in culture. Find out how the locals celebrate and mirror these traditions too. How is Christmas celebrated around the world
Get in touch with people you may know in that part of the world and let them know you’re in town – you could be lucky enough to be invited into a family celebration. Which country should I visit for Christmas
Do Something Awesome:
Distraction is often the best cure for homesickness around the holidays, so plan to do something awesome and fulfill one of those dreams on your bucket list.
Christmas 2010 for me was spent in the lounge of the Qantas Club in Melbourne – not necessarily something ‘awesome’, but that night I arrived in Edinburgh and spent the evening in a proper Scottish Castle!
Make Sure You’re Insured
The holidays are called “the silly season” for a reason – alcohol flows, folks behave foolishly and self indulge, and people do crazy things. Occurrences of theft tend to spike around the holidays too.
There’s literally nothing worse than having to spend the holidays sick, hurt, or banged up abroad. So make sure you have international health insurance so that if something happens you can afford to have it taken care of, and it doesn’t ruin your whole holiday.
Travelers are often under the misconception that health insurance is for the small stuff; a cold, the flu, or a nasty bruise. But it actually exists for emergency situations and life threatening events beyond your control. Like a serious car accident, or if you need an emergency evacuation so that you can afford a helicopter transfer.
Knowing that you’ll be taken care of no matter what happens during the holidays eliminates a huge amount of stress. Having an international travel insurance policy which covers health and medical is absolutely essential when spending the holidays abroad.
Pro Tip: If you haven’t yet purchased international travel health insurance, obviously make sure you do. Our guy is Timothy Jennings at Individual Health who has a huge range of insurance plans which includes insurance with #GeoBlue.
GeoBlue is a worldwide insurer who offer the most complete set of benefits and services in the industry, and make their best attempt to arrange direct payment no matter which medical provider you see. That means no need to lay out any of your holiday cash, and you don’t have to even worry about filing a claim.
For more information on health insurance contact Tim Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org or click for a free quote.
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Post completed in our capacity as Brand Ambassadors for Individual Health.
Photo credits: Girl drinking at Christmas Market by Mike Kniec. Dalhousie Castle by Paul Morgan.
Merry Christmas to the both of you !
I’ve never really been away at Christmas time but technology sure does bring everyone closer together! I’d wish you guys a white Christmas but you probably will be able to be at the beach while we are turning our heat up shoveling snow!
Merry Christmas to you as well! Glad to hear you’ll be home for the holidays :)
We will indeed be at the beach this year – but have fun shoveling that snow!!! (Mike is from Minnesota, so has vowed against another white Christmas is he can help it … I think he’s had enough snow shovelling to last him a lifetime!!!)
I just posted something on the same thing today. I completely agree with everything that you’ve mentioned here. You can also replicate somewhat the family aspect of the holidays, just with new travel friends or people you’ve met while living abroad.
You have great tips on your post as well! Love spending time with new travel friends – my friends have a party in Australia each year for “Christmas orphans” when their parents head out on a cruise for the holidays! Friends are the new family!!
Great read Meg! You can make Christmas away from home just as good as actually being at home :)
I’m lucky as my last Christmas at home in 2010 as it was a white one so I have awesome memories from that – Christmas in summertime just doesn’t feel so right to me!
Lol where-as I’m the complete opposite – I’ve only ever really experienced Summer Christmas’ in Australia! Beach games and ‘shrimp on the barbie’! We have outdoor lunches on Christmas day :)
This year I´ve learned to NOT have people ship things to Europe. For some reason it has resulted on so many custom fees on the receiving end! Annoying right?
These are great tips. I also recommend using a wesbite like shutterfly to create and send personalized gifts for loved ones. It´s super easy and fun!
Good to know – how strange!! Absolutely love shutterfly – totally agree with you on that one; we’ve even had our wedding albums made through Shutterfly :D!!
Great read. I will be in Phuket during the Christmas holidays away from family for the first time so I appreciate the ideas you came up with!
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas despite being apart from your family. Hopefully you can use some of these ideas to not feel so far away!
Glad you found the post useful :)
I’ve been away for Christmas a couple of times and felt sort of displaced. I love decorating and enjoying the Holidays at home, with friends and family. Somehow, when I was away, it didn’t feel like Christmas. Well, maybe I am old-fashioned. However, your tips for keeping in touch with family while on the road are great. And yes the ship directly is something that I’ve been using for a long time now when I want to send gifts to my loved ones. As for travel insurance… I ditched that for a long time, but I’m rethinking it. In light of the latest events it seems we might all need it.
I think that the feeling of Christmas for many is definitely tied to being around family and friends. It’s a time where people come together, so I absolutely understand that feeling of being displaced when you’re not home. It just feels like every other day.
Travel insurance is something I’ve really come to appreciate the value of – as I’ve been traveling longer I’ve met more and more people who’ve had stories about needing to rely on their insurance for accidents and incidents which would have otherwise sent them broke. I’ve come to realize that literally anything could happen, and we could get caught up in anything abroad, so it’s sensible to make sure we’re covered for every possible scenario. I would much rather make sure I’m safe than be sorry later on.
Insurance is fairly affordable too so I personally think it’s a no brainer. Feel free to shoot Individual Health an email for a quote and they would be happy to run you through a few different options for plans :)
I haven’t been home for the holidays for a few years myself either. I love your suggestions (Skype is a my favorite). And doing something awesome and not trying to replicate what the holiday would have been like at home is always a good choice. Thanks for the wonderful list of suggestions.
Glad you found the tips helpful Jen – it can definitely be hard at times, but I’ve found Skype and a bit of adventure to provide distraction are the keys :)
This is our first Christmas outside of North America and away from everyone we know! Great tips, Direct shipping was used already and Skype will be used by us for sure!
I bet your family is super excited that you’re home for the holidays this year!
Skype is a great one, and direct shipping is a God send!! Where will you be for Christmas this year? Hope you have a wonderful holiday season no matter where in the world you’ll be :)
Merry Christmas Jill!
Where will you be celebrating holidays this season, Meg? We were supposed to celebrate it home in the stateside but some things came up so it’ll be my 6th Christmas in the Philippines. We actually just purchased a 10 foot Christmas tree to liven up the holiday spirit. When I first moved here, it was prior the FaceTime and free Skype call era so it wasn’t particularly easy. oh how times have changed!
We’re in Australia this year for Christmas :) Will be really lovely to finally celebrate one year around family and friends.
Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to make it home for the holidays this year, though I hear that Christmas in the Philippines is a pretty large celebration, so I’m sure you’ll have a wonderfully festive season regardless.
And now with Skype and Facetime, at least we can still see everyone on the day :)
This is the first Christmas I get to spend at home in a few years. I am frankly less than excited about it. I love my family but have a real aversion for Christmas!
Hopefully it won’t end up being too bad for you! :) Though worst case I do have a list of countries who don’t celebrate Christmas just in case you do need to escape :D
I’m really glad we have Skype etc. these days, it makes everything much easier! And it’s priceless to see faces or smiles of our beloved ones during Christmas time!
Absolutely – I don’t know what I would do without it quite honestly! Merry Christmas Maja :)
As an expat the holidays can be one of the toughest times, especially if you go from having a big family that celebrates together to just your immediate family group. We coped (after a few disasters) by setting new traditions. I love my WhatsApp as that is a free way to keep in touch. I love waking up (10.5 hours ahead of my daughters) and finding a whole bunch of texts on our group chat line for me to read, its a great way to stay connected.
They really can, and I can understand how hard it is having come from a reasonably big family too. Though we’re so connected nowadays no matter how far we may be apart. And that really does help :)
Happy Holidays Sue! X
Skype is a massive asset for anyone who travels a lot. I pay a yearly subscription, which gives me a UK I can take with me anywhere. I can also call landlines in the UK for free… A big change from when I first started travelling, and phone calls were over a dollar a minute!! I will certainly be using it this year, phoning back to the UK as I am currently in Greece. Merry Christmas!!
Merry Christmas Dave! The Skype subscription sounds like a fantastic idea. I don’t do a subscription, though I do usually aim to keep around $10 credit on there, and when I go to make calls to Aus it’s usually like 3c per minute to a landline. As you said, HUGE difference from when I first travelled overseas and I was paying for minutes via an expensive phone card!!
Love the the suggestions behind this post, Meg. So very thoughtful! I spend holidays away from home as well, but I usually see my loved ones just before. This year is quite different since my husband and I left the country this past May, and won’t be seeing family for a few years (at least). I don’t know what I would do without skype! I made the rookie mistake of shipping Christmas presents home from Europe this year… lesson learned! ;)
Yep, you’ll only make a shipping error once :D It took me a while to realize how much simpler and stress free direct shipping is. Don’t know what I would do without it!
I hope you’re having a wonderful experience traveling so far – Skype really is the best way to spend Christmas day if you’re away. You can have your family set the computer up at the Christmas table as corny as that sounds lol and still be there for dinner :D
So this year you will finally spend it at home? :) It is tough to be away but the internet definitively helps. I spent Christmas Day by myself last year but whatsapp and facebook made me feel like I was closer. I thank them for helping me be closer despite being over 15000km away
Yes indeed! Looking forward to it :) But you really can engross yourself in the internet if need be and feel like you’re not as far away. The invention of the web has done an amazing job at connecting the world – I can’t believe how far we’ve come just in my lifetime with some of the technology which has come out!