Right when the pressure of the fall semester really starts to ramp up, a lovely sight appears on the horizon: Thanksgiving break.
For many students, Thanksgiving comes at the perfect time. Midterms, research papers, group projects, and burnout are all starting to take their toll. The simple pleasures of sleeping in one's own bed and enjoying some home cooking are not to be underestimated for the college crowd!
Of course, with everything else college students have going on, planning for Thanksgiving (and the winter holidays) can get pushed to the side. So just how can college students make the most of their Thanksgiving break? Here are three things to consider:
1. Know it's never too late to find a way home: True, airfares increase the closer one gets to a specific travel date—especially when it's a holiday. But there are ways to work around the high costs of holiday travel.
In addition to online search engines that help find the lowest fare, some companies still offer the classic student discount. Greyhound and Amtrak, for example, offer reduced fares for college students and shouldn't be forgotten as ways to get home.
Additionally, you may want to consider carpooling with other students if everyone is headed in the same general direction. Why not split the cost of gas while having an enjoyable and memorable road trip? If flying by air is the only way to go, consider traveling on alternate days (e.g., early Thursday morning) to find lower fares than those offered during peak travel times.
[Get travel advice and tips from U.S. News.]
2. What should I bring home with me? College students may be tempted to bring home quite a bit over Thanksgiving break: laundry, summer clothes that are now too cold to wear, the things they thought they needed but now realize just take up too much space (quesadilla maker, anyone?).
One way to figure out what to bring home over holiday breaks is to view Thanksgiving as a quick weekend home and the winter holidays as an extended vacation. For Thanksgiving, then, don't bring home a month's worth of laundry. Bring home a few key items—including what you'll need in order to do your homework, of course—and leave the bigger stuff for the winter holiday trip.
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If you can sneak in an extra suitcase of summer clothes without having to pay too much in baggage fees, take advantage of the opportunity. You can always bring that suitcase back to campus packed full of winter clothes you'll need over the next few weeks. Just keep in mind that you're only gone for a few days and set your expectations accordingly.
3. When is it OK not to go home? Between the tanking economy and the rising costs of college, heading home over Thanksgiving may simply not be an option for some students. Fortunately, however, if you can't make it home this year, you won't be the only person left on campus when you wake up Thanksgiving morning. Other students will undoubtedly be in your predicament, including international students. Consider volunteering, getting some friends together for a movie marathon, or even just catching up on your general to-do list (sleep, homework, sleep, do laundry, sleep).
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It's OK not to go home if you can't afford it. Doing so just indicates you are making smart choices about how to spend limited resources; it doesn't indicate you are making a value judgment about your family. Additionally, if you are really struggling in your classes, spending a few days on a quiet campus where you can catch up on your work, really delve into your reading, and spend some quality time studying is a very legitimate reason to miss Thanksgiving. After all, it's better to spend Thanksgiving on campus studying than it is to spend the entire spring semester on academic probation.
Have you made smart choices about traveling home for Thanksgiving? Did you find a way to spend Thanksgiving that was nontraditional but memorable? Let other readers know in the comments below!