How to live in a dorm during the holidays and keep your spirits up

Tips for making the most of it

A bedroom with lights and made up bed
(Image credit: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash)

Being a college student who is away from home for the first time is already tough enough. Homesickness can hit hard regardless of the time of year, but once you add in the disappointment of not being able to go back for the holidays, things can feel even harder.

Whether you can’t make it home because of budget reasons, scheduling, personal reasons, or your workload, we feel for you. However, there are plenty of ways you can make the most of your time alone, all while celebrating the holiday.

To help you combat any feelings of sadness, stress, or homesickness, use these tips for living in a dorm during the holidays to make your solo staycation as enjoyable as possible. And keep in mind that there’s something really unique and special about being on your own — try to make the most of it!

How to make the most of the holidays in a dorm

Living on campus during any holiday can be fun, but also emotionally challenging. Here is how to make your time on campus comfortable, whether it's during winter holidays or over the summer.

1. Decorate your space

One of the easiest ways to boost your mental state is by making sure the environment around you is uplifting. If your dorm room is looking a bit bland, add some seasonal touches to it to make things feel more homey. 

Some affordable yet impactful ways to do this include adding fluffy throw pillows, lighting a scented candle, putting out decorative pieces, or hanging lights, like this cozy Amazon's Choice string set. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or go to great lengths to spruce things up a bit — a little decor will go a long way. 

2. Make plans with people who are in town

Sure, you might not be able to jet home and be with your family, but there are likely other students who are in the same position as you. Try to make plans with friends who are also stuck in town, that way you’ll feel less alone. 

If you don’t have any buddies who will be around, ask them to connect you with some of their other friends. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and form new friendships, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your RA may also know of people or groups who are getting together and staying on campus at the same time as you.

3. Go on a mini getaway

While a vacation home might not be in the cards, that might not mean all of your options are busted. Use this solo time to take a day trip somewhere nearby. Maybe there’s a small town a couple hours away that you’ve been wanting to check out, or perhaps you have a family friend who lives a few cities over who you can spend some time with. Get creative and you’re sure to find a way to occupy your time.

4. Make a holiday bucket list

Regardless of the holiday, there are always some must-do activities that surround it. Create your own bucket list with ways you can celebrate the occasion on your own. For example, write down all of the classic holiday movies you want to watch or make a list of sweet treats you can bake. These bucket list items don’t have to be huge or life changing to make an impact. Plus, you can always get friends to join in on your bucket list if they end up staying in town.

5. Cook your favorite recipes from home

One of the best parts about going home for the holidays is all of the tasty and nostalgic food that comes along with it. If you’re bummed to be missing out on some of your family’s signature dishes, try recreating them. We know that dorm room living can pose the unique challenge of not offering up a space to cook, but consider reaching out to friends who might be away to see if you could use their apartment while they’re gone. 

Then, venture to the grocery store and get all the ingredients, put on a festive playlist, and whip up the meal. Not only will this satisfy your cravings, but it’s also a good way to finally learn that family recipe you’ve been eating for years.

6. Get outside

If you can, try to carve out some time to get outside. Even if the temperature where you live is less than favorable, there’s something about bundling up and exploring your neighborhood that feels magical. For example, if you’re unable to get home for Christmas or another winter holiday, slip into your warmest coat and take a stroll to admire the holiday lights on your street. By the end of your walk, your spirits are sure to be lifted.

7. Remember that this is temporary

Despite your best efforts to stay positive during a holiday alone, it can still feel quite isolating. While it’s easier said than done, try to keep in mind that this is a temporary situation. Your holidays won’t always be spent alone, so soak up this time to focus on yourself and all that you want to do. The next time you get to celebrate with your loved ones, things will feel that much sweeter. 

Kara Thompson

About me: 

Kara Thompson is a Denver-based journalist with over five years of experience writing lifestyle content. She has written for a variety of publications, including,,, and Parents, where she covered all things home, food, fashion, travel, and holidays. During her time on staff at Parents, Kara launched her own home decor and organization column named Save My Space. In 2022, she left her full-time job as an editor and started her own writing, editing, and social media firm, Kara Thompson and Co.

Tennis, New York City, bourbon cocktails, and her sister's German Shepherd are a few of her favorite things.