7 Places College Students Can Go During Winter Break

Explore the best places to go over winter break. Browse housing options, temporary employment, and winter break trip ideas for college students.

portrait of Stefanie Grodman
by Stefanie Grodman

Published on December 9, 2021

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7 Places College Students Can Go During Winter Break


Traditionally, colleges offer students an extended break spanning from early December to January. For many students, winter break brings a welcome reprieve from academic pressures.

Although many on-campus learners use this period as an opportunity to spend time with family, some students either don't want to return home or can't due to financial barriers, travel restrictions, or other limitations.

This list of winter break trip ideas for college students describes ways that students can find short-term living arrangements and use their time away from school constructively.

1. Travel Abroad

Traveling internationally is one of the most fulfilling ways for students to spend their time off. Exploring other cultures, languages, and lifestyles offers an immersive education that cannot be replicated in a classroom setting.

This option is not the most financially accessible for all students, though there are ways to reduce costs. Online search tools like Google Flights can help users find relatively inexpensive international flights. Travelers can also save money by staying in hostels.

2. Take a Road Trip

The United States is a mosaic of different histories, landscapes, and subcultures. Some of the best places to visit over winter break may be within driving distance.

Domestic travel can be more affordable and accessible than traveling internationally, and students can find a number of cheap places to go during winter break. However, depending on how far you travel, expenses such as gas and hospitality may be considerable.

Traveling in small groups and dividing costs can make road trips much more affordable. Students may also consider camping or staying with friends or family members who live along the intended route to reduce boarding costs.

3. Stay at a Friend's House

Students — especially those with limited boarding or travel options — may choose to stay with a friend over winter break.

This can be an opportunity to develop intimate connections with other families. However, not all households have the space and resources needed to accommodate a guest for the typical 3-6-week duration of winter break. Although circumstances vary, it's important to communicate expectations and boundaries clearly with all household members.

If you're not comfortable requesting an extensive stay at a friend's home, it may be more realistic to coordinate a collection of shorter visits with multiple friends.

4. Sublet an Apartment in a New City

Although making short-term housing arrangements can be tricky, college students can make the most of their break by subletting an apartment in a new city. Many renters travel during the holidays, leaving their apartments vacant for extended periods. These individuals often sublet their residences to mitigate the costs of rent and utilities.

This can be a fantastic opportunity to see new cities from the perspective of a resident rather than simply a visitor. Often, tenants post sublet opportunities on social networking sites like Facebook or designated sites like Sublet.com.

5. Stay With a Host Family

For some students, staying with a host family is a more realistic and affordable approach to traveling internationally. During the holiday season, many families open their homes to international students. This can encourage mutually beneficial cultural exchanges and allows students to experience other cultures intimately and authentically.

Interested students can research international student exchange programs. Often, students can take accelerated winter term courses or volunteer while abroad.

Exchange programs may also be organized by your college's language departments. These are often intended to supplement language courses with immersion experiences.

6. Find a Job That Provides Room and Board

Students can use their time off to earn money or bolster their resumes through employment, research programs, internships, and volunteer opportunities. Although opportunities vary depending on your interests, some short-term positions offer room and board, housing options, or living stipends for workers.

For example, work exchange programs allow students to travel internationally or domestically, exchanging labor for housing and other living necessities. Other students may prefer live-in domestic work, such as nannying or house-sitting.

7. Request to Stay on Campus

Although exact policies depend on the institution, students can sometimes request to stay on campus during winter break. This is often a privilege reserved for international students, but colleges may be able to make arrangements for other learners.

In recent cases, the risks and restrictions associated with COVID-19 have encouraged greater leniency.

Some colleges also allow students to stay if they're involved in specific on-campus engagements, such as research or accelerated winter courses. Interested students may need to apply for housing eligibility well in advance.


Featured Image: svetikd / E+ / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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