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16 things to remember before going home for Christmas

The end of the year is in sight, and as the uni term starts to wrap up, it's time to start thinking about going home for Christmas. Here are the key things to know first...

Suitcase with santa hat

Credit: Alex SG, PinkPueblo – Shutterstock

Cranberry sauce, turkey, festive decorations, COVID-19 tests... It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

But before you pack your bags and head off, there are a few things you need to remember. Make sure you have this Christmas planning checklist covered so you can relax and fully enjoy your time off this December – you deserve it.

There's nothing quite like heading ho, ho, home (sorry).

Stuck for gift inspiration? Check out these thoughtful gift ideas for less than a fiver.

Christmas preparation checklist for students

Here are the essential things to keep in mind before going home for Christmas this year:

  1. Book your travel as early as possible

    train tickets

    Credit: Alan Parkinson - Flickr

    If you haven't sorted out your travel already, make sure you do it as soon as you can.

    The government is advising students who are going home for Christmas to travel between 3rd–9th December.

    Your university should also be advising you on when and how you can go home safely – if you're unsure on your uni's position, chat with someone in Student Services to find out more.

    If you're heading home on the train, remember that the earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets will generally be. Most train ticket websites allow you to book up to 12 weeks ahead – and you can save up to 40% depending on where you're travelling to and from.

    Plan the dates you'll be travelling (try to avoid peak times as much as possible) and reserve yourself a seat as soon as you have a date in mind.

    Due to the coronavirus restrictions, you'll likely only be able to reserve window seats on the train so bear in mind that it might be harder than usual to book seats if you leave it until the last minute.

    The same applies if Megabus or National Express coaches are more your style, as you don't want to miss out on a seat.

    Read our guides on cheap train and coach travel for more money-saving tips.

  2. Minimise face-to-face social contact

    To reduce the risk of catching coronavirus before going home for Christmas, it's really important to keep social distancing measures as much as possible.

    We know the majority of you are being careful – 77% of students in our recent survey said they've been following the government's guidelines the whole time.

    In the run-up to Christmas, remember to keep up your efforts and follow the coronavirus rules to avoid getting the virus and potentially passing it on to your family back home.

    And, if you're offered the option to take a COVID-19 test by your uni before you leave, we definitely recommend that you do.

    This way, if you test positive, you should find out with enough time to self-isolate before going home. And, when you test negative, you can go back feeling comfortable with the knowledge that you're not posing a risk to others.

  3. Get as much work done as you can before you leave

    dog in front of computers

    Credit: Walter Rumsby - Flickr

    If you know you have deadlines just after the holidays, try to get as much done as possible before you head home.

    No one wants to spend Christmas stressing out about writing essays or revising for exams – and the chances are, when you're full up on turkey and Christmas pudding, you won't be in the mood to work anyway.

    Getting ahead means you can get your work finished with plenty of time to spare, so you can unwind and properly enjoy yourself.

  4. Don't overpack your suitcase

    Bear in mind that you're only heading back for a few weeks, and there is a washing machine where you're going. Ask yourself if you really need to take half of your wardrobe with you.

    You'll be grateful for this pointer when you're watching other poor souls dragging their suitcases through a busy train station and trying desperately to cram it onto their coach or train carriage.

    The last thing you need when going home for Christmas is the stress of squeezing a massive case onto the train. plus, you'll need space for any presents you want to bring back to university after Christmas, too.

    And our next tip should also help you reduce your packing...

  5. Do your Christmas shopping online

    dog on computer

    Credit: Kalamurzing - Shutterstock

    Doing the majority of your Christmas shopping online saves a whole lot of time, effort and space in your suitcase. Just make sure you're on it ASAP, so that everything you buy is delivered in time for Christmas Day.

    You'll be grateful for being spared the task of carrying all the presents home – not to mention avoiding the risk of breakages along the way.

    An additional bonus is that you won't be rushing around the shops on Christmas Eve looking for gifts with everyone who left it all until the last minute. Just make sure your parents or siblings aren't tempted to peek at the parcels before you get there!

    If all else fails, you can always resort to rustling up some presents by hand, DIY style.

    Have a gander at the last order dates for retailers around the UK to make sure your gifts arrive on time.
  6. Remember to pack all your presents

    If you have done some Christmas shopping while at university, don't forget to pack your presents.

    Make a note of everything you buy in a gift list so that you can keep track of what you've packed. This will avoid you filling up your suitcase, only to wonder if you definitely did remember to pack that tiny gift somewhere below all your other things.

    Travelling back to uni just to pick it up is excessive, and mailing it later in the year may be a little expensive. So, in short, remember your gifts.

  7. Take your Christmas decorations down

    christmas elf decorations

    If you've had a tree and decorations up in your student house, as painful as it might sound, it's a good idea to think about taking them down just before you head home.

    You don't want to come back in January with the post-Christmas blues, only to discover that you still need to take the tree down and hoover up all the glitter.

  8. Make a list of Christmas essentials

    Make a list of everything you're taking back home (just like the one you made for what to take to uni). And, of course, check it twice. 😉

    This will help immensely when it comes to packing your case again before coming back after Christmas.

    When you get home and take everything out of your luggage, everything blends in, making it easy to forget what you actually need to take back.

    But whatever you do, don't forget your house keys! We've all been there...

  9. Switch gas and electric off

    lightbulbs switched on

    Just before you leave to go home, make sure everything is turned off. Electrical appliances? Off. Heating/boiler? Off. Kitchen and bathroom taps? Tightly closed.

    And remember, this includes turning things off standby – it's worth unplugging everything to be extra sure.

    You don't want to come back to a mass of scary utility bills when no one has even been at home over Christmas, or suffer that wave of panic where you're 200 miles away but think you've left the iron on.

    Also, if you're living in shared accommodation, ask everyone to do the same in their rooms.

    For more tips on how to save on electricity over winter, check out our energy-saving advice.

  10. Empty the fridge

    The worst thing you can do is head home for three or four weeks, only to return to milk that's turned to cheese. Make sure the fridge is completely empty before you go. You'll thank us for this later.

    The fridge will absolutely stink if you don't, so make sure that you use up those student Christmas dinner leftovers before you head home.

    If you do come back to stale food, don't chuck it away straight away – check out our tips on how to bring back old food from the dead.

  11. Lock up your uni house

    keys in door lock

    Make sure all windows and doors are locked. If you're in shared accommodation, make sure that everything in your room is locked away safely, and that the windows are shut.

    If you're particularly worried about any of your items, double-check that you have them covered with some decent student contents insurance.

  12. Don't post about your empty house online

    Do not announce online to the world that you are going away for weeks and your house will be empty.

    Student houses are prime targets for burglaries, so don't make it easier by letting the world know you won't be there.

  13. Don't turn into a slob

    fresh meat jack whitehall waking up

    Credit: Channel 4

    For many students, Christmas is the first time they'll be heading back home since summer – especially if you moved to a university on the other side of the country.

    Try to remember that although your family will be happy to see you, they've just gone three months without you living at home, and you've probably adapted to living away from them, too.

    Make every effort to fall back in line with how your parents expect you to be in their home, and accept that you've both probably changed a little during your time away.

    In a nutshell: do your own dishes, wash your own socks and don't drunkenly wake them up in the middle of the night.

  14. Check your keys, wallet, phone and tickets

    Just before you go, double-check you have all your important bits and pieces, like your keys (for your uni and family homes), purse or wallet, phone, train tickets and your laptop.

    It sounds obvious, but it's actually very easy to arrive for the train, only to discover that you don't have your ticket or 16–25 railcard with you.

    If this happens and you've bought an advance ticket, the odds are that you'll need to buy a brand new one on the spot (which will cost a lot).

  15. Try to relax over the Christmas holidays

    ross friends frankie say relax

    Credit: Warner Bros

    Try to relax and enjoy being back home. Christmas is a lovely time of the year and it's great to spend that time with your family if you can.

    Don't worry too much about impending exams or deadlines. If it makes you feel better, set aside a few days between Christmas and New Year's Eve to go over anything that's more urgent.

    After all, you may not see your parents again for a little while, and you don't want to spend the whole Christmas period feeling stressed about essays.

  16. Avoid getting coal in your stocking

    If you do end up forgetting to get some gifts, remember there are some things you can still buy on Christmas Day...

    Just don't pull a Scrooge, or you might end up with coal for Christmas (don't say we didn't warn you).

    Remember that gifts really don't need to be expensive to be special – putting in any thought at all will go a long way. Merry Christmas! 🎄

Looking for gift inspiration? Have a look at our list of the best Christmas presents to buy this year.

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