You know how sometimes you feel like your break wasn’t long enough? At the end of summer and winter breaks, that feeling of regret begins to seep in. People will lie in bed the night before classes wondering what they could have done differently to be more productive and well rested. It’s horrible to feel like the break was wasted, but don’t go into this winter break unprepared. Here’s what you can do to take full advantage of this winter break.

Make a List

Start planning for the break now. The first thing to do is make a list. Free time is not abundant during the semester, so many activities get put off to get school work done. As a result, people idealize their breaks throughout the semester. The “I’ll do it during the break” thought comes up a lot. When going to the museum, a Dallas Stars game, having a game night with friends, or learning that song on guitar don’t seem to fit in the schedule during the semester, write it down. By the end of the semester the ideas can be ranked, and favorites can be chosen to act on once the break comes around. Try to make plans ahead of time as well. Get in touch with friends and family and put the plans in a calendar. (This means obeying a calendar is essential. Google Calendar is a good place to start for newbies.)

See a Show

If ideas aren’t popping up during the semester, here are a few ideas to get started. The Dallas Comedy House has hilarious improvised comedy shows. They will have many holiday themed shows during the break. (Pro tip: Go see “The Improvised Christmas Movie.” The actors will take an idea from the crowd, let the crowd cast the show, then spend the next hour piecing together a comedic masterpiece.) Advance tickets to Dallas Comedy House are usually around $10. Attending a concert at Trees or Club Dada is always a good idea too. Up and coming artists who are not well known yet usually play at these venues. Since the artists are not very popular yet, tickets can be pretty cheap. Look up their concert calendars and check out some of the bands (treesdallas. com & Find a new band and have a good time. Tickets are usually $10-$25 at Trees and $10-$15 at Club Dada. If theatre is more appealing than comedy and live music, watch a play at Pocket Sandwich Theatre. Ebenezer Scrooge and spoofs of Zorro and Die Hard will be performed over the break. Go support local theatre and throw popcorn at the actors (it’s encouraged). Tickets are $12-$30 at Pocket Sandwich Theatre.

Get Jiggy with It

If interacting with someone is more appealing than just watching a show, then try dancing. If letting loose and dancing to some mainstream music or EDM is the goal, then go down to Deep Ellum and pick a place. Uptown is also an option, but prices there can be out of budget for the average college student. For serious dancers or if your lack of rhythm is holding you back, then take lessons at one of the following locations. Cowboys Red River has free country dance lessons on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7 p.m. The west coast swing is taught on Wednesdays and the basic two-step along with patterns are taught on Thursdays and Fridays. Stay after the lesson and put that good knowledge to work as you dance to a live band. Another option is to take swing dance lessons at Sons of Herman Hall on Wednesdays at 8:00pm for an $8 cover charge. Dance to some good upbeat jazz music. Also, take salsa and bachata lessons at 8 p.m. on Thursdays at Café Salsera for $5. Move those feet and hips while dancing salsa and get real close to that special someone while dancing bachata. Dancing is a lot of fun and is always a good option for the break. Once the skill is learned it can become a good way to blow off steam in an hour or two during the semester.

But My Break Isn’t in DFW

If “being home” during the winter break does not mean being in DFW, then find things to do near home. Google different activities such as “local theatre”, “concert venue”, “comedy club”, “museum”, and “dance club” along with the home town name. Try to find a local publication that gives tips or read Yelp and Google reviews. Pay attention to dates on the publications and reviews to make sure that the place is still active and is not dying out. A surefire way to find good activities is to ask friends who didn’t go away for college and stayed home. They’ll most likely have good tips on fun things to do at home.

Spend Time with Friends and Family

Definitely make sure to spend time with friends and family that were pushed to the wayside during the busy semester. Make sure to plan things to do with them ahead of time and put them in a calendar to make sure they happen. Saying, “Yeah, lets hang out over the break” doesn’t get the job done. Send people texts starting now and ask them to have lunch or dinner. Ask them to tag along to a comedy show or concert. Rekindle a dying relationship with a high school friend or spend time with family members. Don’t let relationships die because of bad time management. Get in touch with someone right now and begin to make plans. Buy tickets now to set plans in stone (this can double as a Christmas present). Plan dinner with someone or a group. Go watch a movie with parents. Keep in mind, money does not need to be spent to spend time with people. Asking parents about their childhood and their experiences growing up is a great way to learn more about and grow closer to family.
With that being said, don’t forget to keep up with friends from UTD. Send them a handwritten letter, even if they live in the same city. Communicating the old-fashioned way via snail mail is much more memorable and meaningful than a text or phone call. FaceTime someone and ask them how their break is going. Have a UTD friend over to meet family. Visit a friend and meet their family. Many friendships made in college will last a lifetime. Don’t let them die out over the break. Invest in those friendships while time is available and a mountain of schoolwork isn’t in the way.

Take a Trip

Take a trip. Get out of town, even if it’s just a couple of hours away. Find a small town with an attraction, take a trip to another big city, or take a road trip with some friends. Try to go somewhere you can stay the night. It’s always refreshing to take a break from the familiar scenery of school and home. Do it alone, do it with a friend, or do it with a group. There’s something about doing things alone that’s refreshing, even if it may be scary at first, but there’s a freedom in it. Whether the decision is made to take a trip alone, with a friend, or a group, the options are endless. Take a road trip to Austin and walk around the Greenbelt then try to find the best breakfast tacos. Take a trip to Granbury, TX and walk around their small shops and have dinner at East Texas Burger. Go camping at Dinosaur Valley State Park on one of the weekends that they have a stargazing night and see some dinosaur tracks during the day. If traveling with friends, anything is a good choice because any activity can be made fun with good company. Creating memories in a new place is a great way to ensure the break was used wisely.
new place is a great way to ensure the break was used wisely. If money is an issue, there are still many options to get out of town for little cost. If a hotel is too expensive, try just taking a day trip to a small town within an hour or two’s drive. Visit a friend who lives out of town and crash on their couch. Go camping in a tent (make sure to take a warm sleeping bag). Try finding a good deal on Airbnb. When traveling on a budget, traveling in a group is a better idea because costs can be split. Find the person in the group with the most fuel-efficient vehicle and travel in that, then split fuel costs. Travel with a cooler and carry ingredients to make sandwiches. Buy shareable foods such as pizza to split costs or go through a drive-thru and order from the dollar menu. Don’t let money keep you from taking a trip during the break.

Be Lazy

Last but not least, don’t forget to at least take a couple of days to lay in bed and binge watch The Office with a couple of microwave pizzas. It’s nice to be productive and do fun things, but starting the spring semester realizing you didn’t get any rest is not a good idea. There’s something therapeutic about getting nothing done and being okay with it. Take advantage of not having pending assignments. Grab a book, cup of tea, and blanket then sit on the couch and read. Watch a cheesy movie on Netflix. Re-watch a favorite movie or TV show. Or simply go into full hibernation mode and sleep all day. In these instances, it’s a nice accomplishment to go a full day without seeing daylight.
Make it a goal to get the most out of this winter break. Remember that planning ahead is key. Spontaneity is nice, but it only gets you so far in life. True progress is made with forward thinking and a calendar. Most of all, remember to have fun and make memories with good people.