COVID safe ways to spend winter break

I am guilty of over planning, even when I’m planning time that is supposed to be spent relaxing. Admittedly, I don’t like going into a holiday break without an idea of how I’m going to fill my free time. When you are stuck in your house because of the pandemic, the weeks of free time can seem even more daunting if you aren’t able to have your friends over, or go to an in-person event. If you need some guidance about how to spend your time once you’ve submitted your last final, here are a few ideas.

Finish up holiday shopping

If you are celebrating a holiday over break and haven’t bought your loved ones a gift yet, take the first free day you have to get that done. If you are able to support local places when buying gifts, that’s even better. For those still in Iowa City over break, I love shopping at White Rabbit for myself and others. They sell plenty of gift-able things, like candles, stickers, jewelry, socks, cards, and masks. Artifacts is another great downtown business, and they recently expanded their store, so they have more vintage items to check out. You can support local bookstore Prairie Lights when buying a present for the bookworm on your shopping list.

Set up Zoom sessions with friends

You may have developed an aversion to Zoom after hours of discussion sections, but the video application can be a great way to virtually gather your friends. Among Us and Codenames are both free virtual games I like to play with friends over Zoom. We’ve organized several Zoom birthday parties, where a couple of us will put together a Kahoot with fun facts about the birthday person and we all take it together. We’re doing a Secret Santa party over Zoom, where we drop off the presents at each others’ house and open them on the call. I’ve also seen people on TikTok hold presentation nights where attendants share slide shows on any random topic of their choosing.

Get crafty 

Now is a good time to sit down with a tutorial and become an amateur at something that’s always interested you. Since March, I’ve started some very basic crochet and embroidery projects. If you are taking a hiatus from all learning over break but still want to feel artsy, keep it simple with some markers and a coloring book.

More cozy activities

If you aren’t feeling creative, sudoku, word puzzles and actual puzzles are ways to fill your time and take a break from screens.

I know towards the start of the pandemic a lot of people started baking bread, so these weeks off might be a good time to try out a recipe. Making food usually stresses me out, but I have found a scone recipe that hasn’t let me down or overwhelmed me, and the final product is definitely worth the effort.

Rummage through your parents’ things

If you are stuck in your childhood home, take the opportunity to swipe some vintage clothes that your parent isn’t using anymore. I know in the last few months I’ve incorporated a lot of my mom’s hand-me-downs into my wardrobe. I’ve also been listening to my dad’s records. See if your parents will let you go through their closet or storage bin; you might find something useful.

Speaking of clothes…

Now is a good time to go through your own closet and get rid of anything you’ve outgrown—physically or mentally.

Start planning 2021

Personally, I will be on painkillers after oral surgery on Dec. 31, and likely fall asleep before it’s time to ring in the New Year, which I think is a perfect end to 2020. However, the days leading up to 2021 would be a good time to make resolutions. I also keep a bullet journal where I organize my to-do lists, keep track of my daily mood and list my favorite songs of the month. I like having a personal, physical planner. I just bought a new journal for 2021, and the New Year could be the perfect time to start bullet journaling, if that interests you.


This one always is on my to-do list over breaks when I have the time to read whatever I want, but often gets pushed to the side. It’s worth a try though, and I’ll try to finish at least one of the books on my Goodreads list. I think the trick to motivating yourself to read for pleasure is to pick out a book that you will be entertained by, not one that you are forcing yourself to read.

But seriously…

You’ll probably end up binge-watching. When the inevitable happens, here are my recommendations.

  • “Russian Doll” (Netflix)
  • “Fleabag” (Amazon Prime)
  • “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Netflix)
  • “Big Mouth” (Netflix)
  • “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime)
Youtube Series
Netflix Comedy Specials
  • Everything John Mulaney related: “Sack Lunch Bunch,” “Oh Hello,” “New In Town,” and “The Comeback Kid”
  • Sarah Silverman’s “Speck of Dust” 
  • Jenny Slate’s “Stage Fright” 
  • Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King”
disney original Comfort movies
  • “Read It and Weep”
  • “Let It Shine”
  • “Lemonade Mouth”

Binge listening

I’ve found listening to podcasts feels more productive than watching shows and movies, since you can multitask while listening and you might learn something new. For light-hearted entertainment, I can’t recommend the podcast “I Said No Gifts” enough. The host is incredibly funny and it’s been one of my favorite things to come out of 2020. I’ve also gotten into true crime podcasts. “My Favorite Murder” has a huge collection of shows to binge and even though the subject matter is dark, the hosts are very funny and their casual conversational tone makes the stories easier to listen to. For more serious true crime storytelling, I recommend “Serial” season one, “Crime Junkie,” and “Criminal.” I listen to a lot of NPR, including “It’s Been a Minute,” “Ask Me Another,” “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” “Up First,” and “Code Switch.”

I hope you are able to safely enjoy winter break and enter the spring semester feeling reenergized.

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My name is Natalie, welcome to my Experience Iowa blog. I'm first year University of Iowa student majoring in journalism and working as a news reporter at The Daily Iowan. I've lived just outside of Iowa City since 2013. In high school I loved to explore the downtown area, so I was happy to spend four more years here. In my free time I like bullet journaling and giving unsolicited podcast recommendations.

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