Aaaah, Thanksgiving weekend, a time to feast, give thanks, and…wait in line in the freezing early-morning hours among aggressive and equally grouchy patrons for doorbuster deals?! Ugh. Not feeling the frenzied consumerism this year? We’re with you. Here are some other options for making the most of your post-Thanksgiving day–and none of them require spending a dime!
#1: Get Outside!
The benefits of swapping shopping malls for the great outdoors are many, and include better sleep, lower stress, and in most cases, a happier bank account. If you’re physically active in the outdoors, the boons just keep getting better. (You may have seen the #optoutside hashtag on Instagram and Twitter; this movement was started by outdoor retailer REI in 2015 with the intent of getting people out of the retail mindset and into nature on what was traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.)
In fact, many National and State Parks in the US offer “Black Friday” deals of their own to promote a love for the great outdoors: Free parking, free passes or discounted admission, free tours/classes or other celebrations are all on offer. (Check to see what’s going on at your nearest park here.)
Wilderness access out of the question? Take a walk through your city, check out a local park or botanical garden, or explore a part of your neighborhood that you’ve never seen before.
“Each Thanksgiving weekend my husband and I take advantage of the long weekend and smaller crowds and camp at a National Park. We’ve done snowy Grand Canyon hikes, braved a rainstorm at Zion, and last year, camped at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan where we now live. No crowds, no frenzy, just spending time in nature and making memories!” –Jenica Pistone-Donahue, GLA Marketing
“We like to go on a family hike out in the Laguna Mountains to unplug and appreciate being in nature. Afterwards, we go to a local farm and plant nursery–our kids love to visit the animals and pick out some new native plants and vegetables for us to plant in our garden. Everyone feels tired, happy and appreciative after a day like this.” –Hannah Shepherd, GLA Admissions Manager
#2: Create New Traditions
It’s never too late to start a new tradition. Baking cookies, creating holiday crafts, or enjoying an annual family outing gives us something to look forward to year after year. Not your fam’s style? Break the mold–do something out of the ordinary! First Annual Remake Your Favorite Music Video Day? Why not! Jones Family Speak Only in Rhyme Day? Totally could be a thing. The weirder & more the unique to your crew, the more memorable. (Check out other ideas from our alumni below.)
“My aunt created Nieces Weekend. Thanksgiving night the five older nieces go to her house and we sent her boys to other families homes. Then we sleep over and spend the next day baking cookies, making the cutest Christmas crafts and dancing to Christmas music. We have so much fun being together and being creative. This year will be the 7th year!!” –Kate Gunville, Alumni (Hartland, WI)
“This year, my family and I will be visiting a local museum that we visit frequently and watch a holiday movie in the giant screen theater while we are there. I love going to this museum because it helps me feel connected to my family & my background, and they always have obscure exhibits that other places never have, like collections of local artists or rooms full of Lego statues.” –Cecilia Ransburg, Alumni (Deerfield, IL)
“The end of Thanksgiving does not always signify the beginning of the holiday season; the festivities must continue—with Friendsgiving, of course! During Friendsgiving, my friends and I bring in foods from our various cultures. As we indulge in meals full of latkes, schnitzel, and dumplings, we are able to appreciate our friendships and laugh at the memories we share with one another.” –Anya Vandeven, Alumni (Morristown, NJ)
#3: Reflect & Practice Self-Care
The holidays can be a stressful time. Instead of throwing yourself into the frenzy of Black Friday shopping, why not do the exact opposite? For some, this might mean a long hot bath, face mask, and calming tunes; for others, holing up with a book and the leftover pie. Whatever it takes for you to de-stress & approach the coming weeks…do that!
“I usually spend a relaxing couple hours at a peaceful 150 acre dog park along the bay with my pup. I walk the entire edge of it as she frolics in and out of the water. It is quite healing to soak up the serenity of the outdoors and the joy that dogs find in life. Fast forward, we now have a new dog that isn’t ready for dog parks yet and an infant. I better keep working on training this new pup so we can resume this wonderful tradition as a family. Hopefully my daughter will learn to appreciate the beauty of it all too.” –Anna Graham, GLA Accounting
#4: Give Back
Not one to sit around on a free day? Consider donating your time to a cause you’re passionate about! Many organizations have additional volunteer opportunities around the holidays as need tends to be greater in the colder months: Soup kitchens, homeless services, and see a massive increase in . Animal shelters tend to hold more adoption events in November & December as these are months when many parents finally cave and adopt a family pet.
You can browse Volunteer Match for ideas on where, how, and with whom to give your time locally. Or, if you happen to live in Maine, GLA Alum Zoe Siegel created How to Help in Maine.Org specifically for young people in her state.
“For Black Friday this year, I am planning on attending the Youth Climate Strike in Chicago. I went to the one in September and it was such a great experience which put many different things into perspective. From my GLA trip this year, we learned about our ecological footprint and how we can be more sustainable, so I am really trying to live a more conscious lifestyle and get more involved with positive environmental change.” –Audrey Connelly, Alumni (Riverside, IL)
“The day after Thanksgiving, my family and I rarely opt to take part in Black Friday Sales. Instead, we usually take the time to enjoy one another’s company and spend quality time with friends and family. Some years, we even serve at a local soup kitchen with my church to give back to the community!” –Morgan McDonald, Alumni (Stamford, CT)
#5: Connect With “Chosen Family”
Taking the time to reconnect with friends during this busy family-oriented season can be crucial–not everyone has a large family or familial relationships conducive to sharing a day together. Many families’ day-after-Thanksgiving brings one or both parents or other family members back to work. This doesn’t mean you have to go it alone! Reach out to those you love for some quality time, whether they’re your blood or the family that you choose for yourself.
“I normally use this day as an excuse to catch up with friends who have opposite schedules to me. They’re usually off during the day so it’s a good chance to see them and hit the beach since we’re in sunny San Diego!” –Ros Galati, GLA Travel Coordinator
“Since I am on the cross country and track teams at my school, I love to run! After every Thanksgiving, my running friends and I all sleep in after a big meal and meet up for a run the next day. It’s a great way to catch up on how everyone’s holiday went and burn off the calories we indulged in the night before!“–Abby Peterson, Alumni (Algonquin, IL)
#6: Examine Your Relationship With “Stuff”
OK, so maybe the Marie Kondo “spark joy” decluttering method doesn’t work for everyone. Start small! What do you really need? What can you do without? What items are hindering your life vs benefitting it? Challenge yourself to donate at least three items of clothing or at least five nonperishables from your pantry. (Those cans of green beans collecting dust in the back of the cupboard can certainly be put to better use!)
If you’re seeing a lot of high-end, big-ticket items in your donation box, you can even go for a #6/#4 combo and plan a yard sale or sell these items online with the goal of donating the proceeds to an organization of your choice. Many nonprofit organizations prefer cash donations as funds are more flexible than tangible goods and can be used to address the most pressing need of the moment. (Psst: GLA International Foundation is a great way to support projects abroad!)
“I plan to clean out my closet and list a bunch of old clothing on Poshmark. I love shopping for and selling second-hand clothing because it reduces waste and carbon footprint! Instead of going to the mall and going crazy buying things, I like to make money selling things that I don’t use anymore.” –Jamie Paradis, Alumni (Maplewood, NJ)