5 alternative ways to celebrate your birthday if big parties are not your thing

As of today, my birthday week begins! The exclamation mark is there just to fake a lot of excitement. I do not like birthdays, I don’t dislike them either. I like to receive gifts, but I’m not a party person and I never do anything big or crazy on my actual birthday. Yet, I manage to make every single birthday just a little special.

5 alternative ways to celebrate your birthday if big parties are not your thing

All around the world there are different birthday traditions. For example, here in Italy we do the pulls on the earlobe: the birthday person’s ears are pulled as many times as how old he/she is turning. We also put candles on top of a cake based on how old the person is turning.

Usually, those things are done during a party. But if you’re not a fan of big birthday parties, there are some alternative things you can do to properly celebrate your birthday.

Eat dinner with your family

No matter what else I might have planned, I always have dinner with my family for my birthday. My sister’s birthday is just 4 days before mine, so we usually have a big dinner with my parents, my grandparents, aunts, and uncle to celebrate both our birthdays. Sometimes I would even invite a couple of close friends.

This year I’m having 3 dinners. 2 already happened. Last Thursday I got to cross off my bucket list having dinner at Nobu (my sister has pictures of this). During the weekend I finally went back to one of my favorite restaurant and treated my parents to dinner (I have pictures on my IG). Then, next Saturday, I’ll have dinner with the rest of the family.

Dinners are definitely the best way to hang out with people you don’t get to see that often because of everyone’s busy schedule. Chatting and catching up over a good meal is such a good and casual way to celebrate a birthday.

Go to a concert

This might be the best thing to do on your birthday (if you’re into live music as much as I am). Unluckily, you don’t always get a band you like to play in a city near you, so this might be an issue. But you can always celebrate a bit earlier or later.

The only time I got lucky enough was when Sum41 played in Milan just the night before my 18th birthday. So I got tickets for me, my sister and two other friends and we went there. Then, we spent the rest of the night eating cake at my house.

In 2013, I’ve decided to celebrate my birthday 10 days later and go to Warped tour in Bern. The wait was very worth it. I wish I’ll be able to celebrate my birthday at concerts more often in the future.

Fly away

If you have the time (and the money) you can plan a couple of days away, either alone, with a significant other or with friends. You can also include something special during the trip, like a zip-line adventure, a day at the spa, or a special dinner in an unusual restaurant.

One of my favorite birthday trips was the one I made to Eindhoven a couple of years ago. It wasn’t on my actual birthday, but my sister and I decided to celebrate it a little earlier since there was a concert there. I got to see my favorite band live and this might be why I loved this little weekend trip so much.

A cheaper alternative could be a road trip not too far away. Or even just a visit to a museum or an attraction in your hometown.

Have lots of cake at home

Buy a cake (or 5), invite someone over (or not) and spend the day chatting (or watching tv) and eating just cake (or you can do ice cream, if that’s your thing).

If you have already planned something for your birthday, you can always include this activity after that.

Make someone else’s day amazing

If you really despite birthdays and you do not want to celebrate or make it special for you, you could make it special for someone else. Donate to charity or invest your time volunteering for a day or a week. You might enjoy that and even keep doing it for the whole year.

What do you usually do on your birthday? Are you a fan of big parties or do you usually plan something different? Is there any specific birthday tradition where you live?

You may also like

  • A-M Rakk

    I’m not celebrating every year…but in this age (36) it’s not so interesting anymore. Idid celebrate when I had 35’s. Then next time I gonna do something is when I got 40’s.

  • Molly O’Connor

    Such a good post! I love the idea of a small weekend getaway for a birthday celebration!


  • Sarah Tonner

    It’s my birthday soon and I’m not really big on huge parties! I much prefer a nice dinner with some close friends or going to see a band play/ Really liked the idea about making someone else’s day amazing!

  • Robin

    Great ideas!! My husband’s birthday is exactly 1 week after mine, and neither of us likes having all of the attention on just us, so we have joint celebrations now and it feels so much more low-key and natural.

  • Kitty Limon

    Love these ideas, I would love to go abroad for my 25th in May but don’t think I can afford to, but instead I think I’ll bake a cake and watch films all day or go for coffee with my friends =^.^=

  • Gigi

    I love these ideas. I’m not a party person myself so these sound great. I’m actually thinking about a ‘staycation’ and being a tourist for the day or weekend for my brithday in a couple of months. And of course cake too. lol.

    Gigi | theislandgurl.com

    • Yes, for me cake is so so important and I couldn’t imagine not having it for my birthday! Staycations are a great idea too! Lately I’ve been trying to visit a lot of attractions in my hometown that I’ve always overlooked because I thought they were just for tourists but I’ve found such interesting places.

  • One of my favourite birthdays was actually when my best friend and I went to see a Colbie Caillat concert together. Sometimes things like that are so much more fun and memorable!


  • Raquel

    Last year, I took a solo trip to Niagara Falls for the weekend 🙂 This year, I’ll be throwing a vision party for my girls. It’s my gift to them.

  • The past two years I celebrated by first having cake with people from the office, then going on a date with my boyfriend. Not big on parties 🙂

  • I love celebrating birthdays, but since I’m the party planner in the family and plan parties for everyone else…I usually don’t want to plan a party for myself, haha! This year my husband and I took a birthday trip–our birthdays are 4 days apart so it was to celebrate both of us together!

    • I hope you had fun on your trip! Thanks for reading, Rachel 🙂

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    Love these ideas! For every birthday in the family we have a family dinner. The person with the birthday gets to choose the meal and dessert. It is such a fun time and always full of laughs!

    Elizabeth Ann // http://www.lovedoinglife.com

    • That’s a cool thing to do. And it’s so nice that the birthday person gets to choose the food. Unluckily, for my birthday dinner with the family I couldn’t have full control of the meal because none likes the things I like 😀

  • Absolutely loving these tips! My boyfriends birthday is on Sunday and he never likes big parties haha. I am now planning a surprise dinner and he will get a lot of cake! 😉

    • So happy birthday to your boyfriend and planning a surprise dinner for him is so cute!

  • My birthday is also my anniversary and there isn’t anything I find better than planning time, just us, with my hubs. I’m not a big party person, either. All your ideas are simple and brilliant! And ITALY. We are considering it for our retirement. And cake. lol. Always cake. 🙂

    • So cool that you get to celebrate two amazing things in one day! Yes, Italy would be a nice place for a getaway.

  • Marissa Pedersen

    I am totally down with having lots of cake at home! That sounds way better than a big party. 🙂

    • Cake is probably the best part about birthdays! 🙂

  • Liz Clarke

    What a lovely post! I’d love to go away for my birthday one year, I’m going to add that to my bucket list 😊

    • Thank you for reading, Liz. I hope you get to do that one day!

  • It was my birthday last Wednesday and since I’m not a big fan of parties either, my friends and I went to have breakfast together. 🙂 I also always have a small diner party with my family. Happy birthday, by the way!

    • Thank you for the birthday wishes, Amelie. And happy (very) belated birthday to you as well. I hope you had a great time at breakfast with your friends and dinner with your family. I’m the same, I’ll always choose a big breakfast/lunch/dinner with just a few special people over a big party.

  • Ashley Stephenson

    I think next year for our birthdays we want to try and go to a new city. Our birthdays are only a month apart so it will be perfect timing!

    • Yes! I love when you have your birthday near someone else’s. Like my sister and I that are just 4 days apart and we get to celebrate and do a lot of fun and special things together.

  • Jessica

    My husband and I have been trying to do a trip for our birthdays. Parties are great but it is so much more fun to experience a new city together and celebrate each other!
    xo Jessica

    • Birthday trips are so fun! I hope you get to organize your trip. Do you already have any destination in mind?

  • I’m the one to fly away or visit a new city. I have decided to make that my tradition. I’m really excited about my upcoming birthday because I have a four day weekend off from work the weekend before so I get to really do it up this year however I choose. Happy early birthday!

    • That’s perfect. Do you have anywhere in mind yet?

      And thank you for the birthday wishes 🙂

  • I don’t suppose crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head counts? I’m not sure why, since I love other celebrations, I’ve never really enjoyed celebrating my birthday. For our children, we make sure to have a cake and a family meal chosen by the birthday person. Usually the children choose pizza!

    • Yay for pizza! I should have included that in the list as well, since I often had that for my birthday as well.

  • Lovely. I’m not a big party ‘let’s do something for my birthday’ person. But I will say, one year my friends convinced me to have a dress up birthday/house warming party and it was so much fun. But generally, I do gather those friends for a nice dinner. Best idea, ever. And pretty low stress. I actually started this after I moved abroad.

    Happy Birthday! 😀

    • I love how stress-free a birthday is if you don’t have to organize a big party! Also, you get to really enjoy more quality time with everyone that’s there.

      Thank you, Lani 🙂

  • This one is perfect for me, because I am not a lover of huge parties. I don’t like big gatherings of people. So I normally just celebrate with family and some friends, go out for dinner and have some cake.

    • I’m the same. The biggest party I’ve ever had was when I was in elementary school and I had maybe 10 friends over.