But what if you don’t have family? Or you don’t like your family? Or you like them, but you only get so much time off a year, and don’t want to spend every free moment with them? Or you like them and want to have new experiences with them?
Do not allow anyone to make you feel that using your time off work and your travel budget to do what you want is selfish. This may mean taking a solo trip to the beach instead of heading to grandma’s house to be interrogated about why you aren’t dating anyone or married yet. Or maybe you decide to take the kids to a theme park to have a magical trip that they want. Or maybe you and your girlfriend decide to experience a new culture together. It is your time and money, so it is your choice.
When I moved away from home, it took a lot to realize that going back for Thanksgiving just didn’t make sense. For the cost of tickets and travel over the holiday weekend, I could make three trips home throughout the year. Seeing family is seeing family, but I’d rather budget wisely and maximize the time than make sure to hit a specific day [special events excluded].
Traditions are meant to be shared, learned and updated
Maybe you shy away from the idea of traveling during the holidays because you have traditions with your family and friends. Whether it’s baking cookies for the neighborhood or going caroling, it is totally normal to have something you like to do every year. But that shouldn’t keep you from learning new traditions.
Last year I spent Christmas in Scotland – it was very far from home, certainly a cold place to spend the holidays and unfamiliar territory. I worried that I would feel sad, away from family and away from our traditions. Instead, I learned about Scottish traditions like Christmas crackers (also seen all over the UK and Australia) and dancing the ceilidh.
Experiences can be the best gifts
Or the best way to use new gifts. Tinggly lets you purchase experience certificates and the receiver can use them anywhere in the world. But why not go together? Or you might have your eye on a new camera, but where are you going to use it? And whom will you be taking pictures of/with?
On that trip in Scotland, it wasn’t just solo travelers without loved ones, but couples celebrating their first Christmas together, seeing snow for the first time or a few families – parents and children – experiencing a new country together. Being in a different geographic location didn’t take away from their ability to have quality time together. In fact, it eliminated the distractions of their daily lives at home and let them be present in their time as a family.
It might actually cost less than staying home
Travel is more accessible than ever, and if you’re willing to be flexible with your destination, you’d be amazed at what kind of deals you can find. With potlucks and Secret Santas and White Elephants, the holiday season adds up. Ok, so travel probably won’t be less than staying home, but it isn’t as expensive as you think. Keep an eye on sites like Secret Flying, who list flight deals and error fares, and you can snag surprising fares.
It’s even early enough to start saving credit card points for the holiday trip you want. If you live in the United States, Chase and Capital One offer great travel benefits with their cards and you can take advantage of sign-up bonuses and use them strategically to maximize purchases you are already making (e.g. put all of your gas and/or grocery purchases on the card and pay it off right away). Then, with all your points, book your flights or erase travel purchases made outside of the rewards booking system.
Put aside the way that Home Alone depicted family holidays. Getting away means leaving the stress of the season behind. Managing everyone’s schedules, picking up gifts, baking cookies, and doing it all while driving in snow and ice. If you aren’t traveling with the McCallisters, it is the perfect way to relax during the season and enjoy the time you have off from work and the kids have off from school.
Ok, you’re convinced, now what?
Be flexible and follow the deal: If budget is going to be the more important than destination, get yourself set up with price alerts now and be ready to pull the trigger when you see a deal that sparks your interest. You can sign up for the email lists on Secret Flying to get all deals departing your country/area, which helps expand your options. Say you live in Nebraska, but there’s a smoking deal leaving LA – jump on it then look for cheap flights to LA!
Get the family in on the decision: As soon as you’re planning travel for more people than one, opinions come into play. And everyone may have their own idea on where they want to go. Instead of making a totalitarian decision, make it a game! Let everyone write down one or two countries, toss them in a hat and pick your destination from there. Everyone will feel heard and part of the decision.
Go see or learn about extended family: Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean it can’t be about family. Maybe you want to learn more about your heritage. In 2015, I did an Ancestry DNA kit to find out (to my surprise) that I am mostly Irish; this year I am headed to Ireland and am excited to learn more about my family history.