Every time Mr. Adventure Rich and I return from visiting family over a holiday, we look at each other and say the same thing:
“We shouldn’t travel to see family during the holidays next time.”
While this may seem counterintuitive, we are becoming more and more convinced that non-holiday family visits are much more enjoyable than holiday family visits.
No, we are not two grinch-like people sitting in the corner seething over our dislike for “holiday cheer”. Quite the opposite! Each time we travel to see family during a holiday, we approach the visit with great anticipation and excitement… ready to make the most of the time with our family. But the problem we discovered is that there are quite a few “down sides” to holiday family visits.
The Need to Travel for Family Visits
We have not and likely will not live near Mr. Adventure Rich’s family. His family lives in New England and we are pretty firmly planted in northern Michigan. To that end, we like to spend good, quality time with his family when we visit. But holiday visits tend to have a way of getting in the way of our intentions.
Holiday Visit Downsides
When we visit Mr. Adventure Rich’s family for holidays, it often feels like the “events” take over. Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Service, Easter brunch… the weekends end up feeling like a parade of to-dos.
While each of these events are beautiful and proper for the given holiday, they often create a sense of “busyness”. The visits are marked by the necessary preparations, the events themselves, and the clean-up, leaving little time to actually enjoy our time or casually sit and chat with his family.
Holidays create pressure.
You can tell a host “Oh, no pressure, you can do whatever you want for that Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter meal” but there almost is always some kind of pressure around the holidays. The host feels like everything must look nice, taste delicious and portray the perfect “holiday feel”.
Now, we are usually the visitors during a holiday and not in charge of the meals and events. Mr. Adventure Rich’s family generously hosts us and puts on incredible holiday spreads whenever we visit. But all of this preparation leads to a general sense of pressure and stress. We are told “Relax, you are the guests!” as they work away in the kitchen, leaving little time to truly connect and enjoy each others company.
We all know the drill. Try to book flights around Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter and we are hit with inflated costs and unwieldy flight times. Sure, we may have a few extra days off from work, but traveling during a holiday can be expensive and the super-early or red-eye flights (usually cheaper!) are exhausting. Add a toddler and they become “holy crap am I insane” events.
The Alternative to Holiday Travel
So, what is our alternative? Simple. Don’t travel to visit family during the holidays!
By visiting during non-holiday times, we avoid the pressure, busyness, and extra cost of the holidays. We are free to go explore the area Mr. Adventure Rich grew up in… hiking with his family, visiting the town squares he worked at, and spending a leisurely afternoon catching up with his family and chatting over coffee or wine. We can make spaghetti and eat off of paper plates…. throw together leftovers and avoid the “holiday needs”.
A few years ago, Mr. Adventure Rich and I spent a week with his family in the Spring (I was pregnant with AR Jr). There was no holiday, no event, no reason for the visit other than just “spend time with family”. And despite the waves of morning (all-day) sickness nausea, it was wonderful! There was no pressure to prepare for a big meal or have the perfect holiday feel. We simply spent good, quality time. Mr. Adventure Rich and I took a 2 hour walk in a local town near Mr. AR’s home, had a picnic along Long Island Sound in the freezing cold, took a road trip with his parents to see his grandparents a few hours away, stopped at another relatives for a homemade soup lunch, and had good, quality conversations. It was lovely.
What We Miss by Visiting at Non-Holiday Times
So, we found our perfect solution. Just skip the holidays and travel in the off-season… simple, right?
Well, not so fast. There are a few downsides to traveling at non-holiday times. Here are a few quick cons.
Non-Holiday Family Travel Cons
• Need to use more Paid Time Off
• Fewer family members available in the non-holiday time
• Multiple trips may be necessary to see all family members (Mr. Adventure Rich has family in two clusters, several families in one location and two brothers about 2.5 hours away). They get together on holidays, but would not necessarily be all together on a random October weekend.
• Miss out on the “holiday magic” that comes from aspects of the holidays
• Family members’ desire to have everyone together for the holidays
I’d like to hear from you. What do you think? Do you face some of the same difficulties? How do you avoid or mitigate the pitfalls of holiday family travel? How do you weigh holiday vs. non-holiday travel for family visits?
Always an Adventure,
Mrs. Adventure Rich