Published 12:01 AM EST Nov 27, 2019
Last year, Raven Fatool and her husband had to tell their families they wouldn’t be home for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years.
The two are entrepreneurs and own a seasonal shaved ice business that’s closed from November to February, which usually means they can visit. But last year, a decrease in sales meant the pair needed to get part-time jobs during their off-season and couldn’t travel during the holidays.
The couple is far from alone. A 2019 WalletHub Winter Travel survey found 33 million people can’t afford winter travel, while 20 million are opting out to save money. A 2019 BankRate survey found 24% of respondents felt pressure to overspend on holiday travel.
Kate Wauck, vice president of communications at Wealthfront, moved from New York City to the Bay Area in the fall of 2014. The price tag of breaking a lease coupled with a cross-country move on top of hefty student loans left Wauck feeling the cost of a flight back to her parents in Philadelphia was financially irresponsible.
“I knew that I would recoup my moving losses since I had landed a well–paying job in the Bay Area, but I felt that I needed a minute to just catch up and put a halt on any major spending,” says Wauck.
No matter your reason for opting out of visiting family during the holidays, it’s almost always an unpleasant conversation. At least at first.
Ways to start the conversation
In theory, it should be fairly easy to say, “Mom and Dad, sorry but I just don’t have enough money to book a flight during one of the most expensive travel times of the year.” But is this kind of honesty really that simple?
“The biggest problem with money is that people are ashamed of their financial situation or embarrassed to talk about it,” says Wauck. “If we can remove that stigma, especially with our family, we’ll all be a lot better off.”
Stay safe: 14 winter travel tips for flights and road trips
Keep calm and think of turkey: 8 things to do now to make Thanksgiving flights go more smoothly
Fatool recommends you lead with your reasoning for why you can’t make it home while reiterating that you’ll miss them but are doing what’s best for you.
Sinéad Walsh, an Ireland native living in Toronto, first had to miss Christmas with her family last year due to visa restrictions. This year, she and her partner decided to stay in Toronto for financial and logistical reasons, but she started the conversation with her family back in September to give them time to adjust.
Walsh suggests you listen to why your loved ones are sad that you won’t be around this holiday season. But you also need to explain the importance of living your own life.
“Boundaries are important even if they make others sad,” says Walsh, whose family still jokes that she’s lying so she can surprise them at Christmas.
Creative problem solving
Don’t just say, “I’m not coming to visit.”. Instead, provide alternative options to make the situation more palatable to your loved ones.
“We offered to host holidays at our home if they were willing to travel,” says Fatool. “My parents actually came to us for Thanksgiving and it was one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever.”
Wauck recommends using technology to your advantage and tuning in via FaceTime to join in the festivities. She also visited her parents in October to avoid the high cost of holiday travel, but celebrated another family moment — her mom’s birthday.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
Dealing with being away from family
“It was devastating, heartbreaking and a really hard time,” says Walsh, who hopes to offset those feelings this year by spending Christmas on a trip in Canada with her partner and other immigrant friends.
On her first Thanksgiving alone, Wauck volunteered at a soup kitchen the morning before FaceTiming with her family in the evening. The next year she celebrated with friends in the Bay Area.
Get your tickets now: Traveling to Europe or Asia? Now is the best time of year to book your holiday abroad
“At first, it can be kind of sad not being home but we were able to start our own new traditions that can make the holidays still feel special,” says Fatool, who also enjoyed that staying home with just her husband meant a relaxing schedule instead of running around to four different family homes in one day.
Paving the way for future trips
If having to miss a holiday with your family is really bothersome this year, then now is a good time to start a savings account earmarked specifically for holiday travel. Dedicate a small amount of each paycheck or pick up a side hustle for the purpose of funding your travels. The other option is to follow Fatool, Walsh and Wauck and focus on building new traditions in your new home.
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe