How to Decide Whether or Not to Go Home for the Holidays

‘Tis the season to break out the warmer clothes, indulge in your favorite treats and snuggle up while watching reruns of classic holiday movies. It’s easy to love this time of year, as it’s often filled with joy, but as we grow older it can become difficult to decide whether or not to go home for the holidays. For many, it’s a no brainer. Who could pass up the chance to eat grandma’s apple pie? Well, if it comes with a side of judgment or is accompanied by an expensive plane ticket, you can start to understand why some people choose to opt out of their family gatherings.

If you’re feeling conflicted about whether or not to go home this holiday season, you’re not alone. We spoke to former and current collegiettes who feel the same way with hopes of helping you navigate your decision. Here are some factors to consider before choosing where to spend your holidays.

Understand that every family is different

When making this decision for yourself, you must remember to not compare your home situation to others’. Every family operates in very unique ways. What may be an important tradition for your friend’s family may seem like a silly idea to yours. We were all raised differently and therefore hold different values, especially when it comes to the holidays.

Teri Bradford, a senior at Chatham University, says, “I’m very independent and my family isn’t super close (I’ve never been homesick). It’s very simple and my situation is probably different than many others.” Teri continues, “My parents are used to me staying on campus so I usually tell them when I do want to come home, so it’s not hard to break the news.”

Make your holiday plans according to what is best for you, despite what that may look like to others.

Caitlyn Durant, a recent grad of Colby-Sawyer College, says, “In my household it is not an expectation to go home at all. Having three other siblings takes the pressure off me personally feeling obligated to go home because I know the table will still be filled with family.” Some families are more than understanding if you don’t go home. Shout out to the siblings who help give each other a little leeway.

Related: 19 Signs Your Friend Group is Actually More like Family


Weigh your travel options

It’s no secret travel expenses aren’t exactly cheap, especially if you live far away from home. Finances can be a touchy subject for us college students/post grads because let’s be honest, we’re not exactly made of money at the moment. Teri explains how money factors into her holiday plans, “I am not financially supported by my parents and buy my own plane tickets, so I usually decide based on money [if I want to go home] and if I feel like traveling.”

Flying home is usually ideal because it’s often faster but it can end up being more expensive. Try seeking out cheaper travel alternatives if you’re able to, such as taking a train or carpooling with a friend. This could save you money but still get where you want to go. Another option could be to ask for a ticket home as part of your holiday gift from your family—they’re always asking for gift ideas anyway and this could be a great one. And finally, if expenses for getting home are simply too costly (especially internationally) perhaps choose your favorite holiday to go home for and celebrate the others with your friends, wherever that may be.

Prioritize your obligations—it’s part of growing up

Entering new stages of life means taking on various responsibilities and making choices for yourself. This is usually followed by obligations, advanced planning and sometimes sacrifices.

Desiree Bourque, a recent graduate of the University of Southern Maine, has learned that part of growing older means making tough decisions when it comes to work. “Last year was the first time I had to work on a holiday. Obviously I would have rather been with my family but it’s part of growing up & having a job,” she says. “I had a choice between having Thanksgiving or Christmas off. I chose Christmas because it’s more special to my family, in remembrance of my grandmother.”

Nobody wants to spend the holidays at work and away from their loved ones, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. It takes a strong person to recognize what they want but make a decision based on what they need to do instead.

“My mom was more understanding than my dad,” Desiree says about telling her parents, “but overall they were both okay. They understood that I had bills to pay.” It’s beneficial to be upfront with your parents about your holiday decisions, especially if your reasons for not going home are legitimate. Although they might not like what you have to say, your parents will at least respect you for standing by what you want. Keep in mind it can be difficult for family members to accept when their ‘babies’ are all grown up. Show sympathy while breaking the news to them and maybe even make plans to visit in the near future.

Think of how your decision will affect you

Going home is not everyone’s cup of tea. People tend to associate the holidays with happy family time, but this isn’t always the case. Ean Anderson, a junior at Emmanuel College, opens up about why the decision to venture home isn’t necessarily an easy one.

“As I get older, the holidays get harder for me,” he says. “College has opened my mind in endless ways. My family, on the other hand, did not share in this awakening of sorts. Many members of my family and I now have very different and dueling thoughts, beliefs and opinions.” We can all relate to biting our tongues at the dinner table when it comes to unpleasant conversations. Ean continues, “All things considered, though, I couldn’t not go home for the holidays. The holidays, to me, are a time to set our differences aside and still come together as a family to celebrate and enjoy each other’s presence.”

Even if you feel obligated to go home, remember to put your best interest first. If you are able to put the differences in your family aside, props to you. But don’t feel ashamed if you decide to stay put and not go home for the holidays because you’d be happier somewhere else.

Define the meaning of ‘home’ for yourself

Home is a word we often associate with childhood and ‘the good ole days.’ As we grow up, however, home can take on many different forms.

Olivia Jones, a recent graduate of Colby-Sawyer College, shares her thoughts on what the holidays mean to her. “When deciding whether or not to go home for the holidays, I take a moment to define where ‘home’ is. While it's easy to think of the traditional ‘home’ as the place where you grew up or the place where your family lives, at some point you realize you've created a new home as an adult.” You may begin to feel more at home with your partner than you do with your parents and that’s okay.

Olivia continues, “I find that saying no to travel during the holiday allows me to relax into my home life with my close family—both literally and figuratively—by staying present with the few around me. Holidays shouldn't be an obligation to travel home, but rather, a mindful exercise of finding home where you are."

It’s a beautiful thought and a classic saying, “home is where the heart is.” As long as you’re thankful for what you have, surrounded by people you care about, and honest with what you want, your holidays will surely make you smile. Cheers!