Does anyone still go “home for the holidays?” Yes, according to a new survey. But not everyone. More than a quarter of the people who responded to the survey said they plan to stay home or will be traveling during the holidays—but not to go home or see family.

Traveling at the holidays - Christmas in Northern Ireland is magical with a stay at Bally Gally Castle and a visit from Father Christmas.

Christmas in Northern Ireland is magical with a stay at Bally Gally Castle and a visit from Father Christmas. Photo credit: Kathy Penny / Special Needs TravelingMom

Traveling During the Holidays

Ah, the holidays. It’s that special time when the whole family comes together around a festive table to reconnect and renew. Or is it?

A new survey suggests that going home for the holidays is no longer a family travel tradition for many. When we asked our readers and readers of TravelingDad, our partner family travel website written by dads for dads, and the social community of Vacatia, the resort marketplace for vacationing families and friends, if they plan to go home for the holidays, more than 26 percent said they will be staying home or vacationing – not with extended family – this year.

Traveling for the holidays - Polish and now American families have celebrated Christmas Eve together for the last 30 years.

Polish and now American families have celebrated Christmas Eve together for the last 30 years. Photo by Yvonne Jasinski / Credit Card Traveling Mom

Where to Celebrate the Holidays

One third of our readers say tradition still rules. They will be head home for the holidays to see family. Another 24 percent will be hosting family at their house. “Help me now, they’re all coming to my house.” About 17 percent of readers are headed to neutral ground, reporting they will be “meeting up with family at a destination.”

“Many of our guests have a tradition of spending the holidays with extended family at a beach or ski destination” says Caroline Shin, CEO and co-founder of Vacatia. “Often those guests book our bigger resort rentals – two-, three-, or four-bedroom residences or larger to accommodate their family members, insisting on a family room for get-together time, and a kitchen for preparing holiday meals.”

Celebrating Holidays When It’s Convenient 

One-third of survey respondents say that “remarriages, demanding in-laws, and/or large families mean we juggle multiple gatherings and commitments.” Another 23 percent note “work schedules and conflicting commitments mean we celebrate the holiday on a different day.”

“If you look at the holidays as ‘holiday time’ rather than getting together on a specific day, it gives you more options,” says Kim Orlando, founder of TravelingMom. “For example, if you want to travel together to a destination, it’s less crowded and more affordable to travel before or after the holiday itself.”

Traveling for the holidays - visiting Disney with the in-laws.

Checking out holiday decorations at Disney with the in-laws. Photo credit: Mary Lebeau / East Coast TravelingMom

Travel is the Greatest Gift

More than 37 percent say that, given a choice, “we would see the family members we enjoy“ only. Almost 8 percent actually said they would just stay home, stating “we would save the money and hassle of holiday travel.”

“We’re seeing more and more families choosing to give experiences rather than things as gifts,” Orlando says. “Last year for Christmas, I gave my family airline tickets. It gave us something to talk about and look forward to for 6 months until the trip.

“Travel is the greatest gift of all – it makes incredible memories and bonds families like nothing else can,” Orlando adds.

Family travel is a $140 billion year-around business, which still tends to peak when the kids are out of school. Shin noted Vacatia was founded specifically to serve the family travel market by providing convenient access to resort residences.

“As the demographic trends evolve, and family members become more mobile, following school, career, or passions, we are happy to help bring families together for the holidays in whichever of the best North American leisure destinations they choose, whenever they choose to meet,” Shin says.

Traveling for the holidays - visiting Santa.

These girls are now 22 and 25! Photo by Melody Pittman/Southern TravelingMom.

Family Holiday Routines are Changing

More than half (59 percent) say the biggest holiday changes over the years are in family “gift giving” practices. Another 57 percent say the biggest changes are around the “activities and traditions” of the holidays (respondents could select more than one choice).

Almost 42 percent mentioned “sleeping arrangements” have changed most, while 28 percent noted that “eating arrangements” were most different. About 17 percent specifically mentioned “the day when we actually celebrate the holiday” as the routine that has most changed.

Lesson learned from this survey? Flexibility makes for the best holiday experiences. For everyone.

Survey results were compiled between September 12th and 30th, 2017.