Going home for the holidays is fun, but it sure isn’t cheap. Between buying gifts, packing, and purchasing airline tickets, it can all get overwhelming, fast. Once you’re in a serious relationship or get married, going home for the holidays gets even more complicated.

Now, you’ll have two sets of parents and siblings (plus maybe step-parents and extended family) who not only want to see you, but they also want to see your partner, the newest member of the family. If you’re struggling with the dilemma of which family to visit for the holidays, how to split gift and travel costs, and how to keep everyone (including yourself!) happy, then keep reading!

Honesty is Key

Young couple sitting together on bed
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Parents and siblings will begin asking what your holiday plans are sooner than you would imagine!

Parents and siblings will begin asking what your holiday plans are sooner than you would imagine! Before you make any commitments, be sure to have an open and honest conversation with your partner. Part of being in a relationship is acting like a team, and you’ll need to account for your partner’s feelings as well as your own. Moving away from family and friends can make some people feel very homesick, especially in the first year. Rather than keeping these emotions inside and building up resentment, it’s best to express how you feel up front.

In fact, the anxiety over having this difficult conversation is probably much worse than actually sitting down to talk about it. You may actually realize that it is possible to visit both families without either of you missing out on the memories that made your own childhood holidays so special. Splitting up the day is especially easy if your families live within driving distance of one another.

You may never know which holidays actually mean the most to someone until you have a conversation about it – and the answer may surprise you.

When I was a kid, Easter at my great aunt’s house was our biggest family get-together. Building on my favourite family memories, one of my personal goals is to host my own Easter party at my home whenever I get married and start a family. In my case, I would be perfectly willing to spend Christmas Day or Thanksgiving with a significant other’s family or to work out some kind of alternating schedule because “keeping” Easter is more important to me.

Plan Ahead

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There are plenty of financial factors to consider.

There are plenty of financial factors that will be covered in this article, but we all know by now that money is not always the key to happiness in a serious relationship. In fact, money is one of the top reasons why couples fight. So, it’s much better to work out a solution in advance instead of waiting to deal with a problem when it arises.

Just like everything else in life, the best thing to do in order to save money and reduce stress is to figure out a game plan way ahead of time. Booking your flights months in advance will guarantee that you get a seat on the plane and that you can get the cheapest flight possible. Prices will begin to go up closer to the holidays and flying to your destination may cost double what it would at any other time of the year. Adding to the stress of finding last-minute flights is that at busy times of year and during holidays, flights will fill up much faster.

According to Vogue, the most chaotic days at airports will always be Wednesdays and Sundays before and after every winter holiday. So, it would make sense to book a flight on a Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday if you want to get in on the least stressful days at the airport. This also may give you an extra day or two to go shopping once you arrive at your destination, rather than trying to bring everything on the plane with you and paying extra luggage fees.

Obviously, the calendar changes slightly every year. Depending on which day of the week the major holidays fall on, think logically about your plans. For example, if Christmas Day is on a Sunday, most people will probably travel on Saturday so they don’t have to use unnecessary days out of their paid time off. In that case, Thursday may be the best day to go.

What Time of Year is the Cheapest?

departure board at an airport
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SkyScanner is an amazing tool that will help you see the cheapest time of year to travel to any given location.

Winter holidays are important and they hold a lot of sentimental memories from our childhoods. It might also be the one time of year when all of your friends that you grew up with are gathered in your home town. However, when you put emotions aside and get right down to it, the holidays are just days like any other. Your family can celebrate together at any time of the year, and it doesn’t have to be on the exact same day as everyone else.

For many people, the holidays are the only time of year when their workplaces shut down for a week and they can get time off of work or school to see their family. But the reality is that airlines increase their prices at this time to maximize their profits. Vogue explains that the Mondays and Fridays immediately after any holiday are always the cheapest flights. If you’re willing to show up a few days late to your family get-together, this can be a perfect opportunity for you and it may make splitting the holidays with your significant other’s family a lot easier.

SkyScanner is an amazing tool that will help you see the cheapest time of year to travel to any given location. You can also set up an airfare alert with the SkyScanner app months ahead of time, and it will let you know when the cheapest flights are to the location you want to go to.

This may or may not surprise you, but the best days of all to travel are actually Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Yes, the airlines are still open! But most people are in bed, not traveling. Etta Meyer from Vogue says, “For those splitting holidays between families, friends, and in-laws, spending December 24 in one place and flying on December 25 can be surprisingly efficient, not to mention diplomatic.” All good points.

Consider Hosting

view out of an airplane window airborne
Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash
Consider inviting both your families to your home for the holidays instead.

Instead of trying to deal with the stress of traveling to see your in-laws, consider inviting both your families to your home for the holidays instead. Yes, it can be stressful to shop, cook, and figure out where everyone is going to sleep, but this would make the most sense if you are newlyweds who just purchased your first house together or if you just had your first child. Your budget is probably tight with the new stress of these added expenses, and everyone is going to want to see the new house and the new baby, anyway. So why not combine the occasions together?

One of the best ways to save money when hosting your first family holiday party is to make it into a “potluck”. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s when every member of the family brings one dish with them. Just be sure to let them know what to bring so you don’t end up with three bowls of mashed potatoes or five cakes for dessert.

Using Facebook invites is a great way to plan a gathering like this, because your friends and family can announce online what they are bringing. Making the event BYOB (Bring Your Own Beer) can also help cut down the costs, too. Most people won’t mind doing this because it means that they get to bring their own family's favourite holiday dish and share it with their new extended family. It’s a great way for everyone to get to know each other.

Having your first holiday in your new home is also a subtle reminder to your family (and yourselves) that the two of you are a couple now. You are beginning your own family and you’ll be creating new traditions together. Sure, maybe you’ll miss your home town’s annual “Christmas Village” light display, but maybe you’ll go ice skating in your new town’s local park instead. Creating new family traditions should be fun and exciting, not stressful and expensive.

The most important thing to remember is to stay flexible. Remember that any choice you and your significant other make this year does not necessarily mean it has to be the same every year. Before you get upset that you didn’t “win” by spending the holidays with your family this time, remember that a relationship is about give and take. Maybe you didn’t get what you want, but luckily there will be plenty more holidays to share!

Good luck! Continue to the NEXT article for more tips on smart saving and spending as a couple.