Should You Go Abroad During the Holidays?

As I approach this time of year, I find myself reminiscing about holidays past.

Most of those memories involve Christmas traditions with my family, wrapping gifts, eating far too many sugar cookies.

Some of those memories, however, include drinking hot cocoa on the Eiffel Tower, picking up fruit and cheese from a local market for Christmas dinner, or flying to Australia on Christmas day.

Yep.  I’ve traded in some of my annual holiday pastimes and trips to my childhood home in for traveling.


Before you call me Ebenezer Scrooge, allow me to explain why.

Part of the American work calendar, regardless of how generous our employer may or may not be, is a veritable lack of vacation days.  That is undeniable.

Year after year, Americans continue to leave some of our measly (in my opinion) allotted holiday time on the table.

What is a part-time traveler with a full-time job to do in this situation?  Especially when you work for a company or live in a state that doesn’t allow those days to rollover to the next year?

Answer: sometimes we have to make the most of the end of the year days off.

Regardless of your feelings toward the year-end holiday season, this means we must forego the festivities every now and then.

Will I be missing Christmas at home again this year after spending last year’s in New Zealand?  Absolutely not.  At the end of the day, it’s a balance and a personal choice.

Should you go abroad during the holidays?

Some points to consider:

  • The biggest resource we have to spend to get abroad — for those of us working full-time — is not money, but time.  There’s either a rush or a cool-down at the end of the year.  Many of us get more of time off from work (or have an easier time requesting it) seasonally.  Can you use it to travel?
  • You’re going to spend money either way.  When you’re abroad, the biggest cost is usually the flight. When you’re home, you’re spending on all those gift exchanges, holiday party fare, decorations… It can add up.
  • Can you do both?  Perhaps a trip in the week between Christmas and New Years, somewhere closer?  I’ve never opted for this personally, but it is worth considering.
  • If you find it better for you to be at home this year…how can you enjoy the places around you?  Many of us end up traveling domestically to visit family.  Are you exploring the area?
  • December (in most industries) can be a “down” month at work anyways.  This varies from employer to employer, but with so many of my clients paring down hours in December, it was actually appreciated that I used saved vacation days for that month.
  • You can alternate years.   Spend this year abroad, spend the next at home.  How can you balance it so it works for everyone?
  • Are you able to spend time with family at other points in the year? For some of this, this is a ‘no,’ which would tempt me to instead travel at other times in the year.  If it’s a ‘yes’…could you make the most of your days off over holidays instead?
  • Friends and families share their loved ones with others each and every year.  Could yours spare you for travel…your other half?
  • If you do decide to travel, make your loved ones part of your journey.  
    • Plan to send gifts home from your destination that they can open on the day.
    • Skype them on their timezone’s clock.
    • If friends and family are supportive, ask them to contribute something to your trip in place of a gift!
    • Share some of the ways you are celebrating even though you are gone.  Just because you’re abroad (even in a country that is not celebrating the holiday) doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it there.
  • Other cities and other countries are beautiful this time of year.  Just saying.

For some of us, the holidays at home are a non-negotiable. For others, it may be the optimal time of year to hit the road.  What do you think about traveling during holidays? Ask yourself…which will you regret missing more?

Do you opt to travel over the holiday season?  How do you maximize extra days off during the year?  Would you be willing to trade some of your annual traditions for new experiences abroad?



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