For many people, holidays mean family gatherings. So when my husband and I moved away from our families, we had to figure out how — and where — to celebrate the holidays. One year, we tried to stay at our own house and celebrate. That wasn’t too much fun. We missed family. After that, we always traveled back home to Erie, Pennsylvania. But as our family grew from just the two of us to five, the challenges of traveling and staying at family members’ homes also grew. Holidays became stressful and I hear the same sentiment from many of my guests.
Where do you stay for the holidays when your extended family can’t accommodate? Fortunately, vacation rentals provide a nice solution. If you (or members of your family) have moved away, have you figured out how to come together for the holidays? I can assure you that even though a vacation rental house is not the family homestead, you can still maintain many of your holiday traditions. Here are four ways a vacation home can help.
1. PROVIDE EXTRA SPACE FOR HOLIDAY GUESTS
For some families, traveling “home” for that ideal holiday can be stressful if there are not enough beds, not enough privacy, or you just need some quiet time at the end of the day. Vacation rentals became a welcome solution for my husband and I when we started our family. Our original routine was to pack all of the baby gear and suitcases, drive six hours from Cincinnati, Ohio to my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, and make do with the limited space in our family homes. We would travel back and forth to see various family members, many of whom were an hour away. The traveling was exhausting. While I enjoyed the family festivities, all that travel made for crabby kids and I longed for a privacy at the end of the day to re-energize. Our solution was to rent a cottage near family and invite all of our family to visit us. It worked out beautifully!
2. REDUCE THE DRIVING DISTANCE [MEET IN THE MIDDLE]
A young mom in Chicago recently called me. She was looking for a mid-point destination between Chicago and Baltimore to meet up with family. This young mom longed for time with extended family, but she was always expected to drive the roughly 700 miles for those visits — with kids in tow. She did this for ten years! Finally, this mom had enough. She rented a home in the middle and asked her family to drive halfway.
I can completely relate to this mom because I also lived in Chicago for five years and made the drive to Erie with my three young kids many times. On a good day, the drive was 8 hours. If I hit traffic, maybe 10 hours. There was also the challenge of using a public restroom while keeping an eye on three young children.
Many families are solving for these very long drives by meeting in the middle at a cabin or cottage. Today, meet in the middle apps can help you find a midpoint between two cities. Online search capabilities can easily help you find a vacation rental in the area. Our vacation rental homes have been the “home away from home” for many family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthday celebrations, and summer vacations.
3. PICK A DESIRABLE DESTINATION
Some families take this a step further, and pick a desirable location. If you have fly to your destination, why limit yourself to a meet in the middle. Pick somewhere on your bucket list!
4. MAINTAIN YOUR HOLIDAY TRADITIONS
If you’re like me, you have many boxes of holiday decorations that are just not practical to take to a vacation rental. Focus instead on your other holiday traditions.
- Request A Christmas Tree — The tree is an important holiday tradition for many families. Consider this when you are selecting your vacation rental. Ask if the owner will provide a tree at the home, and if not, ask if you can purchase and set up a small tree at the home. At my vacation rentals, I ask my holiday guests if they would like me to set up an artificial tree, recognizing that not all guests celebrate Christmas.
- Exchange Gifts — Do exchange gifts if that is part of your tradition. Shipping gifts to your destination may be an option. Just
consider how you will get the gifts home. A photo of an extra large gift may suffice in lieu of the actual gift. One year, I shipped many gifts to a vacation rental to free up car space for the drive there. What I failed to consider was how we were going to get the gifts back home after Christmas. Let’s just say the trip home was a bit cramped.
- Set The Mood With Music — Holiday music immediately sets the mood for the holidays and it doesn’t take up valuable space.
- Plan For Your Favorite Holiday Foods — Maintain the traditions of your holiday meals. Perhaps bake your favorite holiday cookies at your destination. Think ahead of any unusual ingredients that you may want to bring.
- Attend a religious service if that is part of your tradition
- Look for a family friendly vacation rental. For example, does the owner provide board games, DVDs, or gaming system?
- Don’t forget to bring the pickle ornament — Think about your holiday traditions and which ones will travel well. For instance, we have a “pickle” ornament that we hide on the tree. The first one to find the ornament on Christmas morning gets a special gift. That is a tradition that travels well.
For questions about my Lake Erie vacation home rentals just east of Erie, Pennsylvania near Interstate 90, text or call Lynne Clement at 814-566-4722 or learn about the Just Beachy house or the Little Red Lake House.
If your family is separated by distance, how do you get your family together? What tips can you add?