There’s No Place Like NOT Home for the Holidays


The holidays are simply bursting with magic and fun: cookies, gifts, Zoo Lights , kids’ letters to Santa (my 6-year-old just wrote “I hope you give me a present with a puppy in one of them” to the Big Guy. Sorry, kid, not happening…).

This time of year is also full of stress, unfortunately, especially for us parents. Picking the right gifts — but not too many, because you don’t want your kids to grow up entitled. Taking lights out of storage only to find they’re all kaput. Cleaning the house before the in-laws arrive.

Home for the Holidays

All that extra stress — the kind that has nothing to do with celebrating the holiday with your kids and making memories in the moment — is why my family and I escaped it all last year. We left our house, including the Christmas tree, behind. We spent four blissfully relaxing days in a beach rental in Lincoln City, where I didn’t have a single holiday-related feeling of overwhelm.

Making new holiday traditions

Spending the holidays out of town on our own took a bit of adjustment at first. I felt strange not having a tinsel-bedazzled tree. We ended up piling the kids’ presents alongside one wall in the rental. The girls worried Santa wouldn’t be able to find us. And I’m pretty sure my parents and my husbands’ parents had some hurt feelings that we weren’t spending the holiday with them.

The new holiday traditions we started were worth the trade-off, though.

I didn’t spend a single minute of the holiday scrubbing toilets. I didn’t have to change sheets on any guest beds. I didn’t worry about any mysterious smells coming from the fridge. I didn’t make a spreadsheet of who was bringing what side dish to Christmas dinner.

Instead, I spent the entire getaway being wholly present with my two children, then ages 3 and 5. I’ll never forget the rainy afternoon Maxine and I spent indoors playing with her new wooden farm set. That time wasn’t particularly remarkable except for the fact that my mind and body were wholly present. I wasn’t distracted by anything else.

That’s a holiday feeling I can get behind.

The holiday spirit: You can bring it with you

This year I’ll be home for Christmas, as the old carol goes. I’m looking forward to hosting: baking my grandma’s famous tea ring pastry to eat while opening stockings, seeing my kids’ wide eyes when they first spy their gifts, taking photos of my kids and their cousin in matching Christmas jammies.

But I won’t soon forget last year’s holiday getaway. It taught me that we bring Christmas with us. I learned that all the holiday trimmings—the tree, the big dinner, and yes, the stress—isn’t what this season is actually about. This time of year is—should be—about being together with your loved ones, full stop.

That can happen anywhere.

So will we plan a Christmas getaway every year? Probably not. But in my family, traditions are flexible. So some years, we’ll be Noel nomads, bringing the holiday spirit along for the ride.

Catherine Ryan Gregory

About Catherine

Catherine Ryan Gregory helps time-strapped parents find the time and money to travel on Instagram, Facebook and the To & Fro Fam travel blog. If you’re looking to travel more with your kids but are feeling overwhelmed, check out her free guide, the 11 Essential Travel Tips for Families.