Family Travel Survey: Is Going Home for the Holidays Still A Thing?

Posted Travel Tips by Vacatia on October 20, 2017

How does your family spend the holidays? What are your plans for this year? Is it more like Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Chrissie Hynde’s “My City was Gone”, or somewhere in between? While many families still return to celebrate idyllic holidays with all the cousins at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, it turns out modern lifestyles and mobility mean other new holiday traditions may be sprouting.

In fact 26% of respondents to our just released 2017 Holiday Family Travel joint survey of Vacatia's social community and readers of our family travel partners TravelingMom and TravelingDad, report they will be vacationing without extended family, or just staying home, this year.

Family holiday celebrations are increasingly happening almost anywhere

While a third report they indeed are headed “home for the holidays,” and another quarter plan to host family for the holidays themselves (“help me now, they’re all coming to my house”), more than a sixth of respondents say they are planning to meet extended family on neutral ground this year.

This is not a surprise to the Vacatia Guest Care team. Our advisors routinely help guests (we call them “Chief Vacation Officers”) book resort residence accommodations for their families for the holidays or other times of the year. We often see situations where Grandma and Grandpa retired to a condo in Scottsdale or some other relaxing location, and/or the family has scattered to the winds, so why not spend the holidays in a favorite lovely leisure destination… or a different place every year?

“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.”


Modern lifestyles mean family holiday logistics have become more… complicated

A third of survey respondents share that “remarriages, demanding in-laws, and/or large families mean we juggle multiple gatherings and commitments” (ed. note: tell us about it). Almost a quarter say, “work schedules and conflicting commitments mean we celebrate the holiday on a different day.” More than a fifth note that when visiting, they stay someplace near “home”, perhaps because things are so crowded and crazy, or maybe they don’t benefit from the royal Saturday Night Live “Back Home Ballers” experience (complete with neighbor Jean).

“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.”


If the emotional weight of family obligations didn’t exist, more than a third of respondents report they only “would see the family members we enjoy“

Ok… so everyone saw that one coming. Some things will never change. Nearly a quarter note that they likely would “pick somewhere to go as a family, and do a trip instead of gifts.” We enjoyed the almost five percent who made it very clear they are up for a celebration and no matter what they are hosting a holiday get-together for “someone,” whether family or friends.

“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 six months until the trip. She added, “Travel is the greatest gift of all – it makes incredible memories and bonds families like nothing else can.”

Shin notes Vacatia was founded specifically to serve the family travel market by providing convenient access to resort residences. Shin adds, “As the demographic trends evolve, and family members become more mobile, following school, career, or passions, we are happy to help bring families together in whichever of the best North American leisure destinations they choose, whenever they choose to vacation.”

Family holiday routines have changed significantly since their childhood, say respondents

More than half say the biggest holiday changes over the years are in family “gift giving” practices. We’re thinking cash and gift cards… Do any family members still receive sweaters and ties? What does Grandma put in your card? Another half say the biggest changes are around the “activities and traditions” of the holidays (respondents could select more than one choice). Our bet? Well… the cornhole craze is sweeping the nation! What is your favorite family holiday activity? 

More than 40 percent mention “sleeping arrangements” have changed most. We’ll let you hypothesize. We did not ask for details.


No matter how you spend your holidays, we hope you and your family and friends have a wonderful time! It’s hard to go wrong if you are with the people you love, having fun. If you need any help making plans, you know where to find us!