How to Decide Where to Spend the Holidays this Year

Jingle bells, check hotels
Book the cheapest place to stay.
Oh what fun it is to choose
Where to spend the holidays. Hey!

The holidays are upon us! And with the holidays comes the inevitable choice of where to spend them. If you’re single, God bless you—this should be easy. If you’re dating, it’s going to be a bit harder to choose, depending on the seriousness of that relationship. If you’re married, you are probably standing in a minefield of pressure and guilt and anxiety. One wrong step and KAPOW!

For couples, it’s a tough decision—where to spend the holidays—and it doesn’t really get any easier until both your parents are dead (not the jolliest of thoughts, I’ll admit). However, there are a few ways to make the decision a little easier.

So, before I break out into another song, here are the best ways to choose where to spend the holidays this year.

The “Every Other” Fallacy

You just got married. You’re planning your first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. Awww.

One of you, it doesn’t matter which, brightly suggests, “We will just alternate.” Awwwwww!

You poor, beautiful, naïve idiots.

The problem with trying to do the whole “every other” thing (and don’t worry, every young couple thinks this will work at first) is that life will always get in the way. Always.

You’ll have a child on December 18 and won’t be able to travel for Christmas—but this is the year you’re supposed to travel! Your hemp-wearing, soul-searching brother will come back from Nepal or Machu Picchu unannounced for a two-day visit and you’ll have to change your plans to see him (or you’ll never hear the end of it!).

Plus, the bigger your family gets (and as more of your siblings get married and have families of their own), the harder “every other” becomes. You don’t want to get stuck with your “on” year being the rest of your family’s “off” year. Sooner or later, all couples learn that “every other” is an illusion.

Rock-Paper-Silver Bells

One, two, three, shoot!

Deciding where to spend the holidays this year with a friendly game of rock-paper-scissors might seem crazy, but if you want to avoid arguments (and have a little fun at the same time) then it might be your best option. I recommend you do best out of three.

The holidays are stressful enough without the pressure of trying to make everyone else happy. Give yourself a break and do what’s best for your relationship!

Last year, my family spent a lovely week in Michigan for the holidays. What my in-laws don’t know (until now, I guess) is that the reason we were in Michigan is because I stupidly chose paper two times in a row.

Never choose paper two times in a row!

Consult the Coins

Heads you go to her family’s for Christmas. Tails you go to yours.

The best argument for using coins is plausible deniability. There cannot be any discussion or fights if you leave it up to fate. And, if everything (read: the only thing) I learned in Intro to Statistics is true, over a lifetime it should even out fairly close to 50/50.

A word to the wise, though. There is a 0.0977% chance that it will turn up Heads ten times in a row. That’s a decade of drinking your in-laws’ brandy-free eggnog while choking down their questionably edible fruitcake (since when are gummy worms considered a fruit?).

Follow Your Stomach

Speaking of questionably edible things, you can always choose based on the menu.

The Herbert Family—my two parents, four brothers, and their wives and kids—generally stick to the standard American diet (SAD). That is to say, if it was ever alive and can be cooked in butter, we will eat it. My wife’s family, however, is a veritable whos-who of millennial New Age diets. Every one of her siblings (she is the oldest of eight) has a slightly different dietary need. Gluten, for example, has been christened the Protein-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. There are vegans, and there are those who seem to eat exclusively meat. I can’t keep it all straight.

However, both my mother and my mother-in-law are more than capable cooks, and I would be remiss to leave you with the impression that spending the holidays with either family doesn’t yield the same results: me eating myself stupid and being quite fat and content. But then again, that is how l like to spend every day!

Regardless, if you are on the fence about where to spend the holidays, choose the place with the better food. Choosing between two groups of people you love is difficult. Choosing between a traditional turkey dinner and tofu in fish sauce is easy.

Let Your Wallet Decide

Get out that old school calculator and crunch the numbers. Whichever destination has the smaller price tag wins.

Cost is not only a great way to decide where to spend the holidays, but it is also a great excuse. Maybe you can afford it just fine, but that doesn’t mean your in-laws need to know that. You can either buy five plane tickets to the frozen tundra of Minnesota, or you can stay home and buy yourself an extra Christmas present.

Not so hard to decide now, is it?

Do Ample Recon

To make a hard decision, you need to make an informed decision. How can you do your due diligence here? Simple reconnaissance.

Sometimes for big families, the stars align and everyone can make it home for Christmas. When this happens, you don’t want to be the one family that doesn’t make it.

There is something oddly appealing and romantic about a huge family holiday party.

This means you need to find out who will be at each family’s holiday gathering. If your family is anything like ours, this will take a few thousand texts. And for the first five or six weeks, you’ll be at a stalemate. The more married siblings you have in your family, the longer it will take for someone to finally choose. But once someone does choose, the dominoes will fall.

If you’re feeling bold, make the first move. Declare where you will be spending the holidays (after flipping a coin or not choosing paper twice in a row) and watch how your siblings respond.

Do Both?

If you really hate yourself and your family, try to do both.

I’m kidding (kind of). This is of course much easier if both of your families are local. But if both your families are local, then why are you reading this?

Another option is to advocate for the delay of your Christmas celebration with one of your families. If enough of your siblings are not going to be able to attend on the December 25, you can coordinate a time to get together and have your typical celebration then. My family is local; my wife’s family is not. We almost always make it up to see her family sometime in the month of December, even if we spend Christmas Eve and Chrstmas Day with my family.

Win-win!

Host It Yourself?

If you really hate yourself and your family, you can just host both your families at your house this year.

Again, I’m mostly kidding (kind of)—though, I must admit visions of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation are dancing in my head.

I would not advise hosting every year, but if you want to mix things up and if your house is big enough, then I say go for it! While I wouldn’t dream of doing anything like this right now, there is something oddly appealing and romantic about a huge family holiday party. Maybe someday!


No matter how you choose where to spend the holidays (or how you choose to choose), it’s important to keep things in perspective. Sometimes, you need to compromise. When there is conflict, try to put yourself in your significant other’s shoes. This decision should be made together. The decision on how to decide should also be made together.

And remember, you can’t please everyone all the time. The holidays are stressful enough without the pressure of trying to make everyone else happy. Give yourself a break and do what’s best for your relationship!

Good luck choosing. I hope—

Oh no . . . I feel another song coming . . . Get out while you still can!

This decision’s so depressing
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
’Tis the reason to be stressing
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
Gosh, this choice is making me queasy
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la
Next year we’ll just go to Fiji
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

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