How to Survive a Trip Home Over the Holidays (or really any time)

As much as I love going home to see my family, I usually get super stressed out about it, starting about a week before the trip (sometimes longer). I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the reasons that I get stressed out and figuring out ways that I can recalibrate to avoid the stressors. One of the major issues centers around my perceptions about other people’s expectations of me when I go home. I live in Kansas City now, but I grew up in Wisconsin and a lot of my family still live up there, in my hometown, including my parents and my sister and her family. However, I have a few aunts that I am close with who also live up there but live closer to the Milwaukee airport, where I fly in. So you can already see issue number one, right? People that I want to spend time with are spread across a distance. There are other issues as well. For example, my parents only have one vehicle. Also, I’m an introvert who lives alone, so constantly being around a bunch of people for an extended period of time can be draining!

I’m happy to share that my trip home at Thanksgiving this year went very well, because I used the tips I’m going to share with you below. I still don’t have it down to a science, but I hope you’ll find that implementing some of these recommendations will help make your next trip go more smoothly!

Tip #1: Rent a Car

This might sound like a no-brainer, and it does add some cost to the trip. But trust me when I say it is SO WORTH IT to have your own car when you are visiting family. When I travel home I fly into Milwaukee and my family lives a little over an hour away. I used to rely on them to come and pick me up, but last May when I went home for Mother’s Day I rented a car for the first time and it was a total trip-changer. No more waiting around at the airport for a delayed pickup. And having the flexibility to go see other friends/family or run an errand was so wonderful that I will probably never travel home without my own car again. (Obviously, if you are driving to see your family this one does not apply. But keep reading.) Plus I enjoy the solitude of the drive to/from the airport.

Tip #2: Set expectations with key people before your trip

I’m an idealist, which means I dream up perfect (ideal) situations and outcomes, and then when they don’t come to fruition I become a total wreck. But now that I understand this about myself, and that no one else around me is a mind reader, I’ve been able to recalibrate and plan for the best outcomes when I go home. For example, when I went home recently for Thanksgiving I already knew that I wanted to go to fish fry on Friday night (it’s a Wisconsin thing), I had a few people that I knew I wanted to make time for, and I knew I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my sister and my mom. So, I called my mom ahead of time to find out if she also had any expectations for things she wanted to do while I was there or any family activities she had planned, and I communicated my to-do list with her. That way when I arrived, we were already on the same page about things. And I have to say, this little bit of pre-planning made my trip home one of the happiest and smoothest that I’ve had in a long time.

Tip #3: Understand and accept that you cannot and will not make everyone happy.

One of the hardest things for me is dealing with the fact that I cannot please everyone. This is a tough one because I am a people pleaser. I want everyone to be happy with me and I don’t want to piss anyone off. Like ever. This becomes a great source of stress and anxiety for me, particularly when I’m visiting family and have a limited amount of time, so I have to remind myself that no matter who I visit and how much time I spend with them, someone is going to feel like I didn’t give them enough time or attention. Someone is going to feel left out. And you know what? That has to be ok. I am only one person with a finite amount of time and energy to give. So I give as best as I can and assure myself that that is enough.

Tip #4: Do what you can to maintain your routine

We work really hard to establish daily routines, at least I do, from basic things like always brushing my teeth after I drink my coffee (never before) or slightly more complex routines like our personal care. One thing that always helps me when I travel is to try to stay true to my routines as much as possible, particularly when it affects my personal habits. For example, I’ve recently started oil pulling, which is an Ayurvedic practice of using coconut oil to remove toxins from your mouth. So for this past trip I bought a box of coconut oil packets so I could bring them with me and keep with my routine. I also packed portions of collagen powder in baggies so I could keep with my daily practice of adding it to my coffee. These may seem like minor things, but being able to stick with them when you’re away from home can provide some normalcy and comfortability, which I think is really important when you’re traveling home, or really anywhere.

Tip #5: Take time for yourself

I have still not perfected this, but I became more aware of the need for it this past trip, so I’ll work on it next time. This is particularly important for someone like me, an introvert who lives alone and will sometimes, contentedly, go through an entire day with out speaking to anyone. When I travel home the scenario is completely opposite. I’m with people 24/7 (except when I’m sleeping, but you get what I’m saying). And these people haven’t seen me in awhile, so they want to talk. And if I’m on my phone they want to know who I’m texting or what I’m looking at. Basically, they’re all up in your business, and this can be exhausting. I realized that if I’m going to be visiting relatives for more than 2 days I need to make sure I’m taking a little time for myself – and if I need to hide in the bathroom for 10 minutes to browse my Instagram feed uninterrupted, or make an unessential trip to the grocery store just so I can have some solitude, then that is what I am going to do. And if you feel like you need to do the same thing, you should! And if you’re worried about what anyone says or thinks about it, see #3.

Traveling home to see family should be a good experience, not a stressful one (says the gal who usually stresses). But, now that I’ve cracked the code I think my future trips home will go much better. And I hope these suggestions help you too!

I’d love to hear from you – are there any tips or routines you use when traveling home (or in general)? Please share in the comments below.

One Comment

  1. Jo B

    I love this–so many great ideas! I didn’t realize how important my alone time was until I left my hometown to go to college and discovered that all my trips home were wall-to-wall SEEING PEOPLE. But it took me several years to make the rule for myself that if I had traveled (flown, driven, etc.) a great distance and time to get there, if someone local wanted to see me they had to do some traveling as well … meet me halfway, so to speak. I was shocked to realize that a lot of people just assumed they could stay at home while I traipsed all over the state to make my numerous requisite visits over the course of a day. Over the years that’s cut down the number of people I see, but it allows me to keep my sanity intact.

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