Home, according to Robert Frost, is the place “where they have to take you in.”  But many people don’t want to go back.  Even a quick trip home to celebrate a festive holiday with family and old friends can intensify normal holiday stress.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to spending yet another cramped, tense holiday in the same old place, fighting the same old battles from childhood.  Sometimes the best trip “home” is for the whole family to get together in an entirely new location – on neutral ground, so to speak.

The Perils  of  “Home for the Holidays

KeepCalm_HolidayStressMary Foston-English, Assistant Director of Stanford University’s Faculty and Staff Help Center, says that returning home to be with family can be particularly problematic for many people:

Returning home or being with family when one has changed, and when one’s values/expectations about the holidays are now different, can be stressful. It’s easier sometimes to just “go along” with “the way it’s always been” rather than “rock the boat.”

Family traditions are important: they connect generations and create fond memories for people.  But they can also feel stifling when a “tradition” becomes a “rule” that must be followed.  Even the most close-knit family can get into a rut as people feel compelled to celebrate a certain way “because it’s we way we do things!”

Make New Traditions in a New Place

One way to break this pattern is to try something new.  Many people just “check out” on family entirely and head to the beach or mountains.  While that does avoid old squabbles about who gets which bedroom at Grandma’s house or who still has to eat at the kids’ table, it tends to splinter an extended family, not bring it together.

Most families just need a way to step away from old habits and expectations. A resort vacation is an ideal solution for many.  It’s a way to create new family memories in a completely different place: one where everyone shares in the decision-making and there are numerous options for activities that engage all ages.

Think about it: most family stress stems from too much physical closeness.  It’s hard to avoid toxic Uncle Albert or your cousin’s terrible twins when 15+ people are packed into a house meant for 4.

Hotel rooms offer privacy, but make it harder for everyone to get together and visit, play games, and prepare communal meals.   That’s why a large, well-equipped cabin can be the perfect solution.   Often termed “destination cabins,” they come in all sizes – from modest 2-3 bedroom structures with basic amenities to 10+ bedroom luxury cabins with wi fi, pool tables, video games, fully equipped gourmet kitchens and more.

They’re generally located in resort areas with numerous dining and entertainment options.  For instance, many  vacation cabins in the Smoky Mountains offer the excitement of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Dollywood, next to the stunning natural beauty of the national park.  Cabins located in ski areas offer many outdoor options as do beachside vacation rentals.

With that diversity, there’s always something for everyone to do.  And then, when family members return tired and happy, the conversation can revolve around everyone’s adventures.  That’s a lot more fun than re-fighting the same tired quarrels that too often take over the holiday.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Resort

As with any family matter, it pays to be flexible when making choices and it’s important to respect everyone’s preferences and circumstances.

  • Location:  Consider travel arrangements.  A spot within easy driving distance can reduce travel costs and the stress associated with travel.  If the family is scattered geographically, consider moving the location from year to year so the travel burden gets shared equally.
  • Cost & Amenities:  There’s usually a tradeoff here: a rental with luxury amenities and a Jacuzzi in every room will normally be more expensive than a bare-bones cabin.  However, remember that the more amenities the rental offers (wi-fi access, games, swimming, playground, etc.), the less money you’ll have to spend on outside activities.
  • Activity & entertainment options: Although adults may just want a quiet place to relax with the family and forget about work for a while, the younger generation will probably have different expectations.  A trip that includes multiple generations needs to offer multiple options.

There’s no way to eliminate all stress and conflict within a family.  The key is learning to manage it successfully.  After all, we do it all the time in the workplace: it’s one reason office retreats are so common!  For families, a new setting offers a way to re-connect and build stronger relationships.

For more holiday stress-handling tips, check out this Psychology Today article.  And have a wonderful, meaningful holiday!