How to set financial limits for vacation visits

For many, visiting family for winter vacation is a matter of “how,” not “if.” But this year, rising costs can make travel less affordable, especially when paired with other life changes – say, moving cross-country, going to school or getting married.

The best way to tame travel expenses this holiday? Set financial boundaries with your family and friends early on. Having these conversations can be intimidating, but there are ways to make compromises that keep the vacation feeling special without derailing your goals.


When you add new commitments to your life, it can be difficult to maintain the same vacation travel routine. Young Millennials may find themselves moving farther from their families for job opportunities, like Audrey Peshkam, who moved to New York earlier this year from her hometown in Southern California to work for a nonprofit organization.

“For the first time, visiting my parents for Christmas will be quite an expense,” Peshkam said. “If I lived in New York long-term, I would have to justify the cost of flying cross-country every year.” He hopes that as he progresses in his career, the financial strain will lessen.

Antoinette Myers Perry, who lives with her wife and dogs in the Washington, DC, area and is currently pursuing her third graduate degree, has been balancing this trade for more than a decade.

“When I was in the early part of my career, I couldn’t always afford to fly home,” Perry said. “Holidays also mean choosing one parent and another sibling, which is often a scary choice.” (The Perry family is divided across the country.)

“Now that I’m older and starting my own family, it’s even harder,” he added, explaining that he now has to keep his wife’s family in mind and the dog’s travel restrictions as well.

As work, partners, pets and children add complexity to vacation plans and inflate costs, it’s important to keep your expectations in check — and communicate with your family.


FILE – A traveler walks through Philadelphia International Airport before the Independence Day holiday weekend in Philadelphia, Friday, July 1, 2022. The concept of “going home for the holidays” changes throughout your life, and many millennials are now going through it. transition (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Matt Rourke


Finances and family events are often the two most important aspects of an adult’s life, which can lead to conflict if they are out of sync. To avoid misunderstandings, communicate your limitations in advance.

Perry said that for years, conversations about her ability to visit home for the holidays were so difficult that she would avoid them outright. He would choose to spend vacations with faculty and community members during college and early adulthood instead of traveling.

Now, he aims to compromise, helping his family hope for a visit that fits their budget and schedule.

Whatever your holiday travel restrictions are, it’s better to be honest than to stretch your finances to avoid people. Even if you can’t afford a plane ticket, you can still plan to catch up with friends and family members via phone or video chat. And in some cases, if your loved ones know about your financial situation in advance, they may be willing to cover some or all of your travel expenses.

Offer to host

For many, a significant transition in life is when “home” moves from a place you visit to a place you live. Millennials are establishing their own home, family and holiday traditions, and they may find that it feels right to start inviting their retired parents to come to them. While hosting comes with certain expenses and time commitment, it can be more manageable than traveling for some.

You may be able to convince your family to come to you by sharing your situation. Pets and children are an extra hassle to drive or fly, and having a new home can be a great reason to invite people over.


If flights around popular holidays are out of your budget, try an un-Thanksgiving (or un-anything) celebration of the same tradition during a less busy week. Another option is to prioritize an important holiday, whether it’s a religious event, a seasonal favorite or a family member’s birthday.

“My family cares more about Christmas than Thanksgiving,” Peshkam said. “I can’t afford to go back for both of them, so they know I will spend Thanksgiving with my friends.”

If you can’t visit your family for a major holiday, talk to a friend, neighbor or co-worker. You might be surprised how willing people are to open their homes and share holiday meals with additional guests, including spouses and children.

“Spending the holidays with community members who were kind enough to host me in their homes expanded my definition of family,” Perry said. “And when I share these diverse experiences with my own family, they almost always forgive me for not being home.”

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Dalia Ramirez is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected].

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