All I want for Christmas …

It may seem too early to think about the holidays just yet, but for anyone who’s been to a grocery or department store lately, the signs are all around. There is no ignoring it – Halloween candy, Thanksgiving decorations and Christmas goodies are all competing for our attention on store shelves right now.

If the idea is that this mishmash of holiday goods is supposed to spur a shopping spree, then it’s not working on me. However, I do find that it’s a powerful, if somewhat stressful, reminder that it’s time to get the family’s holiday plans together.

My stress has mostly to do with logistics as I am trying to figure out how to get the family to be in the same place at the same time for at least part of the holiday season, and how to accomplish that without breaking the bank completely. Travel during the holidays is not cheap.

Sad part is, I’m not even thinking about extended family or friends yet – I’m just trying to plot out my children’s whereabouts. With two of them attending school on opposite ends of the planet and a third at home wanting nothing more than to join her best friend in Hawaii for the holidays, we have some juggling to do. You’d think Hawaii would be appealing to everyone (problem solved, let’s all meet in Hawaii), but that’s the last place my oldest wants to go to – it is where she goes to school. She really just wants to be home with the dog and the cat – and the rest of us, I think…

My son wants to come home but he doesn’t know yet when he can leave, so we wait and we wait. We wait with buying tickets and making definite plans. What he does know is that he won’t be home for Thanksgiving – no time off in his schedule to fly from Europe to California for a few days of Thanksgiving get-togethers.

Holiday planning can be stressful for anyone – whether living abroad or not. However, the added burden of international travel with its expenses and time constraints further complicates the puzzle of making the season a happy one for all involved.

In addition to making sure you have the time and the money, many international families struggle with satisfying the wishes and needs of family back home, while also trying to figure out how to fulfill their own desires. There is no one solution that works for all. Most of us end up with compromises that are perhaps not ideal but at least satisfactory.

I have friends who’ve made the decision to travel someplace new each holiday season and not worry about going home or seeing family. I know others who have decided on a one-year on, one-year off schedule, and others yet who’ve decided to stay in place and build new traditions in their new country. There is no right or wrong, only what works for you.

After over 20 years of living abroad and trying every holiday scenario possible, I still don’t know what the ultimate solution is. I do know that it usually works out somehow in the end, and that for the most part we can look back and say: “Well, that was a pretty good one!”

By: Felicia Shermis

Financial planning for expat life
Meeting people, making friends
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