How to Spend Your Time During the Holidays

Reader question from Andrea: "We always struggle with how much time we get to spend with our families on the holidays, do we alternate, what’s fair, etc. Also, we try to spend time together, and we really enjoy the time we spend together, but it just doesn’t seem like quality time–I love that you’re so organized and you plan out the 10-minute after-work cleaning blitz so you can spend more quality time together doing what you like better. (And, we’re always looking for fun things to do besides just doing the typical movie, reruns of the office, etc.)"

When we got married, I knew that the holiday season would be one of the toughest things for us to work out as far as how and where to spend our time. It can be a difficult subject to talk about with family and in-laws because there may be some preconceived expectations. Luckily, it's gotten smoother over the past five years, and our families are flexible!

We got married in October, so our first Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as a married couple were quickly approaching and we needed to figure out where we were going to spend our days.

Here are a few tips:

  • Prioritize. What parties can't you miss? Which ones might you have to miss if they overlap? We have eight family Christmas parties to try to fit in. I'm starting to realize this is kind of insane. Plus, when our baby comes I want to start a little family tradition of our own. Yikes! We live about two hours from our families, so the weather also plays a factor in our traveling schedule, but we rarely miss a celebration because of the next few bullet points.
  • Talk early. As soon as October comes around, we make sure to get dates set with all our family members. This year my aunt created a Doodle poll so everyone could easily communicate what dates they were available, and a date was selected based on that. I have big families, and getting 50 people together can be difficult!
  • Be open to a new, unconventional tradition. We celebrate Christmas in October with Eric's grandparents before they travel to Texas, and we also choose a weekend in early or mid-December to spend with Eric's dad and stepmom. These pre-Christmas parties make Dec. 24-25 a lot less hectic!
  • Set expectations with your spouse. I think this is the most important step. No matter when the parties get scheduled, you and your spouse have to decide together what you are going to do. It can be draining to travel for days and bounce between parties, but it will be worse if you and your spouse are not on the same page.
  • Remember the reason for the season. As much stress the holidays can be, I try to enjoy my time with each of our families and remember the reason we're gathering to eat, laugh and share gifts.

With Christmas landing on a Sunday this year, it kind of threw a wrench in our typical plans. This was a tough year, but we're packing it all in: traveling two different weekends and doing five parties in five days.

Do you have any tips for planning and scheduling family time around the holidays?