As we near the holiday season, many families are planning vacations, shopping for gifts, or preparing to bask in a few extra days away from work. Until my husband’s career forced a move away from our “home,” I didn’t understand how this time of year can truly burden your wallet. Traditionally, we’ve concerned ourselves with budgets for gifts, but now, holiday planning looks a bit different.

(Almost) everyone in my family lives a quick drive apart. I never knew a time where I couldn’t hop in the car to go visit my parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. Now, planning a trip home involves a greater lead time and a whole lot more cash. Admittedly, this was not something I thought about until I found myself 2,000 miles away from my support system. The reality is if you plan to move away from your support system, it’s going to be expensive. For example, a trip home for Christmas:

Saving Up Vacation Time

First, you need to ensure you have time available to take off work. This might mean waiting to use personal/holiday time until the end of the year. If you’re new to a job you might not have ample (or any time available). It will be imperative to save your time for planned visits. In addition, if you’re needing to book flights this time will likely need to be requested in advance. Once you’ve secured your time away from work you need to begin searching for flights.

Buying Your Flights

As a result of the increased travel during the Christmas season flights might be as much as 1.5-2 times more expensive than during non-peak travel. If you plan to make regular visits back “home” it’s crucial to save for these flights throughout the course of the year. It’s also important to keep baggage weight limits in mind. If you’re traveling to a cooler climate, plan to be gone for a week, and intend to bring gifts for family/friends you might reach your weight limit quicker than you realize. 

House/Pet Sitting

If you’re moving somewhere new you might not yet know anyone in your area. If you’re accustomed to family/friends looking after your pets or house sitting while you’re away you’ll need to establish new contacts. If you need to hire a professional this is another expense you’ll need to for which you’ll need to budget. 

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Though there are other variables, these are the most common elements in planning for travel during the holiday season. Unfortunately, not all trips will be planned. In the event of an emergency you might need to travel on short notice. 

Of course, if you need to make an unplanned trip in the event of an emergency it can be costly as well. Sadly, I have seen many people take out loans to be able to fly home in the event of an emergency. In the moment, the last thing you want to be worried about is how you’ll finance your trip. If you’re considering a job offer away from your support system start saving for your trips home. Start a secondary savings account for these trips whether planned or unexpected. 

None of the above is hope for sympathy or to discourage anyone moving away from their support system. I just know when I moved away I prepared mostly for the emotional impacts, not the financial ones.

Key Takeaway: If you’ve landed a job away from your support system it’s important to financially prepare for the reality of traveling. 

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