Holiday travel is not what it once was. According to a recent Traveling Mom poll, many of us are no longer piling into the car or boarding a plane to gather at grandma’s house with the whole family. Americans are enjoying new options in how they spend their precious Holiday vacation time these days. A mere 24% host major holidays at their own home while 17% are jetting off to meet up with family at a vacation destination. And like my own family, 26% choose local holiday travel or head out on their own vacation to relax. Here’s a look at why this is becoming a more popular decision.



Small Town Christmas

Holiday Travel Stress is not Fun

Let’s face it, Holiday travel is stressful. Airports are packed to capacity, traffic is congested, and tempers flare. On top of this, parents have to deal coordinating time off from work and school to plan family visits. If just getting to your destination is stressful, you’re already not enjoying that precious time away from home.

Destination travel has become much more popular, but that also means huge crowds. For example, Disney World is easily our favorite place to travel as a family, but you’d never catch us anywhere near there on a Holiday. For example, the largest crowds can be found in the Orlando theme parks around Easter/Spring Break and Christmas week. To us, and many others, being in an overcrowded resort is no way to spend a vacation. This is one of the many reasons we now focus on local Holiday travel.



Tourists packing to get into Disney’s Magic Kingdom. ©R. Christensen

Opt for Local Holiday Travel Instead

There are several benefits to traveling locally or staying home for events. Being able to make it a one day trip or a quick overnight, plus not having to buy plane tickets, means huge cost savings. There’s also the time and hassle saved with not having to head to the airport or embark on a long car ride. For me, the most fun in staying local is discovering new things to do in your own backyard.

You’d be surprised at how many Holiday events take place within a two to three hour drive from your home. Anything from small town festivals to Holiday themed museum or zoo activities. This year, look at what is coming up in your own town or maybe spend a weekend in another major city within a short drive to experience something different.

The beauty of local travel is you are not limited to just the major Holidays. There are plenty of special events throughout the year, such as 4th of July, Labor Day, and Halloween. In fact, Halloween has become a prime time for local travel. This year, my family enjoyed an evening at a county park just over an hour away from home. We packed in trick or treating, magic shows, an a steam train ride and were home by 10pm.



Trick or Treating Event at Flint, MI’s Crossroads Village ©R. Christensen

Local Holiday Events to Look for in Your Town

To find interesting local and regional Holiday events in your area, the library is a good place to start. They often have event calendars for your local town an county, plus regional magazines. Bloggers are another great source to follow. Seek out travel oriented websites for your region and look through their posts for new ideas and places you never knew about. As a travel blogger I’ve been invited to towns that weren’t even on my radar, despite being within a few shorts hours in the car.



Christmas barn at Crossroads Village

Here is a list of local Holiday travel and event ideas to help with your plans.


President’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day

  • Libraries and museums often schedule special programs for school age kids. Take advantage of getting in a bit of extra education while experiencing a venue you may not have been to before.


Easter and Spring Break

  • Head to the local mall or town events for younger kids to meet the Easter bunny and get pictures.
  • Easter egg hunts have become a popular tradition in many towns. I’ve been to one where they dropped the eggs from a helicopter, though I prefer the more low key hunt in my home town.
  • If you attend church, there are often extended services and it’s a good opportunity to experience Mass at a larger church or cathedral in the area.
  • Museums, zoos, libraries, and other institutions often put together programs to keep families busy during Spring Break. This is great for planning a few days traveling and a few days relaxing at home.

Family dog helping with the Easter Egg hunt

4th of July

  • Avoid the huge city crowds and attend a fireworks display in a smaller town or county park.
  • Some towns hold annual parades, which may be worth heading to for a quick 1-2 day road trip.
  • Baseball games, from local to major league, are often held on 4th of July. Many MLB stadiums have fireworks after the game too.



Tractor parade in Indiana

Labor Day and Harvest Season

  • Across the US, many small towns hold Labor Day and harvest themed events. Look for long weekends festivals with parades, carnivals, and more to keep you busy. Our home town hosts an annual Peach Festival complete with two parades on Labor Day and events all weekend.



  • Family friendly Halloween events can be found at many local public institutions, such as zoos, museums, and parks.
  • Look for small towns that go all out for Halloween. Some will have trick or treating on Main Street or other family friendly events.
  • Looking for something scarier? Check your news station website or local bloggers for a list of haunted houses along with reviews.



  • Travel to a big city to watch the parade floats in person. Hotels often have shuttles available if public transit isn’t an option.
  • Several NFL teams traditionally play football on Thanksgiving. Consider attending a game instead of watching it from the couch.
  • Volunteer your time at a shelter serving or delivering meals to those in need.


Christmas Season Holidays

  • Take kids to meet Santa and get some pictures.
  • Attend local tree lighting ceremonies.
  • Tour small downtown areas to see lights and live entertainment.
  • Several religions have important Holidays in December. Take the opportunity to experience another viewpoint.
  • Many churches offer extended services and some even have live Nativity displays.
  • Volunteer your time at a shelter serving or delivering meals to those in need.


New Years Eve

  • Skip the big city crowds and enjoy a small town dining package to ring in the New Year.
  • Some places offer fireworks displays.


Save yourself some time, money, and sanity this season and consider local Holiday events. There are more than enough new places to discover and special events to keep others fresh for another visit. Check out posts in both Traveling Mom and Traveling Dad for destination ideas.