Forgoing traditional Christmas celebrations to travel is becoming more common


Melinda Cody of Allegheny Township has implemented a Christmas strike, and she’s never been happier.

For decades, Cody — a wife and mother of two adult children — prepped, baked, cooked, decorated, shopped, organized and wrapped gifts, providing a traditional Christmas experience for her family with all the expected holiday trimmings.

“It was stressful every year,” Cody said. “I felt I had to live up to the standards of what Christmas should be or what you should do, and it wasn’t enjoyable. It was actually detrimental to my well-being and 100% exhausting.”

So Cody and her husband, William, made the decision to cancel Christmas — or at least the majority of it.

“I still celebrate Christmas spiritually,” Cody explained, adding she went on a Christmas “strike” in 2020.

Since then, the couple has implemented a new Christmas tradition that includes travel and patronizing a restaurant for a Chinese dinner on Christmas Day.

A growing holiday travel trend of swapping the material aspect of Christmas and instead focusing on the making-memories aspect is happening as more and more Americans book vacations for Christmas day, according to luxury travel advisor Jessica Covelli of Green Tree-based Litterini Travel.

“Over the years I’ve noticed many more people going on vacation instead of doing a formal Christmas at home,” Covelli said. “Families want to spend money on experiences with their children instead of a bunch of stuff.”

“Christmas (materialism) has gotten out of control,” said Marty Lischner of Munhall. “The stores put Christmas things up in September. It’s too commercialized, and I just don’t need any part of it.”

Lischner, 58, describes himself as an avid traveler and likely plans to travel this Christmas instead of staying home.

“I was going to take a cruise, but the one I wanted was sold out,” Lischner said.

An atheist, Lischner doesn’t celebrate any of the religious components of Christmas.

“Right now my plans are up in the air. I may go to Florida,” said Lischner, who travels with his service dog, Phoenix. “I love to travel and take my dog on trips.”


Courtesy of Marty Lischner

Christmas time traveler Marty Leschner of Munhall photographed in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Mountain Springs, Nev.


At the Cody household, gift-giving is no longer part of Christmas.

“My husband was OK with (canceling Christmas) until it came to the gift part. He had a difficult time not gifting,” Melinda Cody said. “Instead, we took a trip in 2021 over Christmas to Ohiopyle. We love to hike. It was beautiful.”

This Christmas, the Codys plan to head to Blackwater Falls, W.Va.

“Taking a trip is making a memory. You remember where you are, who you’re with and what you saw,” Melinda Cody said. “I couldn’t tell you what gift I got at my last Christmas.”

Incorporating charitable donations during the Christmas season is a new way the Codys are celebrating Christmas.

“We use some of the money normally spent on Christmas for charitable donations and we pick different charities,” Melinda Cody said. “We also pay off (anonymously) several layaways at Wal-Mart.”

This year the couple are contributing to Canines for Warriors.

The Codys’ two children are on board with the new non-Christmas normal. For Melinda, ditching the material for memories is working.

“We just don’t do Christmas anymore. No pressure, no guilt. I’d rather take that time and energy and give it to someone who doesn’t expect it. That’s fulfilling,” she said.

Melinda’s mother wasn’t too thrilled the first year her daughter dropped the Christmas decorating.

“I put a wreath on the door — that’s my decorating,” Melinda Cody said.

The Codys are slowly going through almost a dozen large plastic bins of Christmas decorations, donating the contents to local Goodwill stores.

The all-inclusive travel option is especially appealing for many of her clients, Covelli said.

“Many all-inclusives host holiday events and parties on the actual holidays, giving families — both kids and adults — lots to do.”

For example, Universal Studios in Orlando offers a Grinch-themed breakfast, Disney World offers Christmas-themed fireworks and select themed nights with Mickey Mouse, Covelli said.

Some families that have relatives residing in different states book a holiday family vacation to come together in one destination instead of going to someone’s house to celebrate Christmas.

Scuba diver Catherine Massafra of Hempfield Township is all in with the idea of traveling instead of staying home for the holidays.

“Some of my favorite memories are the trips my parents and I took while I was out of school for the holidays,” Massafra said. “My senior year of high school we went to Paris. It was a great tradition and one I’m a little sorry to not continue since my father passed away.”

Traditionally, the family would leave the day after Christmas, but for the last five years, Massafra has particularly enjoyed dive trips with her mother to Key Largo, Fla.

“We love to travel and aren’t big gift-givers to begin with, so the memories would be worth more to us than staying home just because it’s Christmas,” Massafra said.

Eliminating the hustle-and-bustle factor often associated with Christmas is one of the main reasons many opt to jet, drive or sail away.

“They aren’t as stressed with prepping gift-buying and running around on the holidays to see everyone in their family. They can relax and enjoy time with their family and still celebrate the season,” Covelli said.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spent $826 on Christmas gifts, food and decorations.

What could $826 buy in terms of trip options?

Airline tickets.

“Sometimes two airline tickets, depending on the destination,” Covelli said.

Covelli noticed the Christmas travel trend gaining traction about five years ago.

“It was getting popular, but then covid happened, but now it’s picking back up again,” Covelli said.

Christmas is stressful for mom Melissa Keyser of Hempfield Township.

“There’s too much time spent stressing over meaningless things and not enough making memories,” Keyser said. “I told my sister I couldn’t afford Christmas this year, but it’s just stuff anyway.”


Courtesy of Melissa Keyser

Melissa Keyser, 50, of Youngwood, photographed with her two children, Bret and Ashley Keyser.


Keyser said her family, which includes two teenagers, has experienced some recent hardships.

“We’ve not made many good memories in recent years. They would be thrilled to take a trip and create new memories,” Keyser said.

Retired Fox Chapel Area School District employee Kim Buckley is embracing the concept of travel over tradition during the holidays.

Buckley, of Indiana Township, is a three-time cancer survivor. She said she’d rather make memories than exchange gifts.

“Gifts are forgotten, but memories are always with you and not forgotten,” Buckley said. “I try to live each day being grateful and thankful.”

Buckely’s son and assorted relatives all live across the country and her father, in his 80s, lives an hour away.

“I would love the opportunity to take a trip together with family members and make memorable memories rather than exchange gifts,” Buckley said.

Jessica Faust of Zelienople has taken steps to simplify her family’s Christmas celebration and hopes to take a Christmas trip in the future.

“Christmas as the religious holiday is joyful, but the way it’s marketed can make people feel lonely when you don’t have the celebrations you see on TV,” she said.

Faust, 45, hopes to instill a sense of separation concerning Christmas for her two young children.

“I want to make unique and beautiful memories for my children and help them understand to separate the holiday from an experience,” Faust said.

Linda Hanlon of Regent Square is keeping her attic door closed this year. Instead, her family is embarking on an all-inclusive vacation to a resort in the Dominican Republic.

She and her family will forgo putting up a live Christmas tree. They left Dec. 16 for tropical time together.

“There will be no elaborate decorations and no marathon baking session with 15 types of cookies to cater to every sweet tooth,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon, 57, and her husband are empty nesters and have yet to have the “pitter-patter of grandchildren grace our home.”

“Though no tragedy occurred,” Hanlon said, “last Christmas nearly pushed me over the edge, prompting an announcement from me: ‘Christmas 2023 is canceled; we’re going on vacation instead.’

“This year, I won’t torture myself to find the perfect present for people who already own their own air fryers, a surplus of sweaters or a drawer full of fuzzy socks. This year, we chose simplicity and a respite from the holiday frenzy.”

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joyce by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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