How to not overbook and over-stress when you visit your hometown for the holidays

Is it just me, or does it seem like after you move away from home, everybody likes you better when you come to visit? The problem when you live out of state is these visits are expensive, and they can become few and far between. When you aren’t able to visit often, it makes sense to try to squeeze the most you can into your trip. But I’ve learned the hard way that it can become super stressful when I try to do too much or see too many people when I’m back home for the holidays. My holiday “vacation” feels like anything but and, before I know it, it’s over.

Luckily, I’ve learned some tricks to avoid this dreaded fate. Here are a few ways to avoid overbooking and over-stressing during the holidays.

Do not announce your plans to visit on social media

A few times, I’ve been so thrilled about a trip that I announced it on Facebook. I’ve posted about how excited I was to see everyone I missed. I’ve told those reading to get in touch if they’d like to get together. DO NOT DO THIS. At least, if you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or stress yourself out.

Because once you post on social media that you’re coming to town, people may come out of the woodwork. All of a sudden, “friends” you haven’t seen or talked to in years want to see you. Now you’re stuck with some terrible choices. You can say you’re sorry, but you’re too busy—after you just posted about how you want to catch up with people you miss or something of that nature—or you have to bite the bullet and actually hang out with these people, which takes precious time away from the friends and family you are there to see.

This brings me to my next point…

Prioritize the most important people you need to see

If you have a big family or a lot of friends, there may not be enough time to visit everyone, especially if you want those visits to be meaningful and not rushed. I’ve been guilty of spending too little time with my family because I’ve scheduled so much stuff with friends I’m not even close with, just because I had difficulty saying no. It’s hard when you move away and want to catch up with people when you’re back home. But when it means spending less time with a niece or nephew so you can go out with friends you hardly stay in touch with during the year, that’s a choice you will probably regret later.

Prioritizing the people you need to see doesn’t have to mean you see your family only. It means make the time count by only committing to visit people in your inner circle, if that’s all you have time to do. This is easier when your family, if you have a big one, is willing to meet all together (rather than making several separate trips to see your parents, and then siblings and their families, etc.) The same goes for friends. The more people you can visit at once, the better, with exceptions for your best friend and a few others, again, if time permits.

Plan ahead

If you have only a couple of days or weeks to visit your hometown, and you haven’t done it before, you may be surprised by how quickly the time goes by. This is not the time for spontaneity. It’s too easy to miss seeing people who are really important to you because you’re trying to go with the flow. People are busy during the holidays. They have parties, events, and other friends and family visiting during this time. Since you have additional people to visit and your time is limited, make sure these friends and family members know when you’re coming, and that they give you some specifics on when they are available to see you. Set a time and a date.

And if you need some downtime to recharge, be sure to plan that in, too. You’re no good to your family and friends if you are too stressed to have fun or too tired to engage.

Do not let anyone monopolize your time

I have a few people in my life who think my visit should revolve around them. One family member in particular will almost never make plans to see me when I come to town and, although I usually try several times to schedule something, this relative will almost never commit. This person typically won’t call or text me until my visit is just about over and then usually expects me to drop everything to meet. And I used to do that, to the detriment of other people who are special to me, until I realized that it wasn’t fair to me or to them. So, last time that happened and the last-minute visit this person wanted didn’t work with my schedule, I said so. We will just have to see each other next time, I said. And I will say the same thing next time, if this person insists on doing this to me, no matter how much I’d like to visit.

In the same vein, some family and friends may think you should be spending more time with them than with other people. That’s fine for them to think, but it’s your decision to make. Be loving, but firm. You have other people who are important in your life. It can be hard to make time to see them, but you’re going to try.

Do not feel guilty

In my experience, there is always going to be someone who wants more time than you are able to give, and that is okay. It is good that people love you and want to spend time with you, but it’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time. (If that were the case, I wouldn’t be just visiting my grandma, I would be moving in with her, too!) And don’t forget, there’s always a next time you’ll be in town.

Coming home for the holidays is one of my favorite things to do, despite how stressful it can be. I’ve learned that to make the most of my time—and not over-stress and overbook myself—I need to be realistic about my availability. It’s not easy, but planning ahead and setting and sticking to priorities will help you enjoy visiting your hometown for the holidays.

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