Celebrating the Holidays During a Deployment: Stay Home or Travel?

My husband’s last deployment started in mid –November which meant I was immediately faced with the conundrum of staying put or traveling. Ultimately, the choice you make when celebrating the holidays during a deployment is very personal, and there are pros and cons to whichever choice you make. In the end, I chose to travel for Thanksgiving and stay home for Christmas.

For Thanksgiving, I went a few hours away to a friend’s house as her husband was also deployed. The two of us and our 3 boys collectively were able to create a warm, family feel. She was nearing the end of her husband’s deployment while I was at the beginning and she was able to share some tips and give me some hope. None of our children were yet talking and it was lovely to be with someone who understands.

Celebrating the Holidays During A Deployment: Stay Home or Travel?

Pros of traveling to see family and friends
-You will be with other people for the holiday season
-It often means less work in terms of cooking
-If you have children, they can help ease your single parent load for a bit

Cons of traveling to see family and friends
-If you have children, travel can mean disrupted sleep and some children do not travel well
-If you have a good support network within the military community, you will be separated from that.
-Family might not understand what it is like to be apart from a spouse during the holiday season.

Pros of staying home when your spouse is deployed
-If you have lived far from family for some time, you likely have your own holiday traditions which will not be disrupted.
-If you have babies or very young children, they might sleep better in their own room and you do not have to fight holiday airports or roads while wrestling very young children.
-If you have older children, they might prefer to be in their own house during the holidays, especially if they believe in Santa

Cons of staying home when your spouse is deployed
-If your children are too young to talk, it might be a very quiet holiday
-You might feel lonely and more aware of your spouse’s absence from the home
-You might have to do all the cooking for the holiday meal

In my case, the travel to my friend’s house was very stressful with 2 babies in diapers who both screamed every time they were in the car for longer than 30 minutes. Once I got there, there was not much sleep and no naps from either 7 month old Word Boy (then Word Baby) or from 2 year old Science Kid (then Science toddler). As my husband had just left and my friend was burnt out from her husband having been gone so long, the benefits outweighed those issues. I remember that holiday fondly, although glad to never have to relive the 5 hour car drive or the sleepless nights.

The Christmas I spent alone was bittersweet. My family lived over 1000 miles away, and given the distance and how poorly my boys traveled and how young they were, I decided to stay home. It was surreal to wake up on Christmas and have no one in the house that could talk or even understood it was a holiday. My father flew in that night, and so we opened presents and celebrated Christmas the following day. We spent Christmas morning with our neighbor’s family and then had Christmas dinner at a friend’s house near the airport where I was picking my father up. I will be honest that I was sad and lonely but it somehow felt right that Christmas was so different with my spouse absent.

Now that my boys are older, I am a more experienced parent and military spouse, and my children have more experience with travel, I am not sure whether I would stay home or travel to be with family during the holidays. This Thanksgiving I am grateful that my spouse will be home and out of harm’s way. And I am thankful for you, the readers, who are deployed or have a spouse deployed.

Are you celebrating the holidays during a deployment? Do you plan on going home for the holidays or hunkering down at home? 

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