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Coronavirus prompts a welcome change to a holiday travel dilemma

Coronavirus Prompts a Welcome Change to a Holiday Travel Dilemma
Coronavirus prompts a welcome change to a holiday travel dilemma
Posted at 6:47 PM, Oct 29, 2020

In a typical year, most people want to see family for the holidays. But many people don’t really want to stay with family.

So if you’ve already made the decision to spend the holidays this year with family members outside of your household, here’s one perhaps welcome byproduct of 2020: Instead of sleeping in your childhood bedroom or on the basement futon, you might finally stay in a hotel.

While 95% of Americans say it’s usually important to spend the holidays with family, 30% say they believe they would enjoy the holiday season more if their family came together without all sleeping under the same roof. That’s according to an online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults by SWNS Media Group and commissioned by Motel 6, done in 2019 — before COVID-19 was part of the vernacular.

Now you have reason to be optimistic about an otherwise brutal 2020 — you finally have a tough-to-argue-with excuse to not stay with family (or not to let family stay with you, if you’re usually the host). Instead, if you’re still planning to see family, it’s more likely that this is the year you find yourself staying at a hotel or vacation rental.

Here’s why you should take advantage of this one silver lining in what most people agree has been a crummy year for traveling and seeing family.

You’ll have better quality time

Twenty percent of respondents in SWNS Media Group’s 2019 survey said getting on each other’s nerves was a top concern when it comes to staying with family during the holidays. Another 20% cited family drama. More time together means more opportunities to get annoyed and allow tense topics to creep up: the election, the pandemic, the economy, healthcare … and the list goes on.

According to the Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines, gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. So instead of a long weekend with family, this year you might meet up for a few hours to have Thanksgiving dinner at a park, or to go on a neighborhood walk to view the Christmas lights.

Just a few hours together before heading back to your hotel allows you to focus on easier conversation topics without causing a ruckus. That’s enough time to discuss the latest happenings in Zoom school or to chat about your newfound hobbies, without getting into areas that are more likely to ruffle feathers.

You’ll sleep more comfortably

Staying with family as an adult can be uncomfortable — literally. Maybe you and your kids are shoved in a basement. A loose piece of plywood from the futon is jamming into your back. Your kids are in sleeping bags on the floor in the hallway, blocking your path to the bathroom (which you’re sharing with your sibling and their own family).

This year, go for the hotel or vacation rental. You’ll have a real bed. The kids might get their own room, and you won’t have to share a bathroom with anyone outside of your household.

You’ll also get to live on your own schedule. So turn on the TV in the morning without worrying about your host’s dog barking at it. Or stay out as long as you want, without grandma worrying that you’re out too late (even though you’re a full-grown adult).

You have a good excuse not to host guests

If you’re usually the host, you already know it’s a lot of work. But this year, you’ve got a built-in excuse to avoid those extra loads of laundry and dishes. No making sure you have enough vegan, gluten-free and keto food options in your pantry to accommodate all of your guests.

Instead, you have an opportunity to see family members in your city without them living inside your house. This year, you might recommend the family meet up for apple-picking (the CDC lists visiting orchards where people use hand sanitizer before picking apples as only a moderate-risk activity).

Even if you’re still serving as the host in some capacity — perhaps offering up your backyard for an outdoor feast — you’re off the hook for one of the worst aspects of being a host: ensuring everyone has a bed to sleep in for the night. Nearly 40% of hosts said organizing sleeping arrangements is one of the most stressful parts of preparing for guests, according to the SWNS Media Group survey.

You won’t offend your host by not staying with them

While some folks find aspects of hosting incredibly stressful, some guests find it just as stress-inducing to decline invitations from hosts who insist you sleep over. Some of the world’s top etiquette experts have devoted effort into devising ways to politely-but-firmly decline invitations from hosts who are adamant that you stay over.

Bu this year, you don’t need an etiquette expert to help you explain why you’d rather opt for a hotel.

You’ll find better hotel deals this year

If you’ve always toyed with the idea of staying at a hotel but staying with family usually wins out in the name of saving money, here’s another reason to give in to the hotel for the 2020 holidays: You’ll likely score better rates than in any other year.

With summer travel down, hotel chains offered up some pretty good deals, many of which are still valid now — and many hotels offered up bonus points in their loyalty programs with every stay. At one point, Best Western was handing out gift cards just for staying with them.

Luxury travelers can still take advantage of a super sweet deal in Fairmont’s nearly unbeatable buy one, get one free offer for every night’s stay until April 30, 2021 (book before Nov. 16, 2020).

If travel doesn’t pick up, it’s likely you’ll find more deals ahead of the winter holiday season. In fact, Hyatt has already announced that all World of Hyatt members will earn 3x points for qualifying stays through January 4, 2021, for up to 150,000 bonus points (anyone can become a member for free online).

And if you’re a Hilton Honors member, you’ll earn double bonus points for stays at Hilton hotel between now and December 31, 2020. That’s good for building up your hoard of Hilton Honors points, but it’s also great if you’re trying to earn Hilton Honors elite status, as you’ll also earn double night credits for your stay.

The bottom line

This year has been rough in a lot of ways, but it’s also provided opportunities for silver linings. Travelers have already experienced some positive changes, like waived airline change fees, improved hotel cancellation policies and better airplane sanitization (because when were the tray tables ever cleaned before this?).

And this holiday season, there’s one more reason to look on the bright side: Whether you’re masking it up for Christmas this year or hosting a socially distanced in-person Thanksgiving picnic, you’re finally off the hook for sleeping on the squeaky futon in the basement. Perhaps the best present you can give yourself this holiday season (without feeling guilty about it): your own hotel room.

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Sally French is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @SAFmedia.