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Sherri Richards, Published December 06 2013

Instead of going home, more and more holiday travel is taking people away for the holidays

Fargo -- ‘I’ll be home for Christmas,” a crooner promises in the holiday classic. After all,

“There’s no place like home for the holidays,” another carol contends.

Not so for Tom and Joann Colville. The Fargo couple takes part in a growing trend, traveling over the holidays, not to return to a familial home, but for leisure.

A fall survey by Travel Leaders Group asked travel planners the top reasons why clients travel for the holidays. Traveling home to see family was third on the list, behind “traveling with family to an international destination” and “taking an international vacation to a beach destination.”

Domestic travel – with family and to a beach destination – rounded out the list.

Cindy Tyo, owner of Travel Leaders in Fargo and a travel consultant since 1980, says she’s seen holiday-timed travel solely for leisure increase every year. Often these trips include extended family, she says.

“The trend is much more going to a beach destination, a cruise,” she says.

Tom and Joann Colville have traveled at Christmastime every year for the better part of a decade. They often plan their itinerary around the Queen Mary II.

“Home is where you define it,” Joann says. “Home for us is the ship at Christmastime.”

This year, they’ll fly to London and sail back to New York on the Queen Mary II.

“That takes six days of ocean traveling, which is wonderful and very relaxing,” Joann says.

They’ll then stay on the ship, and travel around the Caribbean for two weeks.

“Holidays tend to be such a stressful time,” Tom says. “All those expectations that are often unrealized.”

The Colvilles say they prefer to spend time with family when it’s more relaxed, and then get away from the hustle and bustle of December.

“The holidays have become primarily an economic thing. It’s become our duty to go out and support the stores and spend money,” Tom says. “Both of us find it offensive and stressful and have chosen not to be a part of it.”

Rather than gifts, they make a donation or buy something for a nonprofit, typically the Red River Zoo, where Tom is the attending veterinarian.

They didn’t travel at Christmas when their son was young. Now he and his family have their own traditions.

The ships they cruise on are decorated, and offer plenty of activities, the Tom and Joann say. Santa Claus shows up for the families with children.

Tyo says families who travel at Christmas don’t need to sacrifice the customs of holidays spent at home. For example, she says families can arrange for special foods at their destination.

“You can bring some of your traditions with you,” she says.

Jodi Flickinger of Fargo, will spend this Christmas at the Beaches resort on Turks and Caicos with 19 family members. They’ll be joined there by the family’s former foreign exchange student from Sweden, her husband and two kids.

The group, including Flickinger’s parents, two brothers, sister, their spouses and 10 kids, leaves Dec. 21.

This is the first holiday trip the family is taking. Flickinger says the idea originated with her mother more than a year ago. She wanted them to take a family trip before her grandchildren got older. Traveling during the holidays takes advantage of the kids being out of school.

Because of the size of the group, it’s considered a family reunion trip. They’ll take part in “Family Olympics.” The resort will set up a family dinner for them on Christmas Eve, followed by a service.

Flickinger says her holidays have typically been spent on the family farm near Breckenridge, Minn. For many years, Christmas Eve dinner included Cornish hens and lobster tails.

She’s looking forward to flying to a warm and tropical destination instead of making the blustery drive back home.

“It’s definitely going to be a new experience to wake up with sand on the beach instead of snow outside,” Flickinger says. “I’m not going to complain.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556