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Home (and broke) for the holidays

Students weigh in on holiday travel - despite cost and distance, getting home is a priority to most

When junior Caitlin Hittner heads home for winter break, she will be packing light - taking nothing but a small suitcase and a carry-on to last her for six weeks. Unlike the majority of Miami students, she does not have the luxury of a short car ride home with half her school belongings in the trunk. For the second time in three weeks, she will be boarding a plane for the 2,000 mile journey back to her home of San Marino, California.

"You learn that you don't need a lot," Hittner said, regarding her packing limitations. "I'm lucky because where I'm from is not very cold. I don't have to bring home a bunch of heavy layers or jackets. Most of the clothes I would wear at home I don't even bother bringing to school, which makes packing a lot easier."

Hittner is one of the 30 percent of Miami students who are venturing out of state to get home for the holidays. However, because of the significant distance between Oxford and California, and the steep cost of traveling it, winter break is usually the only time during the school year Hittner can head home.

This year, though, she was lucky. She was able to travel back for Thanksgiving, and will see her family again for Christmas. Together, it will cost her more than a $1,000.

"Going home can be pricey. I try to book my flights as far in advance as I can to get better rates," Hittner said. "In terms of distance and travel time, I love going home, so I don't mind a long flight or the time spent traveling."

Senior Matt Watt will also be flying home this holiday, his journey to Hartford, Connecticut about 770 miles. He agreed that expensive airfare is a challenge he must work around to ensure he sees his family as much as he can during the school year.

"I feel fortunate to be able to go home because the airfare can be quite steep at times," Watt said. "I spend around $700 for flights alone per year. That's not including ground transportation to and from the airport and the 16-hour car ride at the beginning and end of school. A flight for a Thanksgiving ticket can cost more then that if your not careful."

As an architecture major, Watt often has to lug pounds of bulky supplies to and from Oxford. This also makes traveling long distances especially difficult, he said.

"The architecture supplies is a major problem moving in and out at the beginning of school," Watt said. "My architecture stuff alone could fill up half a car, not to mention somehow figuring out a way to include all the other college essentials."

Hittner echoed his sentiment, emphasizing that the end of the year move-out poses the biggest challenges to her travel.

"Going home for the summer is a different story because I have to bring whatever I don't store," Hittner said. "I'm usually lugging four or five bags around the airport. It's a good arm workout."

She added that weather adds its own obstacles, especially during flights home for winter break.

"This is the time of year where weather plays a bigger factor and can cause further delays," Hittner said. "It's funny because a snow storm in Chicago can keep a plane from taking off or landing on time in L.A. on a bright and sunny day. The polar vortex affects everyone."

First-year Serena Li has to travel one of the longest distances of all: around 7,300 miles to her home in the Anhui Province of China, near Shang Hai. This will be the first time she will be seeing her family since she moved into Miami three months ago. The familiarity of home, and the love she has for her family, she said, is well worth the 24-hour travel time, and the $1,000 expense.

"I am so excited to see my family," she said. "And I can't wait to finally eat good Chinese food."

Despite the inherent challenges that come with traveling, Hittner, Watt and Li agree that it is worth being home for the holidays. And their love for Miami helps to lessen the burden, too.

"There can be challenges and hurdles while traveling the long distance, but its worth the hassle," Watt said. "The friendships and experiences I've gained at Miami are well worth the expenses."