Yes, I know this is six months ahead of time, but my family starts planning holidays EARLY.
My mother is widowed and the highlight of her year, every year, is having all of her adult children come home for Christmas. However, this year I've decided not to make that trip for several reasons. Flying across the country and boarding a dog over the holidays takes up almost an entire month's salary for me (I'm a grad student). Also, I haven't seen my dad's family, including my last surviving grandparent, in several years and promised my grandmother I'd fly across the country to yet another state to visit her for Thanksgiving (my mother will not attend that), taking up a considerable amount of money and time as well. Finally, my laboratory research is very delicate and needs attention 7 days a week. I can ask for coverage but I hate to use up favors over Christmas, assuming anybody would even be in town to help me out.
So, how to I break the news to my mother that even if she offers to pay for my ticket, I just can't make it this year?