In 2015 I started traveling internationally over Thanksgiving week, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. First was a weeklong Caribbean cruise, tagging along with my friend who works onboard ships. If you’re lucky enough to stow away on a cruise ship, it’s good to be friends with the person in charge of shore excursions. I toured islands by train, bus and catamaran, drank more rum punches than I can remember, got over my irrational fear of snorkeling, hung out with my friend in the evenings and ate Thanksgiving dinner with the ship’s rockstar female Captain.
In 2016, two friends and I went to Cuba. I had always been fascinated with the country – long cut off from the U.S., frozen in time in many ways, the homeland of friends. We happened to be in Havana when Fidel Castro died, making for a memorable and historic trip. I felt a bit like “the most interesting woman in the world” recounting the trip at holiday parties that year.
In 2017, I traveled solo to Barcelona. I wandered around, took public transit, went to museums, ate endless tapas and explored every Gaudi site I could get to. During the trip, I met up with one of the friends from the Cuba trip, and we made paella with eight other Americans on Thanksgiving Day.
Last year, two friends and I went to Ireland and Iceland. We went to the Cliffs of Moher, drove around Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, visited the Blue Lagoon on Black Friday and ate gas station hotdogs – I promise it’s way better than it sounds. On Thanksgiving, we stood on a black sand beach next to a glacier.
2019’s Thanksgiving destination is Russia – St. Petersburg and Moscow! It’s just two weeks away at the time of writing this, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Why travel over Thanksgiving?
It started out as a necessity. If you’re trying to make the most of limited vacation time and the year is running out, a four-day weekend sure helps. Depending on how you plan, you could get in a nine-day trip and only have to take three days off. That has international travel written all over it.
Another benefit of traveling internationally for Turkey Day is that it’s affordable. While most Americans are duking it out and paying handsomely for domestic travel, international flights are relatively inexpensive. The most I’ve paid for Thanksgiving-week flights was $700 round-trip to Barcelona, including upgrades to premium both ways.
I also love checking out from the incessant commercialism of Thanksgiving week in the U.S. It’s liberating to escape from Black Friday, which I have come to loathe, and the pressure of doing “holiday stuff” for just a little while longer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the giving, thankful, togetherness spirit of the holidays, but I can’t stand that the commercialized “holiday season” now lasts a solid 10 weeks. To me, this makes the holidays less special. Being in another country and learning about their holiday traditions, which rarely have to do with money, is clutch. For example, check out the terror-inducing Icelandic Christmas Cat.
Maybe you still wonder, “What about family and turkey and football?” The good news is that family, turkey and football are all available at other times – you just have to make time for them. Or take your family on a trip with you, and make new traditions and memories.