The turkey is roasting in the oven, the mashed potatoes are simmering on the stove and, well, you’re exhausted. Whether you’ve taken a flight, train ride or car trip to your Thanksgiving destination, you’ll likely have had to battle crowds days before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, which adds to some of the busiest travel days in the US.
With my family spread out across the country, I’ve been used to paying extortionately high airfares to travel on those busy days (even when I thought I was outsmarting the airlines by booking way back in the spring), and sitting on the floor of overcrowded airports due to flight delays.
But a few years ago, I decided enough was enough. It was time to take a different strategy — flee the country on my own. As it turns out, there are numerous advantages to traveling abroad during Thanksgiving week and I’ve since turned it into my annual solo adventure.
I use the nine consecutive days for a solo adventure
For most companies in the US, Thanksgiving Thursday and the Friday are designated holidays. So, the best way to optimize your leave is to take the three days before off, meaning you get nine consecutive days to play with. No other holiday on the US calendar allows for this.
Plus, as it’s near the end of the year, a lot of Americans find they’ve stacked up their holiday days without taking them. Planning days off around Christmas and New Year’s can be tricky, often having to juggle schedules with coworkers to ensure enough people are in the office.
And, since most people only take the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, I prefer to take advantage and use my days sooner rather than later. After all, unused holiday can’t be recycled.
I make two bookings: my flight and group tour and I’m ready
Despite having studied travel forecasts and plotted the best strategies and routes, I’ve always resigned myself to some sort of unforeseen holiday travel drama, whether that’s landing home in San Jose, California after the airport has technically closed, or seeing my flight progressively more delayed, only for it to eventually be cancelled.
But my travels out of the country have been like any other operating day. All I ever have to do is make two bookings: my flight and my group tour and I’m ready. I board the plane and, from the moment I land, I’m in the care of someone else – no further research needed. As a result, I’ve been able to experience all the highlights of a country and spend less than an hour planning.
As soon as I started redirecting my holiday travels out of the US, I found myself at gates that weren’t overflowing – and I could actually could get a seat. Being able to relax before the start of a trip sets the right tone. So far I’ve been to Ecuador, Morocco, and Argentina on my own during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
As it’s not a holiday elsewhere, there’s often less crowds
At each airport, that stressful hustle was noticeably gone. In fact, it was life as normal. And, as it’s not a holiday elsewhere, there’s often less crowds at the touristy hotspots, too.
Don’t get me wrong, being away from family and friends on a major American holiday can be rough, but once you’re out of the country, there aren’t any of those reminders (unlike Valentine’s Day, where you’d still be inundated with heart-shaped candy boxes wherever you were).
Before my first solo Thanksgiving trip, a friend suggested I bring a bag of dried cranberries with me – a little taste of Thanksgiving dinner far from home. On another trip, while I was in Morocco, we happened to have a tagine cooking class that night and the chef surprised us with turkey as the main ingredient.
On my Flash Pack trip to Finland, my group immediately bonded
And one of my favourite ways to truly celebrate American traditions is by sharing them with non-Americans I’ve met on group tours, like I found myself doing with my fellow solo travelers on my Flash Pack trip to Finland.
There’s also the chance that, if you’re single in your 30s or 40s and you’re home for Thanksgiving, surrounded by nieces and nephews, the inevitable question of why you’re not married with children will come up. In fact, some of us even find ourselves assigned to the kids table.
Instead, I’ve taken control of the situation and celebrate the fact I’m single (after all, science says there are benefits) by embracing it and traveling solo. On my Flash Pack trip to Finland, my group immediately bonded by that common thread and we were all proud of it.
I express gratitude by channelling my adventurous spirit
Finding thanks during the holiday can be in any form. For me, I’ve found there’s no better way to express gratitude than by channelling my adventurous spirit on a once-in-a-lifetime solo adventure.
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Images: Flash Pack