During what is one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, Thanksgiving weekend, consider taking an international vacation to avoid the crazy crowds. AAA publishes an annual Thanksgiving travel report which reminds us that millions of people hit the road and take domestic trips during this time of year. While Europe is getting crowded and suffering from overtourism, November is an excellent month visit. Why not do something different this Thanksgiving and go on a European vacation?
IMPORTANT: Due to the global pandemic, foreign travel opportunities are sadly quite limited. For most it is not advisable to fly to Europe given the entry restrictions or quarantine for Americans. Be careful, read the latest COVID-19 safety guidelines for your country and where you hope to visit, and consider postponing end of year vacations to better times.
Start making plans for the Thanksgiving holiday over the summer or just after the Labor Day holiday when people head back to school and work. Ask yourself if you should plan to spend it with family like most Americans or would you rather take a vacation. After reading this article you might be tempted to leverage the paid holiday dates (Thursday and possibly Friday if you are fortunate to get both days off at your job) to embark on a memorable Thanksgiving vacation by flying to Europe.
Author’s Note: After my wife and I caught the travel bug and first ventured outside of North America years back, we quickly realized the opportunity to take an international trip over Thanksgiving weekend. We have skipped the traditional Thanksgiving dinner several years for an extraordinary holiday experience in Venice, Turkey (why not?), Denmark, and Japan (another excellent option for fall foliage travel in November).
I realize that for most Americans, Thanksgiving is a family ritual and a welcome tradition to enjoy a bountiful multi-generational get-together. It’s also the start of the big holiday shopping season (aka Black Friday) which some find even more exciting, especially after you’ve eaten way too much.
Don’t get me wrong… I have definitely enjoyed many years worth of Thanksgiving dinners. While I do love to travel at holiday time (and any time), I often look forward to spending a memorable time with family and friends around the Thanksgiving table. The comfort food memories are what sticks with me including the turkey in the oven with a side of sweet potatoes, stuffing, biscuits, gray, and even the jellied cranberry sauce (yes the one in the can!).
However there are several good reasons to skip town and tell the extended family that you’ll be taking a much deserved vacations instead. If you fall into the group of people who cannot ever imagine missing out on Thanksgiving, try this technique with another company holiday. This travel post is not for everybody but if you are budget minded, OK with skipping tradition at least once in a while, and like to avoid crowds, keep reading…
Now that you have decided to spend Thanksgiving in Europe, where should you go? While I am not against visiting a colder place with fewer daylight hours such as in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, I advise sticking with big cities that are natural hubs along with countries in the southern third of Europe. That way you will have more to do, reasonable weather, and there is less risk of tourist attractions having closed for the winter.
Pay attention to the exchange rate to make the most of your vacation to Europe. If you are saving and spending US dollars in a foreign country you have to consider the strength or weakness of the dollar. Fortunately the dollar has been a very strong currency as of 2018 and 2019 (2020 and beyond looks a bit weaker) so you’ll get more for your dollar when compared with the Euro. Look up the value of the EUR exchange rate on XE online to follow the trends and convert the cost of your trip into your own currency.
Remember that not all countries use Euro as money in Europe. Many countries such as the U.K. (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – not the Republic of Ireland who are in the EU and use the Euro), the Nordic countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland), and many Eastern European countries (e.g. Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria) still have their own currency. Regardless when the U.S. dollar is strong that typically means the other currencies (except perhaps the Swiss Franc in Switzerland) are a better value.
The issue of travel insurance is often forgotten or misunderstood when it comes to foreign travel. Travel agents push trip protection insurance (becomes it’s profitable) when selling package tours, cruises, and flight+hotel bookings. While it is smart to protect your vacation investment in case you have to cancel, are delayed, or miss your connection, heath insurance can be a much bigger concern.
The first question to ask is whether your current health insurance policy will cover you while traveling outside of the your home country (USA in my example). It is a critical question to ask (don’t assume) because you don’t want to risk your health or safety in a foreign country just to save a few dollars. Given them a call or go online to verify and ask questions:
Travel medical insurance policies are really not expensive compared to the cost of your trip. They are designed to cover your medical expenses when on vacation anywhere in the world outside of your home country. Plus policies with evacuation coverage will pay for the cost of transferring you home or to a country with a modern hospital in case of emergency.
Whether you are an independent traveler or booked with a travel agency, you have the right to purchase your own trip insurance. This is often cheaper, especially when you use a travel insurance meta-search engine like InsureMyTrip. In just a few clicks you can compare policies that meet your needs to find the lowest price with your preferred insurance company. Give it a try to make sure your Thanksgiving trip to Europe includes health insurance coverage when you leave America.
It is easy to see how you can turn a busy and stressful holiday into a great vacation opportunity. Make it your work-life balance goal to leverage the free days off you get for the Thanksgiving holiday as an American to visit Europe or anywhere else in the world. This year Europe can be just as affordable as traveling far to visit family. The bonus is how you’ll experience fewer crowds as you explore the history, culture, food, and activities across the European continent.
Those of you who live in Canada can use this same technique during the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday happening on the first Monday in October. You may need to add an extra vacation day or two in order to justify flying all the way to Europe, but you’ll experience mild weather and fewer crowds versus the summer months.
While spending Thanksgiving on vacation in Europe is probably the best choice for most Americans this November, there are many other destinations worth considering. Asia might be an easier flight for those living on the West Coast while Central and South America are often a shorter and less expensive flight away.
Be aware that the crowds will vary based on your destination so check the official holiday calendar by country and search to check where Americans visit in droves over the holiday period. Another great idea if you have more vacation days accrued and ready to put towards your Thanksgiving adventure is to head down under to Australia and New Zealand. Since the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, Thanksgiving time is the start of their summer.
Missing out on a well-established family tradition (and the foods you crave this festive time of year) can be tough so you don’t have to follow this plan every year. Consider it as an option to do something different over Thanksgiving based on your own travel goals and family obligations. Taking an international trip for the Thanksgiving holiday will always be an excellent way to:
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