Why Thanksgiving is the best time for your first international solo trip

Written by Rachel Chang

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The turkey is roasting in the oven, the mashed potatoes are simmering on the stove, and you are — exhausted.

Whether you’ve taken a flight, train ride, or car trip to your Thanksgiving destination, surely you’ve had to battle crowds since the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after are some of the busiest travel days in the U.S.

With my family spread out around the country, I got used to paying the crazy high airfares to travel on those days (even when I thought I was outsmarting the airlines by booking way back in the spring!) and sitting on the floor in overcrowded airports because of the always delayed holiday flights.

But a few years back, I decided to take a different strategy — and 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 international solo trip week. Here’s why:

You’ll optimize your days off

At most companies, Thanksgiving Thursday and the Friday after are designated federal holidays. The best way to optimize your vacation days is to take the three days for the Monday through Wednesday and get a whopping nine consecutive days off. No other holiday on the U.S. calendar allows for this strategic math, where three equals nine. A triple value!

Plus, as we’re nearing the end of the year, Americans love letting their well-earned vacation days go to waste. In 2017, we didn’t use an accumulated 705 million days. Although I know I definitely used mine ;)…

 

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Travel is about stripping away all assumptions and opening your mind to new views, new perspectives, and new beliefs… even about yourself. Back at home, I’m in physical therapy, working on my lack of balance, tight hips, and inability to engage the core. During our paddle boarding lesson in the Finnish forest, our guide said to focus on balance, loose hips, and core engagement — precisely my three biggest challenges. I started out slow, gaining confidence on my knees… and eventually found myself standing up on the paddle board — something I never thought I’d be able to do! (Heck, I can’t even stand on one leg on solid ground!) So let go of your presumptions and you just might find yourself walking on water! Thank you to our amazing @flashpack guide Marko for capturing this moment and reminding me of the power of travel.🇫🇮 #flashpack #picsworthsharing #nuuksio #finland #travel #myowneurotrip . . . . . . #nuuksionationalpark #adventure #challengeyourself #sup #paddleboarding #standuppaddleboarding #instatravel #instatraveling #instatravelgram #instatravelgram #wanderwoman #solotraveler #solotravelling #solotraveller #travelingsolo #lake #wilderness #camping #standuppaddle #paddleboard #firsttimers #pushyourlimits #trysomethingnew #newadventures #travelspiration

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Planning days off around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays often involves juggling your schedule with your coworkers’ to make sure enough people are in the office. Since most people only take the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, take advantage and use your days sooner than later.

After all, unused vacation days can’t be recycled – and they’ll take you further (literally) now.

It’s stressless vacation planning

I’ve studied all the travel forecasts and plotted out the best strategies and routes – yet always still ended up resigning myself to some sort of ridiculous holiday travel drama, whether it was landing home in San Jose, California, after the airport was technically closed or spending the day before a flight getting calls every few hours about the delayed flight…that was eventually canceled.

But my travels out of the country have been just like any other operating day. So all I had to do was make two bookings – my flight and my tour – and I was done.

Just boarded my flight and from the moment I landed, I was in the care of the group tour…no further research needed. I was able to experience all the highlights of the country by spending less than an hour on the planning!

Your travels are more relaxed and authentic

As soon as I started redirecting my Thanksgiving travels out of the country, I realized I was always at one of the gates that wasn’t overflowing – and actually could get a seat. Being able to sit and relax to start a trip sets the right tone.

I’ve been to Ecuador, Morocco, and Argentina on my own during the November holiday, always landing on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Once I got to each airport, that stressful hustle of the holiday travel season was noticeably gone.

In fact, it was life as normal since it’s not a holiday week in most countries, so you immediately get to experience a slice of daily life. And since so many Americans are not traveling out of the country, there’s often less crowds at the touristy international spots.

You’ll find a new meaning for Thanksgiving

Yes, being away from family and friends (Friendsgiving counts too!) on a major American holiday can be rough, but once you’re out of the country, you won’t have any of those reminders (it’s not like traveling abroad for Valentine’s Day, where you’re still inundated with heart-shaped candy boxes at every turn!).

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.

And one of my favorite ways to truly celebrate American traditions is explaining and sharing them with non-Americans I’ve met on group tours, like I found myself doing in a group of all solo travelers with Flash Pack in Finland.

You’ll be thankful for being single

If you’re home for Thanksgiving, surrounded by nieces and nephews running around, inevitably, the question (and judgment) of why you’re not married with children will come up. And just to hit that point home, some of us even find ourselves assigned to the kids’ table.

Take control of that situation and celebrate the fact that you’re single (after all, science says we’re better off in life!) by showing it off and traveling solo.

On my Flash Pack trip to Finland, all of the other travelers in my group with on their own too – so we were immediately bonded by that common thread…and proud of it!

And there are perfectly timed trips that fit into the Thanksgiving week itinerary, like Oman on November 18 and Cuba on November 19. You’ll find some more of those below.

Or if you’d just like a shorter taste without using up extra vacation days, opt for the Iceland departure on November 22.

Finding thanks on Thanksgiving can be in any form — and for me, I’ve found there’s no better way to express gratitude than by channeling the adventurous spirit of our forefathers and experiencing a new world.

Now put your leave to good use on three perfectly-timed trips:

Surfing and yoga in Morocco

Hit the waves and unwind in the Atlas Mountains on this 9-day adventure to stunning Morocco. You’ll spend three nights at a surf/yoga retreat, masterclasses included. Then glamp under the stars in the desert and hike the extraordinary valleys and peaks of the Atlas Mountains. You’ll also take on a foodie safari around the Marrakech medina and stay in a traditional Berber guesthouse filled with Moroccan rugs and artwork.

November 16 – I’m in

Stretch your limits in Jordan

Saddle up for a sunrise camel ride

Take on waterfalls and rugged ravines as you canyon the mighty Wadi Mujib and hike the ‘back door’ route to the famous Rose Red City of Petra. Explore the lunar landscape of Wadi Rum in a fleet of jeeps and then float in the mineral-rich Dead Sea at sunset.

November 18 – let’s go

Into the unknown of Iceland

Explore a land of magical landscapes and incredible culture – Iceland is truly a treat for the senses. Cruise across the Langjökull glacier on a snowmobile safari, bathe in the geothermal healing waters of the Blue Lagoon and spot spouting geysers near the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall. And, of course, attempt to catch the Northern Lights staying at a family-run lodge with zero light pollution.

November 22 – tell me more

Photos: Flash Pack/Shutterstock


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