Turkey Day Travel? Why Thanksgiving is a Great Time to Head Abroad

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Thanksgiving Travel

Turkey Day Travel? Why Thanksgiving is a Great Time to Head Abroad

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What will you be thankful for this year? Family, friends, and … cheap flights? Definitely.

Flying to see your relatives or home for Thanksgiving can be expensive – it's why we urge travelers to lock in their domestic flights early. But that doesn't mean all Thanksgiving travel is expensive.

Just the opposite: Thanksgiving can be one of the best and cheapest times of the year to travel internationally. We've seen dozens – if not hundreds – of flight deals to Europe, Asia, and elsewhere over the otherwise hectic Thanksgiving week.

While traveling over Turkey Day may seem out of the norm to most Americans, you should keep it in mind. Here's why.


Flight Deals A'Plenty

Year after year, we see the same pattern for domestic travel prices over Thanksgiving: too expensive.

Airlines know that demand for national travel is massive over that week – it’s one of the busiest times of the year to travel within the U.S. And they can charge a lot, as they know that travelers need to get home and won't bat an eye at several hundred dollars for airfare. So planes remain jam-packed all week. 

But international fares do not fit this price-gouging trend for the exact opposite reason. Travelers' eyes are focused squarely on staying home, so interest in flying abroad craters. And unlike other holidays like Christmas and New Years, most other countries don't celebrate Thanksgiving. 

And that's a boon for travelers' hunting for a good deal. From the late summer stretching all the way into winter, the vast majority of deals we send to our Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers have availability over Thanksgiving week for $250 to $500 or more off normal prices. 


thrifty traveler premium example sale


And while fares typically skyrocket between Christmas and New Year's, that's usually not the case for Thanksgiving. It's a major plus for the savvy traveler. If you're willing to skip out on turkey with the family – or bring them with to mix up your Thanksgiving celebrations – it's the perfect time to do it. 

google flights SFO to CDG


Great Time to Travel

It's cheaper to travel when fewer people are doing the same. And it can also be more fun.

While late November lands at the tail-end of shoulder season, you can still reap the benefits of fewer crowds, cheaper lodging, and hopefully decent weather before winter settles in. Thanksgiving is only celebrated in a few countries including the U.S., which means traffic shouldn’t escalate much in Europe, for example, where most countries don’t a celebrate national holiday during this timeframe. When comparing fares over Thanksgiving week versus mid-summer or peak international holidays you’ll notice drastic differences.

For example, here is a flight out of New York City (JFK) to Barcelona (BCN) leaving on Thanksgiving evening for under $300!


Google flights JFK - BCN


Try booking a similar flight around the New Year, and it could easily cost triple that amount!


Google flights JFK - BCN


Capitalize on the pros of a U.S. holiday along with the benefits of traveling during shoulder season, and it's a solid combination for a traveler on a budget.


Optimize Your Vacation Days

Most of us have just two to four weeks off each year – if we're lucky. So it takes some flexibility, creativity, and strategic planning to travel wisely.

And Thanksgiving weekend is a sweet spot on the calendar to fire off a quick trip without sacrificing too many precious vacation days. Most Americans will have Thanksgiving day off, and maybe Black Friday, too. It's a huge bonus for maximizing paid time off: up to two days of vacation, free.

For example, we posted a deal earlier this month that showcased this concept almost perfectly. You could leave on Thanksgiving evening from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) and fly nonstop to Dublin (DUB), returning the following Tuesday. That gives you four nights in a wonderful city to spend a long weekend, while using just two or three days of PTO. And at a low price to boot!


Aer Lingus booking screenshot


Want to go on a longer trip? I've gone on Thanksgiving vacations two years in a row, to Colombia and Brazil. Combining the start of summer in South America with cheap flights was an incredible decision on my end. You can spend nine days in a different country while only sacrificing a few days days of vacation. Exploit this sweet spot on the calendar and rethink when to book your next international voyage. Just be prepared: You may not eat turkey on Thanksgiving day.  


Google Flights LAX - TYO


Bottom Line

With all the benefits of traveling internationally over Thanksgiving, it can be hard to say no to that next cheap flight at the end of November. Shake things up a bit this holiday season, the juice is worth the squeeze.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

1 Responses

  • We totally do this every year! Our son gets the week of thanksgiving, while my husband and I get that Thursday and Friday. Past trips have been Costa Rica/Nicaragua and Japan. This year, it’s peru. Next year is Turkey (ha!!), Jordan and possibly, Egypt. Always build trips around holidays!

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