Thanksgiving weekend is notorious for long lines at the airport, jammed highways, and stressed-out travelers headed to see loved ones. However, there’s an alternative way to spend the weekend, if you’re willing to forego some American traditions.
Spending Thanksgiving in Europe can enable you to see some of the Continent’s capital cities at a fraction of standard vacation prices. Major providers have put together quick getaways, usually featuring airfare, three or four nights’ accommodations, and breakfast.
Barbara Messing, vice president and consumer travel expert at Hotwire, recommends Europe this time of year. “There are good airfares and discounting … and travelers can explore the sights without the crowds. The farther south travelers go, the better the weather.”
So if you want to see world-class museums, forego the turkey for regional specialties, and get unique holiday gifts without the Black Friday hordes, consider a European Thanksgiving getaway. And if you take advantage of a new promotion to Iceland, you can even get a traditional turkey feast with all the trimmings. Here are some options for your trip.
- Gate 1 Travel is offering a host of Thanksgiving getaway packages throughout Europe. Four-night vacations to Paris start at $499, London packages are available from $599, and Rome comes in at $649. Other available destinations include Florence, Madrid, and Vienna. Or, to celebrate Thanksgiving in Turkey, Gate 1 has an Istanbul package from $639. Most packages are available for travel between November 19 and 23. While Gate 1 has not listed booking deadlines, all offers are subject to availability.
- Go-today.com has several “Thanksgiving Getaway” promotions to Europe’s major cities, including a London package from $499, a Paris vacation from $549, and a Rome trip from $649. Departures are valid on November 22, and you must book by November 16. When compared to go-today.com’s other London and Paris offerings throughout fall and winter, the Thanksgiving deals prove to be the least-expensive packages available.
- Icelandair gives you the best of both worlds with its “Thanksgiving a la Iceland” vacation. This package starts at $789 and includes round-trip airfare and airport transfers, three nights at the Hotel Loftleidir in Reykjavik, a daily Scandinavian breakfast buffet, a Blue Lagoon tour, and a traditional Thanksgiving dinner buffet at the hotel restaurant. Departures at the $789 rate are available on November 22 from Baltimore, Boston, or New York; you may also depart from Minneapolis or Orlando for an additional charge.
- While not Thanksgiving sales per se, EuropeASAP‘s packages over the holiday weekend are among the cheapest year-round. “London City Break” vacations start at $499 for six-night trips (just a month earlier, this deal cost $659), and “Paris City Break” six-night packages are available from $649 (October prices for the same itinerary started at $719). Travel is valid through mid-December and again in early 2007, but you must book by November 16.
- EuropeanDestinations.com has a “Thanksgiving 2006 in Europe” promotion with five-night vacations to Prague starting at $429. Other possibilities are London from $499, Florence from $519, Amsterdam from $599, and Venice from $639. There is no deadline to book.
To find the best prices, “play with your travel dates, as you don’t want to compete with domestic airline traffic,” says Messing. She also advises flying into major airports such as Heathrow or Charles DeGaulle, regardless of your destination city. Once in London or Paris, “hop on to one of the many low-cost U.K. airlines to explore other cities in Europe.”
If you didn’t see a destination that interests you, another option is to check Site59, which specializes in last-minute vacation packages, a week or two before the Thanksgiving holiday. Shortly before press time, Site59 was listing November getaways from $601 to Amsterdam, $620 to Brussels, and $632 to Dublin, among other cities.
If the idea of skipping Thanksgiving turkey for an Italian or French feast sounds good to you, you’re willing to trade American football for a game of rugby, or the thought of starting your holiday shopping at a [% 249898 | | traditional Christmas market %] (rather than a crowded mall) is appealing, then consider a European vacation for Thanksgiving this year. Regardless of which European capital you choose, you can plan your trip with the confidence that you’re seeing the Continent at one of the most enjoyable—and affordable—times to visit.