During a recent TravelSkills Travel Chat on Twitter, many frequent travelers advised that they stay home during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, because travel by air and highway  is intense.

It is. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is usually one of the busiest flight days of the year.

MaldivesFor most of the past 12 years, our tradition for the week of Thanksgiving has been to leave the U.S. and travel to an international destination using a combination of frequent flyer miles, hotel points, heavily discounted cruises, and/or by purchasing discounted airfares.

Originally, we started this tradition when we had new jobs with very little vacation time, and Thanksgiving week was a way to travel for 10 days while only taking 3 days of vacation.  When we learned all of the benefits of international travel during the week of U.S. Thanksgiving, we have continued the tradition.

Yes, we miss Thanksgiving dinner with our extended families, but we have gained the opportunity to visit some amazing destinations at little to no cost.

Here are 6 reasons to travel internationally during U.S. Thanksgiving:

1. Flights leaving the US are cheaper than normal. We discovered that demand for flying from the U.S. to international destinations is down during this week. After all, what U.S. business traveler is going to make a business trip to Milan or Hong Kong during Thanksgiving week if they can help it? None, which is why international airfares, especially business class airfares are discounted for travel out of the U.S. during Thanksgiving.

2. Travel awards for international travel are easier to obtain.  There is also less demand for international holiday travel during the week of U.S. Thanksgiving, making it easier to get that business class ticket to Singapore or Amsterdam with frequent flyer points.

3. Hotel are cheaper.  If you travel using U.S. hotel chains such as Hilton or Marriott, and stay in major cities where these hotels are normally filled with U.S. business travelers, demand is way down during the week of U.S. Thanksgiving. As a result, room rates are lower and the number of hotel reward points necessary for a free night are also decreased.

4. Cruises are cheaper than most times of the year. Cruises in November and early December carry some of the lowest rates of the year, mainly because many people don’t want to cruise during those time periods, and it’s the end of the hurricane season. If you schedule a 10-day or longer cruise that includes Thanksgiving week, you can score a fantastic deal, especially in South America and the Caribbean.

5. You get to take advantage of 1-2 vacation days at work.  Many U.S. workers  who aren’t employed in retail get both Thursday and Friday as holidays.  If this is you, Thanksgiving week offers a great opportunity to take a full week off of work while using only 3 vacation days

6. You can “top off” your frequent flyer and/or hotel award status level. Are you close to 1K or Platinum Status or whatever the top tier level is in your frequent flyer program.  An inexpensive flight to Europe or Asia is a great way to add a chunk of miles/points to your account, with a more scenic destination than a typical mileage run to nowhere.

Once again we are traveling during part of Thanksgiving week, but we hope to share some highlights of our past trips that we haven’t blogged about before.  Check back this week for a little Thanksgiving international travel inspiration.

Have you traveled internationally during Thanksgiving? Where did you go? Please share in comments below.

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An Interview About Cruises Part 1

by Kathryn Johnson on November 22, 2014

Have you ever wondered what it would like to take a vacation on a cruise?  Have you ever wanted to go on a cruise, but didn’t know where to start or what to do?

cruise shipsSince I have never been on one, I’ve always been curious about cruising and what it’s like.  These questions answered by Janis Jones will likely help you learn more.

1.  Are there different types of distinct cruises, and if so, what are they?

Cruises can be categorized in two different key ways: by itinerary (where the cruise goes), and by cruise line (what’s the onboard cruise experience?) Many cruisers first choose the itinerary based on where they want to visit. Some major cruise destinations are:

  • Caribbean – Eastern, Western or Southern ranging from 3 to 14 days or longer. 7 day cruises are most popular and leave from multiple ports in Florida, Texas, New York/New Jersey and more
  • Panama Canal – a partial canal of 10-11 days or a full canal transit from 14 to 21 days
  • Mexico – generally 7-10 days sailing round trip from San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach or San Francisco
  • Hawaii – sailing round trip from Honolulu on NCL’s U.S. -flagged ship or sailing 15-17 days round trip from San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle
  • Alaska – cruising round trip Seattle, round trip Vancouver or one-way between Vancouver and Seward or Whittier, Alaska. The 1-way cruises are often combined with a land tour to see more of Alaska
  • Canada and New England – cruises are popular between late spring and fall foliage time. They generally sail round trip from New York or Boston, or one way between Montreal or Quebec City and Boston or New York City and last between 7-10 days
  • South America and Antarctica – usually 14-21 days between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Valparaiso (port city near Santiago, Chili.)
  • Mediterranean – cruises of 7-24 day with port calls in southern European ports and North Africa ports generally categorized as Western Med, Eastern Med and Greek Isles, or a just a Mediterranean cruise that highlights some of the most well-known ports. There are also Mediterranean cruises in the Mediterranean that sail through the Bosporus Straight into the Black Sea just go to Istanbul and possibly stay overnight.
  • Other European cruises destinations – the Holy Lands and Egypt, Northern Europe, UK (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales), Australia and New Zealand, Asia, river cruises, and repositioning Cruises
  • World Cruises and Grand Voyages sail 100 or more day itineraries around the world or on an extended visit through a region of the world.

Cruise 2

Once you have narrowed down some itineraries based on where you want to go, it’s time to choose your cruise line.

This decision is best answered by asking yourself how you like and want to travel, and what’s your budget.

I’d break ocean-going cruise ships into 4 general categories in addition to river cruises:

  • Mass market cruise lines appeal to cruisers of all ages and families, with value fares and higher cost suites. The major brands are Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL.
  • Premium cruise lines also appeal to a wide range of cruisers and offer a little more upscale experience with more guest lectures, onboard enrichment activities and a little higher quality of food and service. Premium lines include Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises. All three have programming to appeal to all ages, and programs for children and teens, but sail to more exotic destinations with a generally well-traveled clientele.
  • Ultra-premium cruises are the bridge between the premium and the all-inclusive luxury cruise lines. leaning toward luxury are  Azamara Club Cruises,  Crystal Cruises and Oceania, Viking Ocean Cruises, and Windstar. These are generally smaller ships with a high level of service and some but not all experiences included in the cruise fare such as beer and wine at lunch and dinner, or a half day shore excursion in each port, or in-depth enrichment activities.
  • Luxury cruises charge a very high daily rate but offer all-inclusive luxurious 5-6 star experience with smaller ships or yachts offering the highest quality of food and service.  Most drinks and specialty dining are included, with gratuities neither required or expected. Seabourn, SilverSeas, Regent and the Sea Dream Yacht Club would all fit into this category.

Most cruisers choose the destination they want to visit, then the specific itinerary, and then the cruise line that best meets their personal travel style and budget.

Photo by Donaldytong.

Photo by Donaldytong.

2.  Which of those types would best suit me, a girl in her 20s who has never been on a cruise before?

Most first-time cruises in their 20’s choose a mass-market cruise line sailing on a Caribbean or Mexico itinerary. Those who are traveling with inter-generational families or as part of an extended destination trip might cruise to Alaska, the Mediterranean or Northern Europe.

Photo by Calyponte.

Photo by Calyponte.

3.  Should I pack differently for a cruise than I would for a different kind of vacation?

The biggest issue in packing for a cruise depends on your itinerary, just like it would for a land vacation.  If you are cruising to the Caribbean, you would pack shorts, swimsuits and sunscreen, while if you are cruising to Alaska your packing list might look like this:  Visiting Alaska This Summer? 10 Tips on What to Pack.

The other factor in packing for your cruise depends on what cruise line you are sailing on and how formal or informal the atmosphere is on board. Most call cruises have some formal nights where those who like to dress up will get decked on in cocktail or formal attire. On NCL or Carnival you will mostly wear casual resort wear clothes while on Cunard or Seabourn you will dress more formally to fit in.

Photo by TampAGS.

Photo by TampAGS.

4.  What are the major differences between a cruise that is simply part of the U.S. and a cruise that goes internationally? 

Because of a law known as the Jones Act, nearly all cruises that sail out of U.S. ports include an internal destination. One of the more well-known exceptions is a 7-Day Hawaiian Cruise on NCL’s Pride of America, a US-flagged cruise ship staffed with U.S. workers. Most cruise ships are not flagged in the U.S., and hence their cruises have to include at least one international port.

One of the advantages of some “closed-loop” cruises that sail round trip out of US ports is that you can legally visit other countries without a U.S. passport.  I recommend that everyone get a passport, but a cruise is the only way for Americans to visit foreign countries without a passport.  See this post for more details:  Do I need a passport to go on a cruise?

Photo by Baldwin040.

Photo by Baldwin040.

Do you have any more insight on what cruising is like?  Did you find this information helpful?  Leave a comment below!

Kathryn JohnsonThis post was written by Kathryn Johnson, a junior majoring in Spanish at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Kathryn’s passion for travel blossomed from her love for foreign language  In August, 2015, she plans to volunteer in France or Morocco before traveling to Spain for a semester-long study abroad experience.

Kathryn is currently learning about travel marketing and social media during an internship with VentureTime Travel.

View her LinkedIn profile at  to learn more about her accomplishments and future goals.

For more in-depth information on cruising in specific destinations, you may want to check out these books:

Alaska By Cruise ship – Anne Vipond
Rick Steves’ Northern European Cruise Ports – Rick Steves
Fodor’s Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call – Fodor’s

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A Look Inside the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel

November 21, 2014

Recently, we made a quick weekend trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, a destination that we had not explored before. We stayed two nights in the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel, which is located in downtown St. Petersburg near the waterfront, the Dali Museum and Tropicana Field baseball and soccer stadium. Our room was on the […]

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5 Great Ways to Give Back this Thanksgiving

November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving is a time where we are supposed to reflect on our lives and be thankful for the people and things we have in them.  Many of us are lucky enough to have luxuries in our lives that others could only dream of having.  This is why Thanksgiving is an excellent time to give back […]

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