Top Places to Escape Thanksgiving
Do you ever have the urge to escape Thanksgiving? Maybe you deplore turkey and cranberries — or just the inevitable bulge that comes from all the gorging? Even if you enjoy the family time Thanksgiving brings, maybe you'd prefer a change of scenery? Perhaps you'd like to sample a new cuisine in an exotic city? Well, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do so. While airfare in the States skyrockets the last week of November, other destinations around the world that don't celebrate Turkey Day see fewer crowds and lower rates.
Starting in mid-October, U.S. News Travel monitored airfare prices and hotel rates between the dates of Nov. 26 to 30 to find you the best places to avoid Thanksgiving in 2013 — ahem — the best places to give thanks in 2013.
*Note: These prices were correct as of October 29.
[In Pictures: Top Places to Escape Thanksgiving]
This seaside city in southwestern Turkey is located right in the heart of what's known as the Turkish Riviera: Think Nice, France, minus the pebbly beaches and exorbitant prices. Speaking of which, you can stay in a luxurious, five-star hotel like The Marmara Antalya for about $115 a night if you spend Thanksgiving here. And if you're willing to sacrifice a star or two, you can find much cheaper accommodations. Similar to cities along the French Riviera, Antalya offers its visitors breathtaking beaches, luxe spas and a thrumming nightlife, but there's also the ancient Kaleici neighborhood to explore, as well as some pretty remarkable archaeological sites like the nearby Termessos theater. Plus, the weather is pristine. In November, average high temperatures hover around 70 degrees; while it may be too chilly to take a dip in the Mediterranean Sea, the weather is still ideal for beachside strolls. As of the end of October, you can find round-trip flights from New York City (JFK) to Antalya (AYT) for right around $850.
According to MasterCard's 2013 Global Destination Cities Index, Bangkok is the world's most-visited city, beating out traveler favorites like London, Paris and New York. If you haven't yet seen the "Venice of the East" as it's sometimes called, a Thanksgiving trip might be in order. Although you'll miss out on turkey and stuffing back home, you won't go hungry — especially if you get a reservation at Nang Gin Kui. This is the best restaurant in Bangkok, according to TripAdvisor reviewers. The private dining experience is pricey, but it includes 12 courses of delicious Thai specialties paired with beer and wine. Along with the delectable eats, a November trip to Bangkok means fewer crowds at the city's many temples, like the popular Wat Arun. And with temperatures that hover between the mid 70s and the upper 80s, visiting street markets like Chatuchak will be a breeze. At the close of October, we found round-trip tickets from Washington, D.C.'s Dulles Airport (IAD) to Bangkok (BKK) for a little more than $1,500, though if you're traveling from the West Coast, you can find flights for less than $1,100 out of Los Angeles (LAX).
Visit Cusco, Peru, this Thanksgiving and you might lose a few pounds instead of packing them on with your mom's pumpkin pie. Cusco is filled with picturesque streets to explore on foot, like the Plaza de Armas square, lined with historic attractions, shops and restaurants. The city is also a four- to five-day hike from the mysterious Machu Picchu ruins via the ancient Inca Trail. Even if you decide to take the easier (and more luxurious) Hiram Bingham train, you'll find ample opportunities to break a sweat by simply exploring the Inca site. Plus, the crowds of high season — which will end in October — won't jostle you, nor will you be assuaged by the bad weather looming in late December. In November, temperatures rarely creep into the 70s. Based on our research conducted on Oct. 29, we found that round-trip flights from Miami (MIA) to Cusco (CUZ) are running a little less than $1,100. You can also easily find a three-star hotel for less than $100 a night.
The Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City) is especially wonderful at Thanksgiving when temperatures fluctuate between the low 70s and low 80s and peak tourist season has yet to begin. Think of this: While everyone at home is stuffing themselves with mashed potatoes and gravy, you'll be sunning your svelte self on the notorious Ipanema or Copacabana beaches. Instead of sprawling out on the couch in a tryptophan-induced coma, you'll spend your nights dancing at one of the samba joints in the Lapa neighborhood. But even if that's not your groove, you'll find a number of other activities to strike your fancy, like a hike through Tijuca National Park or a cable car ride up to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Plus, you can't beat the price: As of the end of October, we found round-trip flights from Miami (MIA) to Rio (GIG) for less than $900. And to bed down, we've found three-star properties for around $150 a night.
If you want to visit Europe but it just seems too expensive, you might want to consider "the Paris of the East." Budapest offers a similar ambiance to Paris with its numerous cafes and picturesque riverside avenues, but a vacation here costs much less. Along with traditionally European attractions like the opera house and Castle Hill, you'll also find to-dos with a distinctly Eastern feel, such as the numerous thermal baths. These pools are heated by natural springs and offer a relaxing way to warm up after a long day of touring. A basic ticket at one of the popular baths, Syzenchi, costs about $20. Late November sees high average temperatures in the mid-40s, but along with the chilly weather, there will be a colorful display of fall foliage. To fly from New York (JFK) to Budapest (BUD), we're finding round-trip flights for as low as $800. Once you land, you can check into luxurious, five-star accommodations like the Kempinski Corvinus Budapest for right around $120 a night.
Considered the cultural capital of Poland, Krakow is also a favorite city among backpackers thanks to its overall affordability. You shouldn't miss out on wandering around the enormous market square, Rynek Glówny, which teems with shops, restaurants and beautiful medieval architecture. A maze of quaint streets, ripe for exploring, branches off from the square. Your itinerary should also include a meal at a TripAdvisor-praised restaurant, Trzy Kroki w Szalenstwo. Reviewers say you'll salivate over the delectable European fusion food and the cheap bill. You'll find round-trip tickets from New York (JFK) to Krakow (KRK) for a little more than $800; a five-star hotel will run you a little more than $100 per night. The only hitch to this destination is the late November weather: Temperatures can fluctuate between the 30s and 40s.
It isn't Paris or Nice, but Toulouse, France, is a lovely place to spend Thanksgiving. And hey, it won't be as pricey or as crowded as other French destinations. The historic city, which once housed the Visigoths, is now the fourth-largest city in France and a center for aeronautics. But what tourists like most about this city in the south of France are its quaint streets lined with shops, and beautiful churches like the Romanesque Basilique Saint-Sernin and the Church of Les Jacobins, not to mention the city's giant Ferris wheel. There are also a handful of quality museums like the Fondation Bemberg and theaters like the Theatre du Capitole to enjoy. When it comes to food, you won't go astray by ordering cassoulet — a hearty stew made from white beans, sausage, goose and duck — at Chez Navarre on Grande rue Nazareth. For right around $900, you can find round-trip tickets from New York (JFK) to Toulouse (TLS). A four-star hotel will run you about $150 a night. Do pack a coat, as temperatures hover in the 40s and 50s in late November.
[In Pictures: Top Places to Escape Thanksgiving]