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updated: 11/6/2010 6:54 PM

Traveling overseas a new Thanksgiving tradition

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I just made my favorite thing for Thanksgiving reservations. I do this nearly every year. These reservations have nothing to do with the local restaurant that features the traditional turkey with all the trimmings. They have everything to do with travel. This year, instead of taking a wing, I'll be winging it to Nicaragua with my husband and daughter. We'll be spending half of our time on the beaches soaking up sun at a first-class resort and half of our time rocking in a hammock at an eco-lodge in the jungle. And instead of the traditional turkey leg with a side of green bean casserole, we're more apt to dine on pork skin (chicharron) with a side of pork blood (morongas).

Traveling over the holidays isn't anything unusual. Our airports and highways are stuffed tighter than my Uncle Fred after the traditional feast. Thanksgiving weekend always records the highest number of air travelers for the year. But that's only domestically.

People living overseas don't really care about our pilgrims. Hotels in other countries offer discounted rates and airplanes crossing the pond actually have empty seats this time of year.

So after several years of spending 10 days preparing a meal that took 10 minutes to inhale so people could watch 10 hours of football, I called it quits and we started overseas travel as our Thanksgiving tradition. Over the years, our holiday feasts have included fish and chips in Ireland, shepherd's pie in London, haggis in Scotland and moussaka in Greece.

We aren't the only rare birds who forgo the bird banquet at grandmother's house (much to the delight of the feathered variety destined to go belly up on most traditional tables). Other Americans are opting for an untraditional way to celebrate our traditional American holiday as well.

Nancy Cook makes traveling to Ireland an annual tradition. They rent a van and drive the Ring of Kerry and stay in bed and breakfasts. They rarely see another tourist.

Last year, my cousin David Johnson took his family to London. They saw three plays and did all of their Christmas shopping in Britain. "It wasn't exactly a bargain," said David, while lamenting the poor exchange rate for the dollar. "But it was unique and we will do it again."

This year, Cinda Wells and her family plan to go biking in Italy. They will be staying at small inns, visiting several vineyards and taking cooking classes along the way.

If you feel like developing some new Thanksgiving traditions this year, consider running away from home. The memories of traveling with your family stick with you a lot longer than an extra piece of pumpkin pie. Everyone I know who has done it agrees. Especially Tom Turkey.

Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached at