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posted: 11/4/2012 6:00 AM

Be thankful for Thanksgiving travel options

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"This will be the first Thanksgiving Bob and I will be spending alone," bemoaned my neighbor, who's four children live in the four corners of the world. "It's going to be so lonely. You guys always go somewhere unusual. Any ideas?"

I always have ideas. Because of my aversion to cooking a meal that takes days of preparation and minutes to eat, we discovered an untraditional way to celebrate the traditional holiday.

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When the children were young, we headed across the pond. Because Europeans aren't particularly interested in what our pilgrims did, flights and hotels are often discounted. Over the years we've dined on moussaka in Greece, fish-and-chips in Ireland and pasta in Italy. This year, because air travel rates have been flying all over the sky, we'll be picnicking in Sonoma, Calif., with our grandchildren.

But if I were on my own -- like my neighbors, I would head for a spa. Because most people head home for the holiday, many spa resorts offer special discounts. This means you can get a soaking, but your pocketbook won't.

Lake Austin Spa, located in the hill country outside Austin, Texas, is a great place to lighten up, both figuratively and literally. "It's like an adult summer camp," said one guest recently. "We even have crafts. I made a beaded bracelet for my daughter."

Instead of spending hours sitting on a couch watching football, you can kayak on Lake Austin, hike in the forest, or practice yoga on the dock. You can enjoy a healthy Thanksgiving dinner and later enjoy a Texas Starry Night massage or one of many other luxurious treatments. The LakeHouse Spa includes 30 treatment areas, an indoor junior Olympic-length lap pool and an outdoor pool surrounded by aquatic gardens and gorgeous flowers.

And the food alone is worth the trip.

"We designed Thanksgiving week to strengthen your spirit and restore your soul," said Darlene Fisk, public relations director for the spa.

All-inclusive rates are reduced by 30 percent for the Thanksgiving week. For more information visit lakeaustin.com or call (800) 847-5637.

For those who prefer a more traditional Thanksgiving closer to home, another hidden gem is Osthoff Lake Resort located on Elkhart Lake, Wis., about a two-hour drive from Chicago. This resort offers one-, two- and three-bedroom suites starting at $139 per night. Each suite has a fireplace and kitchen facilities. Their Aspira Spa boasts some amazing treatments. Try the wild camomile and ancient cedar pedissage and your feet will never feel the same. The resort offers a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at $27.95 for adults and $1 for every year for children between the ages of 4 and 12. For details, visit osthoff.com or call (855) 876-3399.

Our family no longer thinks of Thanksgiving as a meal. It doesn't matter whether the turkey graces the table or not. It's all about what we mean to each other. Starting a healthy, meaningful tradition has given our family lasting memories instead of extra pounds on the hips and heart burn. And by making reservations for the holiday, it keeps me out of the kitchen. According to my children, we can all be thankful for that.

Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached via email at gailtodd@aol.com.

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