Head overseas this Thanksgiving
It's that time of year when Americans start thinking about who's going to make great-grandmother's turkey dressing and Tom the turkey starts thinking about the hereafter. This year, we're giving the turkey a break. We're trading him in for a kiwi bird.
Not that a kiwi will grace our Thanksgiving table, since they're on the endangered species list. But we might see one in a zoo. Because we'll be heading to New Zealand.
Our Thanksgiving traditions have little to do with the food and a lot to do with travel. Instead of making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that takes 10 hours to prepare and 10 minutes to eat, we make reservations. Airplane reservations. Hotel reservations. Car rental reservations.
When our children were little, we discovered what a great time Thanksgiving is to travel overseas. The rest of the world cares little about our pilgrims. So while flights within the United States are packed tighter than a stuffed turkey, flights across the pond are relatively light. And because it's off-season in Europe, flights and hotels are less expensive.
Over the years, we've dined on moussaka in Greece, escargot in France and shepherd's pie in an Irish pub. We've backpacked a picnic and walked the villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.
If you do decide to wing it this Thanksgiving, here are some things to consider:
Make sure your passport is up to date.
Some countries require a passport valid beyond the date of your return. New Zealand requires a minimum of six months.
Our government keeps tabs on hazardous places to visit as well as weather conditions. Visit www.state.gov/travel to make sure you know what you're facing when you arrive. Consider registering with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This program connects you with the local embassy. It keeps you informed of changes and allows easier connections with your family in times of an emergency.
Pack your carry-on carefully.
Not all airlines or countries follow the same rules as we do. Some countries allow knitting needles. Others don't. Check with your airlines and the country you plan to visit for their regulations.
Give yourself plenty of time.
Even though your overseas flight may be light, airports won't be. Thanksgiving travel within the U.S. is one of the busiest times of the year. Airports are crowded and security lines rival the lines at Walt Disney World. Most international flights require travelers to be at the airport two hours before departure.
If you do travel overseas, don't expect a traditional feast. Turkey and stuffing may turn out to be turkey on rye with a side of chips. But the memories you'll have will far outlast that second piece of pecan pie. And the adventures you'll share with your loved ones are priceless. After all, isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? Tom the turkey certainly would agree.
• Freelance writer Gail Todd worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.