Last updated: 12:08 PM ET, Tue December 08 2015

Staff Picks: My Best Thanksgiving Trip Ever

Features & Advice | Staff Picks | November 27, 2015

Staff Picks: My Best Thanksgiving Trip Ever

It’s estimated that close to 50 million people will hit the roads, rails and sky to travel for Thanksgiving this year, with Americans set to travel a combined 25 billion miles during the holiday season.

We here at TravelPulse are no different. In a strange anomaly, editor-in-chief Tim Wood is the only staffer hitting the roads this year to see the in-laws. But our crew has had its share of memorable Thanksgiving adventures. Some of them exciting, some of them so awful that they become a cherished memory of family survival.

BARRY KAUFMAN, TravelPulse Managing Editor

When I was younger, my whole family, cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles, swarmed this resort on St. Thomas for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a terrific vacation not just because it was probably the last time the entire family would be together like that, but also because it was the only thanksgiving where someone got bit by an iguana. And you can’t buy memories like that.

Although if anyone wants to buy my memory of attempting to windsurf while being heckled by all my cousins, I’ll happily sell it.

DONALD WOOD, Senior Writer, Breaking News

While I never traveled very far for thanksgiving, the annual trip to my grandparent’s house was a highlight of the year. Not only was there ample amounts of food and football, but there was also enough love in that house to make anyone smile ear to ear. The drive home usually consisted of bloating and an impromptu nap, though.

JANEEN CHRISTOFF, Senior Writer, Western Hemisphere Destinations

The best Thanksgiving I had on the road was to Santa Cruz, Calif., with my parents when I was about 13 years old. Not only did we visit the boardwalk and go to the Mystery Spot, we feasted in a farm house in the woods. The best part: When you had cleaned your (paper) plate, you chucked it into the roaring fire — leftover food and all. 

JOSH LEW, Senior Writer, Eastern Hemisphere Destinations

I don’t have one particular family trip in mind, but I do have plenty of memories of driving through snow storms. When I was  a kid, we’d often caravan down to Chicago from Minneapolis to have Thanksgiving with the grandparents. 

Most years it would still be sweatshirt weather, but there were a few times when we (meaning "my dad") had to deal with whiteout conditions and snow drifts. Of course, in those days most of the cars were rear-wheel drive, which made it even worse.

To this day, if I am driving on I-94 any time between Halloween and the Final Four, I get unnaturally nervous.

MONICA POLING, TravelPulse Canada Editor

When it comes to hitting the road over Thanksgiving, I’ve been blessed with many excellent experiences, but the most nostalgic was a trip along the Rhine River, courtesy of Viking River Cruises. Bringing my mom back to her native land, her first return trip since the passing of my father, was a great way for us to share some memories.

We bonded over currywurst and German beer while also filling our suitcases with treasured finds from some of Germany, France and The Netherland’s best Christmas Markets. But the best part might have been sailing past Germany’s most famous castles, all covered with a crisp, fresh blanket of snow, turning this into a true fairy tale vacation.

DAVID COGSWELL, Senior Writer, Tour Operators

Luckily for me, my favorite Thanksgiving family travel experience plays out over and over again. Every year it happens again the same way. Sure, I know it’s not really exactly the same. Every year is a different time, a distinct event. But it feels like the same thing happening over and over, with only some gradual, imperceptible changes over the years. But those changes I close my eyes to for the pleasure of pretending that time stands still on that moment, for the comfort of believing that some things are eternal.

There are small differences but the overall arc of the experience is the same. Wednesday night the family piles into the vehicle and we get comfortable and in the zone for a five-hour drive from New Jersey to Maine. We plow through six states in five hours. Starting in New Jersey we head into New York, then Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and finally Maine.

By the time we get to our destination in York Harbor, Maine, it is the middle of the night. Traffic has died down. It is dark. We are vibrating from drinking coffee, listening to the sound system blasting over the highway roar, and sitting immobile while the white line blips hypnotically by under the car. 

After arriving it takes a long time to unwind enough to even conceive of lying down and going to sleep. A drink or two helps. Maybe three. Finally we go to sleep knowing we can wake up late and there are no demands or commitments the next day other than to stuff ourselves with delicious food. This is how we give thanks, by over-indulging wildly.

We have reservations at the York Harbor Inn, a vintage New England inn that we return to over and over. It’s hard to conceive of Thanksgiving anywhere else. The food is always delicious, plentiful and an all-you-can-eat buffet. We are usually still there eating, drinking and making merry when the northern winter sun has disappeared into the black.

PATRICK CLARKE, Senior Writer, Hotels and Resorts

Thanksgiving is all about time spent with family, food and football. So, naturally, the best Thanksgiving family vacation I ever took included lots of relatives, several helpings of Thanksgiving dinner, hours spent in front of the television and zero travel headaches. Toss in a Green Bay Packers' victory and that's a dream Turkey Day if you ask me. 

MICHAEL ISENBEK, TravelPulse Associate Editor

I'm being purposefully vague about what we will call my most “memorable” Thanksgiving because pertinent parties would take undue offense. Memories are fuzzy because this happened in the late eighties, and I was around seven. Within one contingent of my family, simplicity and ease are alien concepts. Everything has to be a complicated ordeal. A simple, low-key Thanksgiving meal? Nope!

She wanted this one catered. We happened to be in the family vacation home, which wasn’t that large to begin with. Add in all the staff, dishes, glasses, silverware, long tables, plus all the invited guests, and all the fun was completely wrung out of the experience. Everyone was miserable.

GABE ZALDIVAR, Senior Writer, Business Travel, Gear and Gadgets

Fortunately, I haven't had to suffer too much traveling away from home during Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I came home from college one year with a bout of Bell's Palsy, which is an oft temporary paralysis of one side of the face.

In I walked in with what was a scary and rather frustrating affliction. So my family decided to make me feel better by making fun of me every chance they got, which worked magically when you consider my laughter could only come by way of a half smile.

Ah, family does truly get you sometimes.

BRIAN MAJOR, Senior Writer, Caribbean and Latin America

The best family vacation I can recall occurred when I was a kid of just under 10; my Dad and Mom piled my brother, sister and I into the family car to drive from New York to Atlantic City, N.J. where a lot of my Dad’s family was from.

I can recall the fun we had driving there through what was unseasonably good weather. I hadn’t seen my Atlantic City relatives in a long time and it was just a pleasure to spend time with them. This was in the era just before casinos arrived, and I remember traveling down the boardwalk in one of the push-cars for which city was then known, and enjoying more than my share of salt water taffy. It was just great to be with my family, some of whom I haven’t seen since that day years ago. It was definitely a memorable time.

TIM WOOD, TravelPulse Editor-in-Chief

There will never be anything that tops our never-ending trek up I-95 in 2013 to get to my in-law’s house for Thanksgiving. It was one disaster after another that ended up giving us a top-5 family adventure story.

A very close second: a Thanksgiving when I was 12 when we went to my Aunt Marie and Uncle Bob’s house for Thanksgiving. There had been no discussion ahead of time of the meal, as we all just assumed we were having turkey.

We arrived to find an epic spread of spaghetti and meatballs. My three older sisters and I were all desperately trying not to laugh as my Mom and Dad gave us the death-stare look. While it was a shock to the system, it was over-the-top delicious (cooking is Aunt Marie's jam) and the most unique “Turkey Day” I have ever had (well, other than the one Thanksgiving we ended up at Waffle House in Savannah, but that’s a whole other column).


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