Delicious Thanksgiving Trips to Share

After a raging autumn of homework, soccer, volleyball, football, college applications, massive work projects – family LIFE! – November is the perfect time to hit “pause” and run away from home for some relax/together time.

No child has ever complained about skipping a two-hour meal – especially one with so many vegetables – and no parent has ever complained about missing out on the dishes. So if your hosts will excuse you from the turkey dinner (won’t you be there at the holidays anyway?) consider a November getaway.

When planning your trip, keep in mind two Thanksgiving travel no-nos:

  • Don’t fly in the U.S. You’re supposed to be chilling out, remember? Avoid U.S. domestic terminals at all costs – but nonstop international trips can be a great idea (see below).
  • Don’t travel Wednesday or Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. If your kids’ break is of the traditional Thursday-Sunday variety, don’t risk traveling on the busiest days of the year – if you want to come back recuperated, that is… Traveling on Thursday is actually the perfect day and heck, if you come back Monday or Tuesday night, your kids probably won’t get kicked out of school. Luckily, many schools are giving students the entire week off nowadays, which makes it even easier to escape for a bit without the insanity.


ROAM families recommend aiming for these 10 destinations this Thanksgiving – or even Veteran’s Day.  Many of these spots are a short hop from our San Francisco backyard, so if you’re not in the Bay Area, strongly consider a spot fewer than two hours from your home – but one that is really far from your kitchen 😉

1. Japan Flying to Japan from the West Coast is a nonstop affair that can be quicker than a one-stop trip across the U.S. at any time of year – but over Thanksgiving, that’s most certainly the case. In exchange for a red-eye and a bit of jet lag, you’ll see Tokyo or Kyoto at the second-most beautiful time of year (after spring’s cherry blossoms). Fall color will illuminate the temples, cool weather will be ideal for long walks, hot bowls of ramen will warm your belly, and hot spring-fed onsens will bubble away your autumn insanity. Read more in Julie Rappaport’s ROAM Report.   

2. Yosemite/King’s Canyon Autumn is the best time to drive to Yosemite: The crowds are low, the skies are clear and the ground is not yet covered with winter snow. Even camping is still possible for the thick-skinned. Rent bikes and ride the valley; hike the best trails without traffic; and, splurge on a holiday meal in the dining room of the Majestic Yosemite (formerly Ahwanee) Hotel. Read details in my ROAM Report.     

3. North Shore Hawaii is no secret Thanksgiving destination, but if you can get a flight to Oahu, try the North Shore. It’s sleepier, more authentic and its winter waves are kid-sized.  

4. California Coast  In central and northern California, locals know the fog lifts in September and autumn can bring some of the most beautiful days of the year: Temps in the 70s, blue skies, and no crowds. Sure, you won’t even be able to dip a toe in the water without getting frostbite but that means beach gear is one less load to pack, right? What you will get is epic vistas, misty redwood hikes, and if the fishing stars align, Dungeness crab! Consider a trip to Santa Cruz like Tina Davis’, Pismo Beach like Kelly Dietz’, or just head for your classic Monterey/Carmel digs.  A long weekend in Half Moon Bay, for example, delivers crab for Thanksgiving dinner, a Black Friday horseback ride on the beach, and a chance to see some of the biggest waves in the U.S. Read the ROAM Report on our Thanksgiving weekend based at the Point Montara lighthouse hostel

5. Cuba It’s not the novel spot it used to be but if you’ve wanted to go, one week in November is a nice chunk of time to target. Read Megan Harvey’s tips and Jodi Glasser’s report on the best of kids in Havana and beyond.

6. Central Valley Who knew you could get some of the best wines in California just a stone’s throw south of Sacramento? Plan a November trip to the Lodi area to take in old-vine reds, migrating birds, and miles of kayaking.  Read more in my ROAM Report road trip to see the sandhill cranes.

7. Heart of Mexico Mexico City makes for fabulous walking in November, as does San Miguel de Allende. Depending on the day Thanksgiving falls, visitors may encounter festivities for Revolution Day on November 20, and El Buen Fin – Mexico’s version of Black Friday. Check out Darya Mead’s twin-tot trip to Guadalajara for another great week of kid-friendly stops in the heart of Mexico

8. Baja California Speaking of Mexico, Cabo San Lucas is a short flight from anywhere in California and the journey rewards travelers with warm sunshine, even as December approaches. The higher water temps in the Gulf of California attract all manner of A-list sea creatures – whale sharks, sea lion pups and gray whales – for viewing in their native habitat by kayakers, snorkelers and divers. Stay near the action on the La Paz side, or plunk down at Todos Santos or Cerritos Beach and make day trips to the gulf. It’s probably best to avoid Cabo San Lucas proper, however, if you want to relax.

9. San Francisco Lots of SF folks are from elsewhere and return there for the holiday weekend. It’s the perfect time for a “staycation” in the city – especially if you “stay” away from the retail chaos of Union Square on Black Friday and pick a neighborhood to explore. Consider a base in the Sunset riding bikes to explore Golden Gate Park, SOMA to check out the new Salesforce Transit Plaza park and Louise Bourgeois’ Spiders at SFMOMA, or in the Presidio to stay at the new Lodge at the Presidio and wander miles of trails with Golden Gate views.

10. Cabin Time If everyone in your family needs a chance to unplug, pick a cabin in the trees and plunk yourself down for three nights. Everyone (adults included) will pace and shake and complain a bit the first day, but after that it gets easier – trust me, I’ve been there. Fill the online void with walks, tossing a frisbee, playing a game, taking a hike, or – gasp – reading a book. Check out ROAM’s list of “cheap and cozy” cabins in the Bay Area – especially Maria de la O’s trip to the Russian River redwoods.


by Maryann Jones Thompson, September 2018

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Keywords: family vacation, family travel, travel with kids, thanksgiving trips, november trips, thanksgiving vacations with kids, thanksgiving family vacations, november family vacations, november, where to go for thanksgiving


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