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7 Ways to Make Celebrating Thanksgiving Overseas Truly Special

Between the travel deals and the extra time off, the idea of traveling abroad over Thanksgiving weekend may be too tempting to pass up. But you may ache for the comfort of home when Thanksgiving day itself rolls around.

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turkeyNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, Shutterstock

Special order your turkey

For the past nine years, Anu Vijayamohan, an enterprise architect, has spent his Thanksgivings in London, thanks to her job. Since she’s relocated, she’s hosted a friendsgiving each year since 2008. Unlike in the states where you can hop over to a grocery store that’s open 24-hours a day, even on Thanksgiving day itself, Vijayamohan says you have to plan a bit in advance in London. “They have turkeys at Borough Market, an outdoor market with many vendors, and at butcher shops. However, you need to special-order your bird, since turkeys are more traditionally served at Christmas here,” she explains. Making a turkey this year? Here’s how to master it.

Hosting Thanksgiving at home? You’ll want to download our free Thanksgiving Guide, complete with recipes, a timetable, and fun stories to share.

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hatNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, Shutterstock

Hire a chef

Wanderluster and marketing professional Abby Benton found herself in Bali, Indonesia last year for Thanksgiving and wanted to make the dinner special, yet didn’t know where to begin. Luckily, her AirBNB host suggested hiring a chef that would create the meal for her group, all for an affordable cost. Though turkey wasn’t available on this island, Benton and friends found a meal of fried chicken, fish, salad, veggies and mashed potatoes more than plenty to have them feeling that post-feast sleepiness. The experience itself taught her not to get caught up the details of recreating traditions from your home country, and instead, investing in the creation of new ones on foreign land. “Appreciate where you are and who you are with! We went around the table and all said one thing we were thankful for and it made the night feel very special,” she said. “And we capped off the night by skinny dipping in the ocean. It made for an amazing celebration, and one I’ll never forget.” Cooking at home? You’ll want to steal these cooking tips from a master chef.

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cornNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, Shutterstock

Consider having local fare

Hillary Welter, marketing and research coordinator for the North American Retail Hardware Association, was traveling the world while working remotely when her family decided to hitch a ride to meet her along her journey. They spent a few days in Amsterdam (where a highlight was a night out at an ice bar) and Heidelberg before making it to Munich, Germany for the Thanksgiving Day. Though she shared it was easy-peasy to find a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner at upper-scale hotels in the area, her crew decided it was a better idea to be one with the locals instead (these are the myths about Thanksgiving you shouldn’t believe). The decision was one they’d remember forever. “It’s not every year you’re in Munich on Thanksgiving, and we wanted to celebrate by embracing the local cuisine and indulging in a German meal. We made reservations at one of the highly-recommended beer halls and enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner at a community-style dining table with a Russian couple and a woman who was traveling alone for business,” she shares. “The eight of us quickly became one happy group over vodka shots and glasses of wine, and it ended up being an evening full of fun and great food. That’s the point of Thanksgiving, right?”

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wineNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, Shutterstock

Collect a big group

Traveling with about 20 people to Siem Reap, Cambodia last year for Thanksgiving, the idea to search for a turkey didn’t even occur to digital nomad and expat Jason Yuhas. Instead, they wanted to dive into the southeast Asian food scene, all while enjoying the company of a big group. Not only is sampling the authentic flavors part of the experience of traveling abroad, having a large meal with plenty of others in your same predicament is essential. “Thanksgiving was always big for me growing up and in my 28 years on Earth, this was only the third Thanksgiving I wasn’t with my entire family,” he shares. “If you aren’t around family or friends from back home, then surround yourself with new friends.” These quotes about gratitude will remind you to be grateful every day, regardless of where you are.

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shipNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, Shutterstock

Skype with friends back home

When Collette Stohler, the creative director for Roamaroo, and her husband celebrated Thanksgiving a few years ago, they were saddened to be apart from their family back home. Even though their view was quite beautiful on the Mekong River, crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam, they missed the warmness and laughter of a large family gathering. Though the cruise didn’t supply a turkey (drat!), Stohler gave the ship props for serving chicken with pumpkin side dishes. To make the experience feel more like home, they Skyped with loved ones back in the States. And after they had those chats with pals? They made new ones, via Australians who didn’t quite understand the holiday but wanted to make it fun. “To get in the festive spirit, they organized a white party where everyone wore white on the top of this boat cruising down the Mekong River. Instead of turtlenecks and football, it was white dresses and 90-degree weather,” she laughs. Have a big group coming over for Thanksgiving? Here’s how to have it go smoothly.

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pieNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, Shutterstock

Foster the true spirit of Thanksgiving

Jon Santangelo, co-founder of The Chariot Company, celebrated Thanksgiving in Beijing, China for five years and by the time the last get-together happened, his group of expats and locals had the planning down to a science. According to Santangelo, it’s all about delegating and splitting up the tasks to make it a true Thanksgiving, where people from all backgrounds come together to express gratitude and chow down. After pre-ordering the turkey from one of the few foreign-owned turkey farms, they would split the tasks into a process he called a ‘Tupperware’ party. “Figure out who will bring what; and of course, split the payment for the turkey, and determine who will pick it up,” he says. “When you live abroad, make sure to invite all kinds expats and locals. Everyone has their own cooking skills or food selection that adds variety to the table. Our events were always a blast and we had guests from China, USA, Canada, Europe, and more. Every year we crammed into someone’s apartment—always at least 20 people or more stuffed into one living room. We never seemed to have enough space but it was never an issue.” Read on for our top tips for entertaining in a small space.

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place settingNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, Shutterstock

Make sure the destination is worth it

If you’re going to spend time away from your grandma’s prized casserole and your father’s killer pie, writer Lauren Bernal says to make sure your holiday-away-from-home is out of the ordinary, and one-of-a-kind. That was definitely the case for Bernal last year when she spent Thanksgiving in Tuscany, Italy. Here, she definitely didn’t find a turkey, but something more interesting for the folks back home: an octopus! “A lot of the side dishes we ended up having were traditional, minus sweet potatoes, because for some reason those are very hard to come by in Italy! Octopus and mashed potatoes were surprisingly delicious, though,” she shares. “If you think you might be a little bit down over the holidays, missing your family and friends, go somewhere that you can look back on and say ‘worth it.'” Here are our top picks for Thanksgiving travel destinations that are definitely worth it.