Traveling during the holidays has a full complement of complications even at home—endless lines at the airport, cranky relatives, cranberry sauce that won’t gel and not enough room on the couch to nap. For those traveling abroad, however, you’re likely to meet with issues even more basic than that. Like, say, where to find a turkey. Below are our top five tips for having a happy Thanksgiving on the go.
1) Home or Away? Since it’s just a regular Thursday for the rest of the world, you shouldn’t expect special menus in restaurants. Hotels catering to Americans, however, may have turkey on the menu for the day. Call ahead and ask—you may be able to find a dinner in a hotel other than the one in which you’re staying, too.
If you’re going the apartment/villa route (more economical for many families) cooking your own dinner may guarantee results more like the ones you’re used to. If so, read on for more tips.
2) Think Small: Turkeys in Europe, particularly in France or Italy, are heritage birds, generally wild, or else specially raised for Christmas. While this may be in line with many current eating dictums, it translates to a bird that is generally around 8 or 9 pounds—much smaller than the Butterballs we’re accustomed to—and relatively expensive for the size. Buy two if you must, but consider your other options too.
3) Be Flexible: While turkey is the main event on the table, lets be honest—it’s rarely anyone’s favorite foodstuff. Complement your turkey (or replace it entirely) with duck, goose, or even small chickens and you’ll have more than enough goodness to go around. Also, since Thursday is a workday, be prepared to celebrate on a Friday or Saturday night instead.
4) Make Friends: Expats have a lot of experience with replicating their favorite tastes from home—if you can get in touch with anyone where you’re going, they may have a source for buying the ingredients you’ll need. If they’re close friends, they may very well invite you to dinner, so do keep in mind the effort needed to assemble these meals. Give them plenty of time to prepare, don’t cancel last minute, and offer to bring non-liquids with you if desired.
5) Go Local: While we all miss the tastes of home, if you’re just on a vacation, remember that you’ll be back for Christmas dinner soon enough, and embrace the local options. That may mean skipping the holiday entirely, or better yet, incorporate local elements into your meal—have raclettes instead of mashed potatoes if you’re skiing in Switzerland, or couscous instead of stuffing if you’re sunning in Morocco. Who knows, you may find a new favorite to bring home for next year!