Thanksgiving travel on a budget

When flights are over $1,000, giving thanks seems less appealing


As an international student, the notion of Thanksgiving is filled less with fond memories of sweet potato and pumpkin pie, and more with the looming reality of a week where everybody goes home to their families. Hence, when I was invited to Portland, Maine for the upcoming Thanksgiving, everything felt like it was coming together — for about five minutes, before I went to book my flights.

As “$1,445” flashed up on my screen in big blue letters, my instinctive reaction was to press “back” and re-enter what I had presumably put in incorrectly last time. However, my heart fell, as I realized that this wasn’t in fact a mistake. While my geography of America is admittedly limited, I was quite sure that Maine was in fact in America and not — as the price would suggest — a country on the other side of the world.

Coming from the UK, my experience of flying revolves around EasyJet, Ryanair and £50 return flights between my home of Bristol and University in Edinburgh. We moan about the “no frills” — verging on no seat — strategy employed by these companies, but nonetheless, we take for granted the ability to nip between London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona for £100. Of course, I understand that it is Thanksgiving, and therefore, the price of flights are extremely inflated. But as a point of comparison, return flights from London to Paris over the Christmas break remain at an affordable $131.

As the travel bug slowly came over me, I started to investigate where I could go for the same price this year for Thanksgiving. For the same dates as my Charlottesville to Maine daylight robbery, here are some examples of where I could go:

Washington, D.C. – New Delhi $1,045

Washington, D.C. – Buenos Aires $937

Washington, D.C. – London $760

Washington, D.C. – Ibiza $799

Washington, D.C. – Nairobi $706

The most exciting of those I found was a flight to Sydney, Australia from Washington, D.C. for only $45 dollars more than a flight from Charlottesville to Maine. This $45 for an extra 9,110 miles seems like a good deal to me. On this occasion, the 24 hours in Sydney compared to the 50 hours of travel didn’t strike me as the best idea, but this inconsistency between the domestic flights and the opportunity to visit the other side of the world has definitely made me think — where are the budget airlines?

In fact, they do exist. If you google “Spirit Airlines,” you will be greeted by headlines such as “How Terrible Is Spirit Airlines, Really?” and “Spirit Airlines: The Worst Airline in America”. Inevitably, this wouldn’t fill you with confidence when going to book a flight. With the internet searches for budget airlines in the U.S. littered with complaints, the jury is out over whether they truly are worse than European airlines or whether on the other side of the pond we simply have lower standards.

Either way — to the international students without Thanksgiving plans, consider swapping New York for New Delhi, Los Angeles for London or Boston for Buenos Aires. 

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