If there's one responsible thing you do over Labor Day weekend, let it be solidifying your Thanksgiving plans. We know it's difficult to think ahead to the next big holiday while you're still working on taking advantage of the current one, but we hear from our friends at Hipmunk that airfare is expected to rise significantly after the holiday. If you don't already have a destination in mind, consider some of our favorites for Thanksgiving.
Get ready for some Southern charm in Charleston, best known for its plantation homes and haunted tours. Its historical architecture creates a cozy atmosphere, and the culinary scene is foodie-approved. Plus, you'll find one of the ShermansTravel staff's favorite under-rated beach two hours north, and sleepy Hilton Head two hours south, just in case you need a little more seclusion. While hotel rates in town easily reach $400 per night on busy weekends, you can easily find options in the $200-$300 range over Thanksgiving. Rooms at King Charles Inn, a historic AAA three-diamond property, for example, currently start at $212. For East Coasters, these prices make the moderate airfare worth it -- we found round-trip flights from NYC from $481 leaving Wednesday and returning Sunday on United, and from $431 leaving Wednesday and returning Saturday on JetBlue.
For an international getaway, this southern Mexico destination is fairly affordable to reach from both coasts as well as the Midwest. For a Wednesday to Sunday trip, roundtrip fares start from $450 from Chicago, $656 from New York, and $612 from San Diego, all on Aeromexico. November is somewhat of a sweet spot here, just after the summer rains have ended but before the cold descends -- and you know you can plan for some beach time when Puerto Escondido holds its big surf competition mid-month. The laid-back beach town is also home to well-priced lodging, with rates running from under $100 per night for more simplistic inns to $200 per night for fancier boutiques. In nearby Huatulco, you'll find the same slow pace, with plenty of wildlife and gorgeous churches to admire. Whichever you choose, you'll be able to indulge in mole and mezcal without the crowds of Oaxaca's flashier neighbors.
A flight that will cost less than $250 roundtrip? We won't say "no" to that. And that's currently the going price for United ticket from Los Angeles to Phoenix, from where its just a two-hour drive to mystical Sedona. (Alternative flights start at $318 roundtrip on US Airways to Flagstaff, which is about 85 miles closer to Sedona than Phoenix.) While it can get cool at nighttime, its typically warm enough during the day for short sleeves, thanks to the region's low humidity. Whether you want to focus on romance at the spa, get active with a Grand Canyon excursion, or enter the mystical world with a vortex visit, you'll be treated to blazing red rock views and a sense of calm.
The country's capital makes the cut for several reasons, moderate temperatures aside. For starters, you might be able to avoid airport lines and holiday airfare hikes all together, if you're able to train in from cities like New York and Philadelphia in the north, Virginia in the South, or many other locales in between. Second, we already know from a previous survey of D.C. hotel rates that you can always find a reasonably priced room, even during holidays and festivals, thanks to the handful of affordable boutiques and additional options in surrounding neighborhoods. (We found some nice boutique rooms for under $120 just yesterday.) Finally, when you've had your fill of cost-free history and culture in the city, there's a serene outdoor adventure waiting for you in Shenandoah National Park, just 75 miles away.
San Luis Obispo, CA
For those who seek a classic Californian vacation but want something a little different than the typical big city fare -- or are from a big Californian city and desire an easy getaway -- what better destination than San Luis Obispo, the "happiest town in America"? It's easily reachable via train from both San Francisco and San Diego, though SF travelers looking to save time will also find roundtrip flights from $217 on United for a Wednesday to Sunday trip. You'll find lots of time for peace and quiet between the elevated golfing, quiet local beaches, eco-focused wine country. Of course, if you're a big railroad fan, you won't want to miss this lesser-known but much appreciated museum before you leave. For accommodations, skip the chain inns and find a bed and breakfast whose aesthetic speaks to you. You won't have to shell out more than $150-$200.
Bonus: Big Cities
If you need more ideas, we suggest looking to big, urban cities that tend to be expensive any other time of the year, including New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. The reason behind that is because Thanksgiving is typically a time for visiting and staying with relatives -- which means that hotels are left with a lot of unsold inventory. Hello, hot deals!