Cross the Macy’s Day Parade off your bucket list, or go skiing in Colorado
Personal finance writer
Specializes in writing on travel, family and food
Want to do something a little different this Thanksgiving? Perhaps use those days the kids will be out of school for a special getaway instead of the traditional turkey feast at home?
Consider a trip to one of my favorite destinations for Thanksgiving fun, and use rewards credit cards to cut down on your travel costs.
We love Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando any time of year, but come November and December, these theme parks’ decor really puts you in the holiday spirit.
At Walt Disney World, you’ll experience magical holiday parades replete with Christmas-y scents pumped into the air, manufactured snowfalls (after all, it doesn’t actually snow in Orlando) and the parks decorated for the season.
While a trip to Disney is never cheap, you can save by using points earned with a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express to book stays at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin hotels. Also, the Chase Disney Visa and Premier cards allow you to earn points you can use on Disney purchases, such as park tickets and dining, as well as resort stays.
If you’re a Harry Potter nerd like me, then head over to Universal Orlando, where you can visit Hogwarts at Christmastime. Universal also puts on its own version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and you can meet the Grinch in Seuss Landing and even have breakfast with him!
We always fly to Orlando on Southwest Airlines, using points we have collected through our Southwest Rapid Rewards cards and other means, and one of us always flies free using my Southwest Companion Pass. Plus, we love that Southwest charges no fees for the first two checked bags per person, allowing us to bring a bag of breakfast and snack items to help reduce food costs.
New York City
Visiting a big city during the holidays is one of my favorite things to do, and it doesn’t get much better than New York City over Thanksgiving. Of course, you can cross the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade off your bucket list, which my family plans to do this year, enjoy the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center (along with ice skating) and check out all the festively decorated store windows around town.
With so many hotel options in the Big Apple, you can use points earned from hotel cards like the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, the Hilton Honors American Express Card or the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card for a stay. One of our favorite properties in the city is the health-themed EVEN Hotels Times Square South from IHG, which is close to Madison Square Garden and the High Line in Chelsea – my favorite free activity in the city.
If you have SPG points from a Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card, you can book tickets to a Broadway show or see the New York Knicks play at Madison Square Garden through the SPG Moments program. We once got second row seats to see “School of Rock” on Broadway using our SPG points!
See related: Is a Disney credit card worth getting before theme park visit?
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
If you’re looking for a beach Thanksgiving, Hilton Head Island can be a great place to relax, unwind and walk or bike off all those meal calories on the island’s 80 miles of trails.
Hilton Head Island is one of American Airlines’ Reduced Mileage Awards destinations for November, which allows you to save 7,500 miles roundtrip on flights more than 500 miles when booking with AAdvantage miles if you hold select American cards. These include cards like the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard.
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, one of the most popular resorts on the island, offers both Omni and Marriott hotels that you can book with points, as well as vacation rentals with full kitchens, washers and dryers. The resort also serves up Thanksgiving dinners at its various restaurants and holiday activities at the Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina across the road.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Can’t wait to start skiing this winter? Head to one of our favorite mountain getaways, Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, located about 110 miles west of Denver on I-70. The resort’s opening day is Nov. 21, just in time for Thanksgiving.
During opening weekend, the resort hosts a tree-lighting ceremony with ice skating in the village, free cookies and fireworks. Plus, many Beaver Creek restaurants, such as the Beaver Creek Chophouse, offer Thanksgiving meals.
The resort is home to several hotels that you can book with points, including the Park Hyatt and Westin Riverfront Resort. You can also book a vacation rental at properties such as The Charter, where you can cook your own meals.
See related: 10 secrets to a perfect weekend getaway
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
For some Thanksgiving fun, head to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where there are seemingly unlimited activities from museums to go-karts to shows to keep everyone entertained for the whole weekend.
You can enjoy fireworks at the Titanic Museum (shaped like the Titanic itself), dine at one of many area restaurants – including the exceptional Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen (beware the garlic cheese biscuits) – and attend a show like Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, which gets a Christmas reboot.
If you really want to get into the Christmas spirit, book a stay at the Inn at Christmas Place, which is decorated for the holidays year-round. Be sure to stop at the Incredible Christmas Place, which is the south’s largest Christmas retailer and drive through the Winterfest Lights Tour, with more than 5 million lights all around town.
Pigeon Forge is within a day’s drive for two-thirds of the U.S. population east of the Mississippi River, which can help save on travel expenses. Just remember to charge your fuel to a card that earns maximum points on gas, like the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi or the Blue Cash Preferred® Card From American Express.
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