Travel

Why has this woman opened her home to strangers this Thanksgiving?

Record crowds are expected to travel for Thanksgiving as one grandma spreads cheer with free dinner.

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An Arizona woman who shared her Thanksgiving table seven years ago with a stranger she accidentally texted opened up her home again this year to two new strangers.

Wanda Dench teamed up with Airbnb to expand the festivities, and the company said it will make a donation to the relief organisation Feeding America.

Dench’s tradition began in 2016 with a mistaken text to then-teen Jamal Hinton. She was trying to invite her grandson but didn’t realise he had changed his phone number. Hinton jokingly replied he would like to come and Dench said he was welcome. They forged a relationship that still holds strong.

Hinton had tweeted screenshots of their initial exchange and subsequent meeting. Since then, their continuing joint celebration has turned into a tradition that social media users have come to expect every Thanksgiving. Dench has been dubbed ‘Thanksgiving Grandma’ on the internet.

‘I always wanted to have more people join our Thanksgiving’

Airbnb guests were able to sign up for the chance to eat a catered early holiday dinner on 20 November with Wanda, 66, and Jamal, 24. They also got an overnight stay at Dench’s new home in the north-central Arizona city of Prescott Valley.

“I said from the jump of our first Thanksgiving that I always wanted to have more people join our Thanksgiving and be able to celebrate with us and have the amount of fun that we have together,” Wanda told USA Today.

The menu was filled with classics such as turkey and mashed potatoes, along with Dench’s favourite Costco pumpkin pie. The entertainment included taking selfies, watching movies and playing board games. 

The booking charge on Airbnb to sign up for the dinner and overnight stay was $16 (€15), corresponding with the year Dench and Hinton met. Guests had to pay for their own travel.

Airbnb hasn’t said how much it plans to donate to Feeding America.

Dench said she hopes others are inspired to be similarly open to new friendships.

“That would be pretty cool to see people wanting to share a good experience and then open it up to other strangers as well,” she said.

Meanwhile, a movie about the unlikely friendship between Dench and Hinton is possibly in the works, The Arizona Republic reported.

Record crowds travel for Thanksgiving 2023

The early dinner came ahead of Thanksgiving on 23 November.

This year, record crowds have taken to the air, roads and railways. Sunday is expected to be the busiest day for return travel, with an estimated 2.9 million passengers, which would narrowly eclipse a record set on 30 June.

Airline officials say they are confident they can avoid the kind of massive disruptions that have marred past holiday seasons, such as the meltdown at Southwest Airlines over last Christmas. As of Wednesday evening that appeared to be the case.

US airports reported 59 flight cancellations into, out of or within the US on Wednesday and 2,750 flight delays, according to tracking service FlightAware. It said anything less than 300 cancellations and 4,000 delays per day is considered very good.

Snow showers could snarl traffic in parts of the country. Snow is expected to hit the northern Rocky Mountains on Thanksgiving Day, bringing up to 30 cm of snow to parts of Wyoming by Friday.

Security lines at airports could be long. Delta Air Lines is telling passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their flight if they are traveling within the United States, three hours early if they’re flying overseas – and maybe earlier on Sunday and Monday.

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US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a news conference on Monday that the government prepared for holiday travel by hiring more air traffic controllers, opening new air routes along the East Coast and providing grants to airports for snowplows and deicing equipment.

Source: Euro News

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