Thanksgiving Countdown Schedule – Cooking or Traveling

We’re T -3 to Thanksgiving, so it’s time to kick it into high-gear. Since I have experience both hosting and traveling, I’ve got Thanksgiving countdowns for both options.

Thanksgiving Travelers’ Schedule
If you have to travel, I feel your pain. I flew home for several years, until it became too expensive and started to take nearly as long as the drive. I switched to driving 11 years ago. It’s awful, but better than the airport. (Shudder.) Here are my tips for a reduced-stress trip.

Make your packing list. If you have kids, make their lists, too.
Make sure everything on the packing list is clean. If not, do laundry.
Check the weather for both your departure and return days. Plan alternate routes if you’re driving and there may be snow along your preferred route.
If you’re flying, make a parking reservation if you haven’t already.
Refer to my list of Thanksgiving travel tips to make sure everything is covered.

Get out the suitcases.
Buy snacks and water.
Double-check your backroads.
Pack car games or something for the airport/plane.
Stop the newspaper/mail (if you’ll be gone long enough).
If you have pets, confirm with their caretaker and exchange keys.
If you’re flying, check in online.

Pack final toiletries, pajamas, etc.
Pack the car.
Put everyone in the car.
Leave as early as possible.

Make yourself useful to the host or get out of the way.
Eat, eat, eat, eat!

Thanksgiving Hosts’ Schedule
If you’re hosting, then your work is just beginning. Hopefully you’ve shopped for most of the food, but I’ve included a shopping trip in case you’re using a fresh turkey that will need to be picked up.

Make bread if using for stuffing so it will have time to get a bit stale.
Set bread out to dry.
Make up guest rooms.
Put fresh towels in guest baths.
Make final shopping list.
Put turkey in fridge to defrost if using frozen and not brining. If you are brining it, it should already be defrosting.
Make Thursday cooking schedule, counting backwards from the time you want to eat.

Chill the wine.
Make rolls.
Mix dip or other appetizers.
Make pie crust.
Pick up turkey.
Begin brining turkey if brining it.
Make cranberry sauce it not using canned.

Make pie.
Cook appetizers.
Put brined turkey in fridge to rest so skin is nice and crispy.
Wash china/crystal.
Polish silver.
Iron linens.
Set table.
Make stuffing.

Wipe down bathrooms.
Stuff turkey.
Put turkey in oven immediately.
Make side dishes.
Make salad.
Warm and plate appetizers.
Remove turkey, let rest.
Heat rolls.
Make gravy.
Serve cranberry sauce.
Eat, eat, eat, eat.

Enjoy leftovers.

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