Thanksgiving can be hectic. By planning ahead for all aspects of the holiday, you can make it a relaxed and enjoyable occasion for everybody.
One to Three Months Ahead
Review your travel itinerary. If you're hitting the road or taking a plane this holiday, try to avoid major routes and peak travel times, if at all possible. Leave a day early or late if you can. Book early, since prices for airline and rail tickets tend to go up, the closer we get to Thanksgiving. Round up some travel games the kids can play during the journey.
One Month Ahead
Plan your menu. You don't have to cook everything yourself. Figure out what dishes you'd like to serve, and how much you'll need, and then look for volunteers among your guests. The holiday is better when everybody gets involved.
Two to Three Weeks Ahead
Clean out your freezer and fridge. There's one thing you can know for sure about Thanksgiving: there will be leftovers. Make sure you've got a place to put them! Barring that, prepare plates and plastic containers so that you can send your guests home with some leftovers to tide them over.
One to Two Weeks Ahead
Devise a seating chart. If your house is the center of your family's Thanksgiving operations, then any order you can bring to the potential chaos will make your hosting duties easier. Make sure everybody knows where to sit around the dinner table, and avoid traffic jams. Consider making decorative name cards. In fact, you may have willing and eager volunteers around to do just that.
Up to One Week Ahead
Get the kids involved. Make Thanksgiving even more special by asking the kids to help out with invitations, decorations, and other seasonal crafts. You just might be creating a holiday tradition they'll pass on to their kids someday. For some fun and easy Thanksgiving craft ideas, check out our slideshow.
Have some activities in place. Some people are content just to eat and watch football, but those with larger families and lots of kids will need to have a few backup systems in place. Get suggestions for games and other activities that kids can do, as well as some activities for the whole family.
Three to Five Days Ahead
Thaw your turkey. If you're planning to buy a frozen turkey rather than a fresh one, don't forget to allow for thawing time. The generally recommended thawing time is one day in the refrigerator per five pounds of turkey. Depending on the size of your bird, that could mean several days!
One to Five Days Ahead
Cook! Take a look at your Thanksgiving menu. What can you prepare in advance and refrigerate or freeze? What can you assemble early and then pop in the oven once the turkey's done? Any time you spend cooking before Thanksgiving is time you can spend enjoying the company of family and friends on the big day.
One Day Ahead
Get your camera (or camera phone) ready. Thanksgiving memories can be so special, you've got to immortalize them in photos. Make a note on your to-do list to charge your camera phone the night before. Then, make sure to designate someone the official photographer - this is a great job to give to a teen.
Set the table. The night before Thanksgiving is likely to be the last few hours of calm before the holiday storm. It's a perfect time to make sure all the place settings - with place cards - are set as they should be. Double-check that food and drinks are all in their right places, and that your oven and stove are ready to go. You're all set to host your best Thanksgiving ever. Now get some sleep!