How to Prep for Thanksgiving, a Day-by-Day Guide

We're sharing the ultimate countdown to Turkey Day

Thanksgiving table

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Connecting with family and friends during Thanksgiving seems like a brief respite from the hurly-burly end-of-the-year festivities. In order to make sure you remain both present and efficient, use this Ultimate Countdown to Thanksgiving.

This countdown will help you get ready for the upcoming holiday and make the most of the season. The tips and tricks will prepare your home for hosting as well as keep the fall spirit alive. Follow along each day and get ready for your best Thanksgiving yet.

Four Weeks to Thanksgiving

24 Days Ahead: Pack away your Halloween decorations and bring your fall decorations front and center. Think: cornucopias, leaves, pumpkins, straw, corn, and gourds. Decorate your mantel and front porch steps, or wrap a leafy garland around your staircase railing. There are plenty of creative ideas out there for sprucing up your home for autumn. It's time to pack away the fake cobwebs and kick fall decorating into full swing.

Basket of pumpkins and a blanket next to bench
The Spruce / Candace Madonna

Sure, everyone talks about spring cleaning, but fall cleaning is a thing and today is the perfect day to get started. Use a fall cleaning checklist to make sure you don't miss any spots around your home. Getting this done early in the month makes it much easier to tidy up down the road before hosting guests.

23 Days Ahead: Weekends are perfect for DIY-ing. Gather your family and get crafty by painting pumpkins (they're not just for Halloween). If you've had your fill of gourds, try a fun fall-themed DIY project, like making a wreath or preserving fall leaves.

Now is a great time to start planning your tablescape. If you've been meaning to upgrade your plates and flatware, we have your solution: a roundup of the perfect pieces to buy for your Thanksgiving table.

22 Days Ahead: Practice your hand at creating some sweet treats for Thanksgiving day on this, National Candy Day. Whip up candy or caramel apples, chewy caramels, and chocolates to munch on—all to celebrate the holiday and drop off on friends' porches or to keep all for yourself.

Three Weeks to Thanksgiving

21 Days Ahead: Reach out to friends and family members who may be joining you for Thanksgiving so you can try and get a rough headcount. Inquire about dietary restrictions, what they'd like to bring or see on the table, and give them details on the timing. November can be a busy month, so it's best to give people plenty of time to plan ahead and make travel arrangements.

20 Days Ahead: Start researching ideas for your Thanksgiving get together. This doesn't have to be just recipes either. Look into decoration ideas, table settings, games, conversation starters, and even some party prep hacks. It's always a smart idea to have an arsenal of entertainment ideas before a get-together. If there's ever a lull in the conversation or people are looking for things to do post-meal, you'll be ready.

19 Days Ahead: Go apple picking today, or plan a weekend date to do so. There's nothing better than a crisp apple for snacking, baking, and decorating. It's also the perfect time of year to visit farmers' stands for fresh autumn produce and treats like seasonal jams and baked goods.

18 Days Ahead: On National Cappuccino Day, treat yourself to a coffee or buy one for someone who loves it. Not a fan of coffee? Try a pumpkin-spiced chai or a seasonal tea. Fill up your favorite mug, grab a book, and get cozy. Then, walk around a few outdoor markets or visit local artisans to buy things like hand-poured candles or fresh fall fruits and veggies. A lot of the one-of-a-kind items can be perfect holiday gifts.

Cup of tea on tray with candle, spoon, and honey
The Spruce / Candace Madonna

17 Days Ahead: Take time for an outdoor break during lunch, after work, or during the day. There's nothing quite like breathing in the crisp, fresh fall air. Enjoy the fall weather before the rain and snow really start to kick in.

Whip up a simmer pot recipe you love. Then use it all throughout the season to make your home feel autumnal. Add spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise and fruits like oranges, apples, and cranberries. The possibilities are endless.

Simmer pot ingredients

16 Days Ahead: Today is Forget-Me-Not Day. Use today as a chance to catch up with friends and family members you've lost touch with or have been meaning to connect with. Send a quick text, call them, or surprise them with a cute card in the mail. 

15 Days Ahead: Happy Veteran's Day! Call a veteran you know and thank them for serving or treat them to a meal. If you're not close to a veteran, take time to educate yourself about the importance of the day. Take it a step further by writing thank you cards and dropping them off at places like the VA hospital.

Two Weeks to Thanksgiving

14 Days Ahead: Assign responsibilities for the day of. If you have kids, give them tasks like setting the table, helping with dishes, clearing the table, or assisting with cooking. Split up responsibilities with you and your partner so no one feels too stressed or overwhelmed during the holiday.

13 Days Ahead: Pick up all non-perishables today. If you stay ahead of the game, you won't have to worry about grocery stores selling out during the week of Thanksgiving. It's also a great time to grab things like decorative items, napkins, and beverages.

12 Days Ahead: Confirm your guest list for Thanksgiving Day and take note of what everyone is bringing so you don't prepare too much or too little of something. Take stock of what you already have, too, before you head out for another grocery run.

11 Days Ahead: Volunteer today. Whether it's serving meals at a shelter or picking up coats for a winter clothing drive, find a charity or organization you and your friends and family are passionate about and find out how you can help. Fall and winter can be especially tough seasons for people, and you'll feel good about being able to give back to your community and a cause you care about.

10 Days Ahead: Check and make sure you have all the necessary tools and supplies for cooking and hosting. Do you have enough plates, flatware, and cups for everyone? Are your tablecloths and placemats clean and ready to go? Do you have the right kitchen gadgets for cooking? Take note and get everything you need ahead of time before the rush begins.

9 Days Ahead: Turn off your phone and make time for some analog fun with a low-key, creative night. Choose a project that'll help your home look fantastic for the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration. Try your hand at creating a pretty autumnal floral arrangement or gourd display. After-work activities are always a treat to get your mind off of stressors.

cat on dresser next to fall decor
The Spruce / Margot Cavin

8 Days Ahead: Plan out your tablescape and special Thanksgiving decorations today. Think about seating and write out place cards for your guests. Brush up on how to set a formal dinner table so you won't stress over which fork goes where while setting the table Thanksgiving morning.

One Week to Thanksgiving

7 Days Ahead: Clean out your refrigerator. Make sure there is plenty of space for the turkey, dishes that need to be chilled, and room for leftovers. Also, check to see if you need to pick up any leftover containers for guests the next time you go on a grocery run.

6 Days Ahead: Clean out and organize your pantry in preparation for all your food and drink items. Donate or store any nonperishables that still have a long while before their expiration dates. Now is also a good time to clean out other parts of your kitchen and dining area. It'll make it easier to find things before the main event and keep your home clean and organized during the festivities.

5 Days Ahead: Buy your turkey today. You can keep it frozen, but buying in advance prevents any last-minute issues. However, if you purchased an extra-large frozen turkey, take it out to begin thawing. It's also National Stuffing Day! It's never too early to enjoy one of the best Thanksgiving side dishes. Test out a new recipe and share the meal with family as a teaser to what will be served on the big day.

4 Days Ahead: Read a book or articles about the history of Native Americans. Have an honest conversation about what you've learned with friends, family, or your children. 

3 Days Ahead: If you bought a frozen small turkey, take it out to thaw in the refrigerator. The USDA recommends allowing approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds of turkey to thaw in a refrigerator set at 40 F or below.

Now is also a great time to prepare sleeping arrangements and other shared spaces for any overnight guests. Make sure there are enough clean towels, sheets have been changed, and bathrooms and bedrooms are tidy.

2 Days Ahead: If you have to add chairs or a leaf to your dinner table or rearrange your living room setup, do that now so you don't need to worry the day-of. It's also best to do some speed cleaning now so you don't feel rushed or overwhelmed with housekeeping chores in the next couple of days.

candle with eucalyptus and white pumpkins
The Spruce / Candace Madonna

1 Day Ahead: Work on any last-minute preparations, then take the rest of the day to relax before your celebration tomorrow. Set aside a little bit of time to reflect on the best parts of your year so far and all the things you're thankful for.

Thanksgiving Day!

On Thanksgiving: Enjoy your time with your loved ones. Whether you're enjoying a large feast with extended family or simply enjoying a quiet meal with a few close friends, show gratitude for the ones you love.