Safety Tips for a Great Thanksgiving this Year

family thanksgiving dinner

The coronavirus has made Thanksgiving look a little different, but it’s still possible to have a good holiday with your family this November. Here are some Thanksgiving safety tips and ideas for celebrating the holiday in a way that your whole family can feel comfortable with and excited about.

Creating Your Own Family Thanksgiving Pod

As we approach the holiday season, families are missing their loved ones more than ever. While some families may be opting out of the big family dinners this year (and the CDC recommends you do), we know that others will want to do everything they can to safely see their extended family for the holiday. The Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) turned to the most recent NBA season for inspiration when brainstorming a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Creating your own “holiday bubble” involves a number of steps and a mutual understanding throughout your family:


  • Assess your own risk tolerance
  • Ensure everyone involved is committed to the same rules
  • Get your flu shot
  • Have a serious family conversation
  • Agree on a location
  • Order necessary PPE
  • If flying, take a direct flight when possible
  • Check travel restrictions for the state you’re visiting

Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving

  • Self-quarantine if possible
  • Maintain close attention to distancing, mask wearing, and sanitizing
  • Monitor your symptoms and temperature daily

5-7 days prior to Thanksgiving

  • Get a diagnostic test (PCR, not rapid)
  • Stock up on hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes
  • Recheck travel restrictions

When driving to Thanksgiving bubble

  • Make the trip in a single day
  • Bring your own travel snacks
  • Limit or avoid time in crowded places along the way

When flying to Thanksgiving bubble

  • Wear a mask the entire flight
  • Skip snacks and drinks
  • Use the restroom before boarding

During Thanksgiving

  • For high-risk family members, follow mask practices, hand hygiene, and distancing

For a short, printable version of this Thanksgiving bubble checklist that the whole family can sign in agreement, click here.

Thanksgiving Safety Tips from the CDC

It is up to you and your family to weigh the risks and rewards of seeing your extended family this holiday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided this guidance for Thanksgiving 2020:

These activities pose a low risk:

  • Have a small dinner, with only the people who live in your household.
  • Prepare your favorite Thanksgiving recipes and drop the food off at the houses of friends and family.
  • Have a virtual dinner so the kids can see their relatives and share memories. (Try out these virtual devices for connecting with family from afar this Thanksgiving!)

Read Next | 5 Tips for Supporting Your Baby’s Immune System

These activities pose a moderate risk:

  • Have a small outdoor dinner with family and friends in your community (just be sure to always follow CDC guidelines for hosting outdoor gatherings).
  • Go for a family hike where people can maintain social distancing. Don’t forget the hand sanitizer and masks for when social distancing isn’t possible!

And the CDC recommends avoiding:

  • Shopping in crowded stores before, on, or after Thanksgiving. (This probably isn’t the year to go crazy on Black Friday!)
  • Attending a crowded sports event or parade
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people outside your household. As much as we want things to return to normal, this isn’t the year to have a normal Thanksgiving celebration at grandma’s house.

Thanksgiving Ideas Other Than a Big Family Dinner

Because this is already an unusual year, it might be just the right time to stage an alternative Thanksgiving. Think outside the box to make this holiday a little different.

Watch a movie marathon. After enjoying the unique Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the comfort of your couch (the traditional extravaganza is on hold this year to avoid crowds), why not continue the day with some fall family favorites? Screen the classic A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, then watch as turkeys try to save the day (and their kin) in the animated Free Birds.  Not rooting for any of the teams playing on Nov. 26, but still in the mood for football? Try Remember the Titans, Rudy, or Radio. And you can always start the holiday celebrations a little early with Elf, Home Alone, or Miracle on 34th Street.

Plan your own family turkey trot. Running (or walking) your own 5K is a great way for the whole family to get some exercise. Who needs other runners? This way, you’ll all win!

Have a friendly Thanksgiving dish competition. Do the kids love making chocolate chip cookies? Does your sister usually make a mean sweet potato pie? Invite family members to drop their favorite homemade dishes at your house—and then do a Zoom competition where you “judge” the best dish. Don’t forget to make something for them, too!

Invent your own tradition! It will help take your mind off the impact COVID-19 has had on all our lives—whether it’s a new recipe, an excursion, or a new activity—do something that you’ve never done as a family. Now is the time to start and incorporate it again next year!

Jacqueline Neber is an assistant editor and a graduate of The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. When she’s not focused on writing special needs and education features, you can find her petting someone else’s dog.

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