On the fourth Thursday of every November, Americans engage in an annual feast that reminds us of our country’s humble origins, and give us a good reason to get together with family, watch football and stuff our faces until our pants don’t fit. It’s the official start to the holiday season, and it can either be a fantastic day full of food, family and fun, or a total nightmare full of burnt turkeys and busted travel plans.
Fortunately, you can always turn to the social web to help you plan for the big day. In fact, the Internet can help you prepare a feast, assist you with your T-day travel and keep you entertained once the pie is gone and the plates are cleared. And that’s definitely something to be thankful for.
Cooking the Perfect Feast
There are plenty of ways to use the web to put together the perfect Thanksgiving dinner by yourself. With aholiday menu planner that helps you balance all your guests’ distinct dietary needs and the Food Network’s comprehensive Thanksgiving 2010 guide, the web will have you well-equipped to whip up a fabulous feast in no time. And it can even help you handle the tough stuff, like picking the perfect Thanksgiving station on Pandora, feeding your vegetarian guests and decorating your house for the holiday.
Sometimes, you don’t want the entire weight of the meal to fall on your shoulders alone — especially when that meal includes a 20-pound turkey. Fortunately, the web can help you out with that too. If you decide you want your dinner to be a potluck, you can use SignUpGenius or GroupSched to create interactive online sign-up sheets so your guests know what they should bring.
Evite also has a wide selection of potluck-specific invites, and there’s even an entire site devoted to helping you put together the perfect potluck party.
You can also supplement a few home-cooked dishes with help from your local Whole Foods or send someone a helping hand with a meal via Send A Meal’s Thanksgiving specials, both of which have online ordering and home delivery. Vons and Boston Market both offer full Thanksgiving meal options for your perusal online.
Regardless of how you slice it, cook it or get your friends to pitch in, there are plenty of ways the web can help you save money on your Thanksgiving meal, from budget meal plans, to Thanksgiving grocery coupons, to the growing industry of mobile coupon apps that let you take advantage of Thanksgiving specials from store to store via your smartphone. One man has even decided to blog about using coupons to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal for six people on a $5 budget. Then again, if you decide you don’t want to cook at all, websites like Gayot, About.com and CitySearch can help you find restaurants serving the traditional T-day meal. Homemade food is sweet, but spending more time relaxing than basting a turkey might just be sweeter.
Taming the T-Day Travel
Of course, if you’re not celebrating Thanksgiving at your house, then your first priority might be getting those T-day travel plans in order. There are plenty of ways the web can help you save on fall travel in general, from websites that help you find cheap airfare to the GasBuddy app for iPhone and Android, which helps you locate the cheapest place to fill up on that long trip over the river and through the woods.
BeatTheTraffic is another great online travel resource that tells you what the congestion looks like on your local travel routes, and there’s a companion app that will give you updated traffic info on the go. Similarly, the Airport Flight Delays app will let you know in advance when to expect a delay so you can plan accordingly. And, in case you need to make a last-minute travel adjustment, HopStop will help you out with online public transit directions for many cities, which you can also access on the go via an iPhone app or by using its SMS feature.
No matter how you travel, don’t forget to bring your host or hostess a gift. Etsy has some fantastic handmadeholiday-themed options, including everything from embroidered turkey toilet paper to sweet centerpieces. And of course, nothing says “Thanks for having me for Thanksgiving” quite like the gift of a membership to the Pie of the Month Club, which buys your generous host all sorts of pie-related goodies, plus the monthly delivery of a fresh pie recipe, so he or she can start practicing for the dessert portion of next year’s feast.
When You Can’t Eat Another Bite
There’s always the question of what to do when dinner is over. Sure, there’s football on TV and pants that need unbuttoning, but what else?
A simple Google search proves that the web is full of Thanksgiving craft ideas, but there are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied if you’re not the crafting type. Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to give back, and the web can help you find food drives, soup kitchens and more to volunteer at. You can also searchFacebook and Eventbrite event listings to find Thanksgiving meals and charity events looking for volunteers.
Another classic Thanksgiving activity is sharing the things you’re thankful for, and, of course, the web makes it easier to do that too. TurkeyTwitter actually aggregates all the tweets with Thanksgiving and thankfulness-themed hashtags, making it easy to browse the things people are thankful for and share them with your friends and family. Facebook also has a number of Thanksgiving apps to play with, and you can find some cool turkey-themed flash games to play online, including one deceptively difficult combo of turkeys and Tetris.
Get creative with your guests and play Thanksgiving-related trivia games by printing facts about turkeys, T-Dayand even the Macy’s parade balloons and quizzing each other Jeopardy-style.
No matter what you do this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to give thanks for the world wide web. Because without it, planning for Thanksgiving would be a pretty thankless task indeed.
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