Thanksgiving Holiday Safety Tips

Updated September 3, 2019
Serving Thanksgiving turkey

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, food, and gratitude. There are a number of Thanksgiving holiday safety tips that can help ensure a happy and safe, festive celebration.

Food Safety Tips for Thanksgiving

The following are important food safety tips. Enjoy your favorite Thanksgiving foods by following safe food handling and cooking practices.

Preparation Safety

Keep everyone safe from the start by implementing these preparation tips:

  • Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, after handling any raw poultry or meat, and before eating.
  • Keep your food preparation surfaces and utensils clean and sanitized to reduce the risk of salmonella poisoning.
  • Use separate cutting boards: one for meat, poultry and fish, and one for cooked foods, vegetables and fruits. Sanitize the cutting board after each use.
  • Wash all vegetables and fruits before you prepare them.

Turkey Safety Tips

Thaw a frozen turkey safely in the refrigerator allowing 3-4 days for thawing or approximately one day for every five pounds. Another way to safely thaw a frozen turkey is submerging it in cold water. Replace the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. This method takes approximately 30 minutes for each pound the turkey weighs. The Food Safety website provides a useful turkey thawing chart and a turkey roasting chart. Additional safety tips include:

  • Refrigerate a thawed, or fresh, turkey for no longer than two days before cooking.
  • Immediately cook a small turkey that is defrosted in the microwave.
  • If you cook your stuffing inside the turkey, stuff it just before roasting.
  • Always use a meat thermometer to see if the turkey is completely cooked. The temperature needs to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted in the thickest area of the thigh.
Checking turkey in oven with meat thermometer

Handling Leftovers

Refrigerate all leftovers within two hours after cooking. Leftovers should be eaten within three or four days. If you are going to freeze leftovers, do that right away, not after they have been refrigerated for several days.

Secure Your Home Before Travel

If you will be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, you want to be sure your home stays safe. Make sure all windows and doors are locked, that you have timers on your lights and that you absolutely do not post on social media that you will be out of town. A security alarm system is also a good idea. Patience is the key when traveling for the holidays. Whether you are traveling by car or by plane, you should allow extra time and assume there may be delays.

Road Trip Safety Tips

Prior to heading out to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving, there are a few things you should do to reassure you have a safe trip.

Maintain Your Car

You should have your car inspected prior to the trip. Checking the tires, fluids, wipers etc. can help prevent unexpected breakdowns or problems. If you do need to pull over, make sure you pull off to the side of the road as far over as you can. You may want to consider signing up for roadside assistance such as AAA to be safe especially if your car is an older model.

man with grandson checking oil in car

Check Weather Conditions

For the most part, November weather can be unpredictable and it is best to be prepared. Checking weather conditions prior to departure is important, and it's also a good idea to check the predicted weather forecast for the ride home. If serious storms (rain or snow) are part of the forecast, you may want to consider changing your plans. Most phones have a weather app or one can be downloaded.

Check Traffic Conditions

Holiday traffic can be the worst and in most cases delays are inevitable. Leaving early can help avoid some of the holiday traffic. There are traffic apps that can help you navigate through or avoid congestion.

Drive Safely and Considerately

It is highly advised that you drive during the day when traveling for the holidays. You should also drive cautiously and within the speed limit. Make sure that you and your passengers are wearing seat belts. If you're driving a long distance, you may want to take turns driving and make sure you stop to take breaks, stretch, walk and get something to eat and drink.

Pack an Emergency Kit

Your emergency kit should include a blanket or two, a flashlight, road flares, and a first aid kit. Water and snacks should be included as well.

Kid Safety

With unexpected delays come restless children. Always make sure they bring things to keep them entertained such as, books, games and movies. Also, have them bring their pillow so they can nap when they feel tired.

Pet Safety

If you are traveling with a pet, he should be secured in the back seat with a pet seat belt or he should travel inside his carrier or crate. Leaving your pet unsecured can be distracting and dangerous for both you and your pet.

Air Travel Safety Tips

The airports are simply bustling with people traveling to be with family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday. It is one of the busiest and most heavily traveled holidays.

Allow Extra Time

You should allow more time to get through the airport due to the high volume of people traveling for the holiday. If you have TSA precheck or Clear and are not checking a bag, you may be okay to arrive at the standard time (two hours early), but it is advised to never cut it close time-wise with holiday travel or there's a chance you'll miss your flight.


There will be much human interaction at the airport and you should be prepared for the spread of germs. Carry a trial size hand sanitizer with you and use it often. When you can, wash your hands with soap and water. After boarding the plane, wipe down the tray, armrests, and window area with disinfectant wipes. If you are highly susceptible to catching 'bugs', and are worried about the recycled air, you should turn off the air vent above you and you may want to buy face masks/surgical masks and wear one for your flight.

Kids on the Flight

Again, you'll want to keep them entertained. Bring plenty of books, games and movies which will work wonders especially if there are delays. Don't forget some extra snacks as well. They should also have their own small pillow or neck pillow if they get tired.

Mom and daughter on plane trip coloring in book

Thanksgiving at Your House

There are potential hazards that you should be aware of if you're holding Thanksgiving at your house. This includes fire-related incidents. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the Thanksgiving holiday has the most cooking-related fires over any other holiday. Some of these safety tips include:

  • Have an easily accessible fire extinguisher in your kitchen and more importantly, know how to use it.
  • Be cautious of what you're wearing while cooking. Do not wear flowing, loose clothing that could potentially catch fire.
  • Be knowledgeable and careful if using a turkey fryer. There is a high danger of fires and/or burns when using one.
  • Remain in the kitchen to watch over the cooking food.
  • Keep an eye out for any potential fires hazards that may come near the flame, such as oven mitts, dish towels, or plastic wrappers or bags.
  • Keep pot handles facing inward or to the rear of the stove to avoid accidentally knocking over a pot.
  • Watch out for any dangling electrical cords. Keep them up out of the way or unplug any small appliances you are not using them.
  • Keep floor clear of any debris to help avoid any unnecessary falling or ankle-twisting accidents.
  • Check with your guests if they have any food allergies and if so, let them know which dishes to avoid that may contain a particular allergen.
  • Make sure the turkey is fully cooked and leftovers are stored within two hours to avoid food poisoning.

Keep Kids Safe

There is more than a good chance that your Thanksgiving celebration will include kids of all ages. The best ways to keep them safe includes:

  • Simply keep the kids out of the kitchen when cooking.
  • Keep any knives or any sharp objects out of their reach.
  • If you have lit candles in your home, they should be placed high and out of their reach as well.
  • If the weather is nice enough and the kids can play outside, always have a designated adult chaperone to keep an eye on them.

Keep Your Pets Safe

Many people enjoy sharing some of their Thanksgiving meal with their pets. However, it is important to be aware of the dangers that may exist to ensure your favorite furry friends enjoy a safe Thanksgiving.

  • Never give your dog or cat raw or undercooked turkey as they, like people, are susceptible to salmonella bacteria. Make sure their holiday turkey nibbles are well cooked.
  • Do not give your pets stuffing since herbs, such as sage, even in small amounts can cause an upset stomach and gastrointestinal problems.
  • Never give your pets turkey bones.
  • Never give a pet raw bread dough. The dough expands once it is eaten, causing vomiting, pain and bloating. Surgery may be required to correct the condition.
  • Keep the kitchen trash can covered and out of the way of curious pets.
  • Keep fresh flowers and plants out of the reach of cats and dogs. Many beautiful flowers are highly toxic to pets if ingested.

Memorable and Special Celebration

Thanksgiving is a time for celebration with family and friends. These safety tips can help make you more aware of potential incidents that could occur, help protect your loved ones and help make your Thanksgiving a memorable and special occasion.

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Thanksgiving Holiday Safety Tips