With lower gas prices and a recovering economy, many people — and Google! — are projecting this will be a record-breaking weekend for Austin-area travel, both on and off the road. Traffic is predicted to snarl local roads, adding as much as a third more time to your trip and causing delays on major highways throughout the state.
Airline travel doesn't look much more promising considering winter storms are threatening much of the northeast and Midwest. As is so often the case, it's very possible that airlines will collapse on themselves creating mass, holiday-induced hysteria and stranding you in Austin forever.
So what happens if you get stuck in town without a plan? Don't worry. We've crafted a foolproof schedule to make sure you make the most of this orphan Thanksgiving.
Arrive at the airport extra early. While extra time has the added benefit of getting you through security and getting to the gate on time (blah blah blah), it also provides optimal time to peruse the miniature BookPeople. Grab the most recent issues of The New Yorker, The Economist and The Atlantic. After enough people have seen you parading around the store with these magazines, surreptitiously put them back and grab the copies of US Weekly, People and In Touch we all really want to read instead. My theory is if a plane goes down, I'd rather be judging "Who wore it best?" than pondering the intricacies of the 2008 financial collapse.
Wednesday late afternoon
Even if your flight has been delayed three times, don't give up hope. Call your loved ones and promise, "We will make it there come hell or high water!" (You know this isn't really true, and they know this isn't really true, but this is what the holidays are all about.) When it looks truly hopeless, just ask the desk agent if there is anything he or she can do. The agent will most likely respond by saying that they are doing the best they can. (Again, you know this isn't really true and they know this isn't really true, but this is what airlines are all about.)
The magazines have been read, the gummy candy has been eaten and the sense of hopelessness is permeating throughout the terminal. Not even an Auntie Anne's pretzel can save this trip. After the flight has officially been canceled, it's time to resign yourself to your new future: A Thanksgiving in Austin.
Once you've resigned yourself, no, made the conscious decision, to stay in town, you might as well head to the bar. If you've got kids, take 'em. Just say it's a new holiday tradition. Depending on where you land, one of two things will happen: It will be completely dead and you can commiserate with the bartender, or it will be packed with traditional Thanksgiving Eve revelers. These revelers are usually born and bred Austinites who are meeting up with friends from high school, or local folks who made the decision to forgo traditional Thanksgiving for Friendsgiving. Revel in the festive spirit. If you're feeling cheeky, pretend that you too went to Austin High School. Drink bourbon because "it tastes like Christmas."
Wednesday late night
Now that you've responsibly gotten home (you're an orphan, not a dummy, especially considering the Austin Police Department launched its "Arrive Alive" initiative on Tuesday), it's time to focus on the game plan for tomorrow. It's too late to order take-out meals but dining in a restaurant is certainly an option. But where's the fun in that? Instead, figure out which friends are hosting Thanksgiving in town. Make a spreadsheet detailing proximity to your home, cooking abilities of the hosts, and if you've seen any pre-Thanksgiving prep on social media. Once you've made your decision, it's time to call and beg for an invite.
It's Thanksgiving morning! Sure, you didn't wake up at 6 am to the smell of your mom caramelizing onions, and your head hurts from the bourbon, but that doesn't mean this isn't a special day. It's time to queue up Thanksgiving episodes of all your favorite television shows. (We recommend Friends, Mad About You and Roseanne.) Though you may feel a vague sense of impropriety from not watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, just remind yourself that these are new traditions.
It's time to call to your family. While they pass the phone around to Gramps and Gran and Great Aunt Marilyn, you may feel a deep sadness. (This could also be the gummy bears you ate at the airport and all the bourbon, but it's probably because you're bummed.) Wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and feel slightly better when you realize that at least no one will ask, "What is it you do exactly?" at your friend's house. (Well, someone might. But at least it won't be accompanied with a frustrated sigh.)
Head to the festivities. Grab a couple bottles of wine and some ice. (As Gilmore Girls famously taught us, the best thing to bring to parties is ice because the host always needs it.) Take a moment to enjoy the fact that you live in a town where friends are willing to open their table to you and your family at the very last minute.
We predict this will be the saddest part of the weekend. Not hosting dinner means not having leftovers. You can remedy this with a quick stop at Whole Foods on the way home. Grab a pie, some turkey cold cuts and one of those potato dishes you can stick in the oven. It won't taste like home, but at least you have pie.
Well, at least you don't have to clean up, right? If you were home, your mom would probably be saying something like, "Okay, the kids have to wash the dishes." And you would be rolling your eyes because you're an adult and maybe even have kids of your own and you have a house and a job and insurance and doesn't she know how much you don't want to help clean up! Throw on some nostalgic Rat Pack tunes, take out that store-bought pie and eat those feelings away. It's Thanksgiving, you might as well. As you clean up the pie plates you realize life is indeed a ridiculous circle.
Wake up and realize the world is your oyster! You have three whole days to organize those closets, prep those winter gardens and drop off those bags at Goodwill. At last, a whole weekend without festivals, visitors or birthday parties. This is your weekend — and you're going own it!
Friday morning, three minutes later
But you don't really want to be doing any of that. You'd rather be arguing with your brother about the merits of ABBA versus Ace of Base and sneaking snacks out of the fridge. Call your family and promise that next year you'll be taking the whole week off.