10 Holiday Planning Tips for a Stress-Free Season

As wonderful as the winter holidays can be, most of us will admit that they’re not always carols and candy canes. Between travel, Christmas shopping, kids being out of school and all of the other factors, it can feel almost impossible to get a moment’s peace just to clear your head. Fear not — holiday cheer doesn’t have to be so difficult! In fact, the more you plan the more you can get on top of the season’s trickiest dilemmas. These ten tips will help you do exactly that. 

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1. Get the big gifts out of the way first.

Going all-in on something big and awesome like a new outdoor kitchen kit for Dad? Early planning is a must for major gifts like this so you don’t have to get the logistics in order at the last minute. Put down any deposits or advance orders well ahead of time, and make sure you’ve thought through how to hide it if it’s going to be a surprise. Don’t forget to also purchase any little extras that are crucial for enjoying the gift like a bag of wood pellets to fuel that awesome new pellet grill. 

2. Nail down travel plans as soon as you can.

Travel plans are another thing you definitely don’t want to deal with at the eleventh hour. Figure out where family gatherings are happening, who’s hosting and all of the other details as far in advance as you can. This is especially important for coordinating around commitments like school and work schedules and finding something that works for everyone. Plus, if you’re flying, buying tickets early will help you find the lowest fares for your destination. 

3. Cook slow, live fast. 

The power of slow cooking can make the holidays a lot easier — and tastier too. Choose some of the many holiday recipes that can be cooked all day in an oven or slow cooker, and you’ll have more time to take care of whatever else needs doing. These recipes tend to cook in big batches, so they’re great not just for big family dinners, but for low-stress holiday meal prep. It’ll also help you avoid filling up on junk food later if you’re too busy to cook. 

4. Check which holiday decorations you already have before buying more.

Hey, we get it — it’s way too easy to go overboard buying new holiday decorations! That’s why it’s important to start with a basic idea of what you have already. Many folks buy decorations at post-holiday sales because the prices are great, but that also makes them easy to forget about. Thus, before you shop, take a quick headcount on your existing decor and figure out what you still need. This will give you a better idea of where your money will go the farthest when it comes to decor.

5. Sit down and create a holiday budget. 

A holiday budget may not exactly feel like something from a Hallmark movie, but it’ll definitely help lower your stress! Knowing exactly how much you can spend on gifts, food, travel and more will give you a healthy foundation to work from without worrying about overspending. It doesn’t have to be complicated, either; a simple spreadsheet will usually do the trick. Of course, unexpected expenses can always happen, so it’s best to build in a little wiggle room if you can.

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6. Keep a running list of gift ideas.

That awesome gift idea that just popped into your head while walking the dog? Trust us — you might not remember it when you get home! Instead, keep a running list of gift ideas along with who they’d be perfect for. A notes document in your phone is perfect for jotting things down as they come to you. Once you’ve got some time, consider creating price alerts for items on your list. This can be especially good for discovering Black Friday deals that you wouldn’t find otherwise.

7. Put all of your gift-wrapping supplies in one container.

Nobody likes hunting for scotch tape on Christmas Eve when you’re trying to wrap last-minute gifts. That’s why a lot of people choose to consolidate all of their present-wrapping supplies into a single box. One of the elongated under-bed storage boxes available at any box store will work well, but some companies even sell specially-made wrapping paper boxes with compartments for paper, tape, scissors and more. 

8. Start prepping the house early if guests are coming. 

The stress can crank up to 11 when you’ve got the in-laws (or anyone else) staying at the house. To make things easier, don’t let the tasks of cleaning and preparing your home pile up at the last minute. Instead, break down the process into a series of small tasks, and then check them off steadily as the big day approaches. If you have kids, enlist their help in getting the house ready — a helping hand folding towels can make a bigger difference than you might expect. 

9. Create a gift list for kids to make relatives’ gift buying easier. 

Some eCommerce sites, including Amazon, offer the ability to create gift lists that you can share with others. They can work well for anyone in your family, but they’re especially useful when relatives are shopping for gifts to give your kids. You won’t have to field calls asking what the kids want this year, explain to Grandma which video game is the right one or worry that two people will buy the same thing. Just share the list and ask them to check off what they’ve bought for a smooth, low-stress experience for everyone!

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