Planning is the key to a successful holiday season. Plan, plan, plan! It’s true you can’t prep for everything. However, having a plan in place helps control some of the chaos. And if your family is anything like mine, you know there’s always a little pandemonium in the kitchen. Planning is the key to a successful holiday season, but don't forget to be flexible so you enjoy all of the festivities.
1. Plan for Company
Get a head count of how many are coming, as well as who those individuals are. Knowing that will give you an idea of how many tables and chairs you will need, as well as where you plan to host the party. If you have a large number of guests, plan to move the feast to a dining room or maybe in the living room. This way you’ll have a larger space to use for table arrangements. If you have a more intimate number of guests, just add extra chairs to your kitchen or dining room table.
Another thing to consider is who will be attending the dinner. Mainly because everyone has their own taste buds and some may have food allergies, and knowing your guests will help prepare for these nuances. You will know which guests will be bringing children and you will know how old they are.
Now that you know who to expect, have activities for everyone to do while you prepare the food. For the kids (no matter their age), you can have them play videos games, or play outside or put on some movies they will like. For the grown-ups, you could put on the football game or set up a table for playing cards or dominos. A tradition in my household is that we all get together and watch holiday movies.
2. Plan the Meal
Now that you know who to expect, it’s time to prep the meal and write out your grocery list. Don’t wait until the day before because the stores may be out of what you need.
Next, figure out your sides and desserts. Since you already know who is coming, you could take a poll of what everyone wants. Also, while you take your poll, check to see who has allergies and dietary restrictions. This will help you narrow down your list.
Buy plenty, in case you have screwups in the kitchen and need to redo some dishes. And lastly, have a backup plan. In case something (or everything) goes wrong, maybe buy a frozen pizza or some turkey burgers for dinner. There is no shame in having a non-traditional meal, so long as you spend it with family.
3. Plan Your Outings
Be sure to dress comfortably. Jeans, a light sweater or long-sleeved shirt (depending on the weather), and tennis shoes. No matter how early you get there, you will be standing in line and once you get in the doors, you’ll be doing a lot of walking, whether you're shopping, going to the movies or ice skating.
Also travel with a group. It doesn’t have to be a large group, but just enough people to make it fun. I’d recommend 2 – 3 people.
Know what you’re looking for and where to get it if you plan to do holiday shopping on Black Friday. If you’re searching for electronics, Best Buy is where you want to be. If you’re shopping for toys, personally, I think Target has a better selection. However, you can also go to Wal Mart.
4. Plan Your Travel
Unless the family is coming to you, you’ll have to go to them. And chances are, they are nowhere close by. So first thing first, figure out how you’ll travel and what is most cost-effective. If your family lives a few hours away, somewhere between three to five, then driving is your best bet. You can get up early, get there by lunch, eat and mingle, and then drive later that night. Plus gas has gone down, and it won’t break your wallet everytime you fill up your tank.
If your family lives further away, anywhere from six to ten hours or more, you may want to take a plane. And the reason I say that is because trains are actually more expensive than just taking a plane, and they account for longer travel. And I would never advocate for anyone taking a bus long distances. While less expensive than a train and sometimes a plane, it will be the longest ride of your life. I say you should fly.
However, if you are out of state or have a long travel ahead, yet you are in no hurry to get there, then I would say take the train. Make sure to get a window seat, and watch the world go by. Also, I find train stations to be a lot less hectic than the airport. But again, it is up to you.
Another important factor to consider when traveling is who will pick you up and drop you off (if you travel by planes and trains) and where you will stay. Make sure you designate your arrival time and departure time with your chauffeur. Also, make sure it’s someone reliable. Then there are the accommodations. I like hotels, but if you have to pay for transportation, it might be more cost effective to stay with family.
5. Plan Who You’ll Spend Your Holiday with
Some of us have spouses or significant others who have families of their own, meaning you'll have to coordinate who we see on what day. One suggestion is to spend Thanksgiving with one family and spend Christmas with the other family. And every other year, you can switch places. Talk it out amongst both families to get an itinerary of what everyone wants to do.
6. Plan to Eat
Expect to eat, expect to get full and expect your pants to get a little tighter. Word to the wise, wear stretchy clothing or bottoms that have a little give in them. Oh, and try some of everything.