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Your End of Year Guide: Gifts, Feasts, and Final Projects
What makes a successful year’s end?
Some of us will immediately begin to consider our careers and accomplishments. Many will first think of family and friends, and the memories we have created.
Others will enjoy planning the holiday with lists of gifts to please their loved ones and menus for feasts and parties.
Each of these is a valid and powerful way of evaluating the end of the year and the months ahead.
There’s so much to organize as we move into the holiday season. There are career goals to achieve, budgets to balance, and gifts to purchase or make. Many of us will be traveling while others will be preparing our homes to welcome guests.
And, once together for the holidays, we have new concerns of communication and relationships with family and friends, taking care of ourselves, and giving back to others.
If you’re feeling a little lost already, there’s no need to worry. In this article, we’re giving you some of our best tips to manage the stress the end of the year can offer and come out on the other side thriving.
Your Career: Ending on a High Note
Most of our planning for the end of the year begins with work. When it comes to career goals, we want to do our best and accomplish all of our assignments and projects. Especially as we imagine the new year bringing in new opportunities.
Nonetheless, ending your year on a high note requires honest evaluation. It’s important to consider your skills and capacities. It’s also useful to look back at how your goals have progressed. This evaluation will inform your goals going forward.
Evaluating Your Goals for the Year
Some goals have personal criteria for evaluation. Others have certain criteria such as testing or performance reviews.
Common career goals include:
- Working toward a promotion or pay raise within your current company or organization.
- A career or occupation change.
- Aiding in company-wide growth.
- A marketing growth goal or other organizational goals.
- Personal development goals that will help us better our skills.
- Personal career goals, such as working on your mental health, creating work-life balance, and developing better time management skills.
Evaluating your goals needs to be an honest process since honesty is necessary for improvement. When evaluating your performance, there are a few things to consider:
- Did you meet your goal or are you on your way to meet your goal?
- Can you identify where there was a lot of waste in the process?
- Was this goal a priority in your life? Should it have been?
- Did the process take a toll on you? Instead, was it manageable and repeatable?
Behind on Yearly Goals?
There are many reasons that people fall behind on their goals, and few actually indicate failure. Most of the time, people fall behind because they didn’t prioritize or allocate enough time toward the goal. It could also be the effect of inefficient methods or a lack of structure.
How to Prioritize
When it comes to goal-setting, prioritization is a multi-faceted process. Some goals will move along just fine with weekly check-ups or informal scheduling. However, if you do find yourself behind, it’s likely that your goal requires more rigid scheduling and more time allocated to it.
In order to not to be overwhelmed, break larger goals down into smaller goals and deadlines. Then, prioritize and organize these smaller goals.
Which to Go for and Which to Push to Next Year
As you come to the end of the year, you may start to feel that you’re running out of time. Once the holiday season takes hold, time often becomes more scarce, and you may feel more stressed. While this is completely understandable, it doesn’t exactly lead to careful work.
In some cases, it’s important to push on with these goals through the end of the year, such as a strict or time-sensitive deadline. In other cases, it could be more worthwhile to wait for the calm after the holidays. The busy winter season might make it harder for you to focus.
Keep in mind, though, that there are no good times unless you make them, and one season is always leading into the busy hustle and bustle of another. If there is something that you need to do, such as a big career project, career change, or work-life commitment, make the plans to set yourself up with the appropriate support to do what you need to do, regardless of the season.
Tips to Push and Hit Goals
If you decide to push for one of your goals in the short term, you might have your work cut out for you. Here are a few effective tips for pushing forward with a tight goal:
- Visualize and Conceptualize the Goal – Know what needs to be accomplished, what it will look like when it’s done. This will help you identify and prioritize the steps.
- Make a Plan – Whether creative or concrete, few goals come to fruition without some sort of plan. A plan can save you a lot of time that you would waste on making basic decisions.
- Set Deadlines – Deadlines are a crucial part of your plan if you want to get something done in a limited timeframe. Make your deadlines clear enough to mark on the calendar. If you miss a deadline, don’t just ignore it, reschedule it with a plan for completion.
- Have Accountability – Report on progress and goal completion to a team member or supportive friend. Have them hold you accountable for reporting back your progress.
Start Thinking About and Planning Next Year’s Goals
We often finish the year with a sense of busy, even fervent, momentum. We can actually use this momentum while going into the next year. Productive people start planning their next goal even as they finish their first. Doing this, they are effectively channeling their sense of accomplishment into the next project.
Winter holidays can make for an exhausting season, and you may not come back feeling as rested as you might like. Many people slow down in the new year, rather than starting on the right foot.
However, if you have already started planning the next year’s goals, you’ll have a plan right from the get-go.
Getting Ready for Holiday Leave
Whether you’re in the middle of something or have just ended a project at work, it can be hard to pull away from the workplace for the holidays. Keep in mind that this separation is good for your mental health.
If you are leaving something unfinished:
- Make a plan with everyone involved to pick it back up after your leave.
- If the project is continuing while you are on leave, designate someone to take the lead until you come back. They will be able to field questions and strategize solutions.
- Accept that progress will be slow during the holidays.
- Designate one way for work to contact you while you’re on leave. Either emails or phone calls. Give a clear window of time when you are available to answer questions. This will keep you from being on-call throughout the holiday.
Getting Ready for the Holidays
The holidays are an overwhelming time of the year that asks us to navigate the demands of friends and family while balancing work and home lives. Even as we enjoy ourselves, we must remain mindful of some of the more difficult aspects of life, such as budgeting and managing our time.
We can’t plan for everything and there are always unforeseen complications. Nonetheless, the best way to prepare for the holidays is to think them through.
Taking some time now to strategize will save you from difficult decisions in the pressure of holiday crunch time. This includes:
- A budget for your holiday gifts and expenditures.
- A strategy for your holiday travel.
- A few thoughts for how you’ll relax and stay sane around the family.
Keeping the Finances in Check
The holiday season makes many demands on our finances, as it tempts us to indulge, sometimes more than we should.
Begin with making a budget. This number should be in addition to your usual monthly bills and shouldn’t leave you short on your normal expenditures and finances.
Allocate your budget. Once you have assigned a number to what you are able to spend throughout the holiday season, it’s a good idea to make your budget more specific, partitioning it with the type of spending you will be doing.
Some categories might include:
- Travel expenses
- Decorations and Hosting
- Holiday outings and restaurant visits
Staying on Budget During the Holiday Season
No one wants to have to count every receipt and pinch every penny during the holidays. Nonetheless, remaining mindful of your budget will help you make choices that alleviate holiday stress as well as long-term financial repercussions from the jolly season.
One of the surest ways to stay on budget is to be prepared. Preparations help to eliminate the need for unforeseen purchases while allowing for a more thoughtful gift-list that helps you to avoid impulse purchases.
This requires a decent amount of time management. The holidays can easily sneak up on us before we really know it. Ultimately, though, it’s worthwhile to set aside from time to plan your holidays with gifts lists, a calendar, and even menus for important meals and parties.
Holiday Budgeting Tips
Everyone’s holiday budget allocations will look a little different depending on where and how they plan to spend the holidays.
Someone who does a lot of hosting and throwing parties throughout the holidays will probably prioritize their food and decoration budget above others. Many, however, will be spending the holidays away from home and will therefore allocate more of their budget toward travel expenses.
Ideally, your budget will include all your expenses. Consider the cost of travel, shopping, food, and even the smaller items that add up, such as greeting cards and shipping fees. You might also make an allocation in your budget for any charitable donations that you’re planning.
Decorating On a Budget
- Use Versatile Holiday Decorations – Pick items that lead from fall into winter, such as wreaths that can be redressed and lights that can be repurposed.
- Holiday DIY – Look up some cute DIY decorations to save money.
- Reuse Holiday Decorations – If you don’t have many yourself, talk to friends and family who might have holiday decorations in storage. Ask them if you can borrow items they don’t plan on using.
- Make a Complete List of Gifts, and Stick to It – Create a list of your gift-giving throughout the holiday season that includes every recipient in your plan. Even include teachers, neighbors, and coworkers, if you exchange gifts with them. For each person on your gift list, allocate a maximum amount that you’re willing to spend. Be realistic on the budget. Underpricing an item on your list just so it looks better on paper can blow your budget as a whole.
- Check Your List for Places to Be More Thrifty – If you find that you’re pushing your budget with gifts, look at your list and consider who you might get a card only. You can save some cash hand-making some of your gifts, such as baked goods or hand-crafted ornaments.
- Set Reasonable Expectations, Particularly with Children – Be honest with children about the kind of Christmas gifts they can expect. This will relieve your guilt, as well as any let-down they would feel from having very high expectations.
You might also consider talking to family about doing a name exchange among the adults for Christmas gifts. Propose having a drawing for gift-giving.
- Don’t Break the Bank on Wrapping – There’s no need to spend a large chunk of your budget on expensive wrapping paper. Instead, go for the budget option. Be wary of gift-wrapping services, either in person or from online retailers. These services can add a hefty fee to your gift.
- Gift Your Time – Budget running too low for your liking? Gift your time by offering to cook, babysitting, or going out to do something special. Remember, gifts aren’t all material. Sometimes the best gift you can give is dedicated time with a loved one.
Budgeting Your Meals
- Make a Menu for Big Dinners – Plan your holiday dinner ahead of time. This will also help you to take into account any dietary restrictions or allergies from guests.
- Know How Many People Are Coming – Planning for extra people who won’t be there will unnecessarily stretch your budget.
- Take Inventory – While making your list, take an inventory of what’s already in your own pantry and fridge and freezer. You can then create your menu based on items that you already have.
- Make it Potluck Style – Ask others to bring dishes to save you time and money. Just because you’re hosting a holiday dinner, doesn’t mean you can’t ask guests to chip in a little bit. In fact, it may help guests to feel more involved when they bring something.
- Make Your Own Desserts – During the crazy holiday season, it’s most cost-efficient to make your own desserts as opposed to purchasing them from a bakery. Or, if you’re not much of a baker yourself, ask a talented friend to bring dessert.
- Make Your Big Meals BYOB – You can create a well-rounded bar for the holidays by asking guests to BYOB. Alternately, you could opt for a signature cocktail that meshes well with your menu. Then, you can ask other guests or friends to each bring a part of the intended cocktail.
- Use Your Leftovers – One of the glorious things about the holiday season is the consistent high-quality leftovers, which can be dressed up and reused for more fine dining. Thanksgiving turkey, for example, can be made into soups and sandwiches. The Christmas ham can be baked into a quiche, rolled into dumplings, or added to a creamy pasta sauce.
- Clip Coupons and Compare Prices – Coupons are big during the holidays, as different markets compete for your business. If you have the time, you can save yourself some cash by comparing prices and buying from the store with the lowest price. It may not seem like much per item, but it will add up after a long list.
Stress-free Shopping Tips
- Shop Early – One of the best ways to keep your shopping stress-free is to shop early and avoid the rush. Shopping early also means that you have a better chance of getting the best deals and sales.
- Don’t Be Manipulated by Sales – If something that’s already on your list is one sale, then grab it. If you’re buying something just because it’s a good sale deal, leave it.
- Take Advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales – Just be sure to stick to your list. However, if these shopping events tend to stress you out, keep in mind that there isn’t normally a big difference between sale prices advertised as doorbusters and normal holiday sales that will take place throughout the season.
Research Black Friday deals beforehand at sites such as BlackFriday.com. This will help you choose which deals are worthwhile. This will help you stay ahead of the crowd and make sure you can reserve what you want at the price you would like, or at least get a head start.
Shopping for Gifts
- Add a few generic gifts to your shopping list. This will help you in a pinch if there is someone you’ve forgotten. A present ahead of time will help you from scrambling for something last minute.
- Go for personal gifts, as opposed to expensive gifts. The recipient will be blown away if they feel seen or understood.
- If nothing is coming to mind, go thrifting for some added inspiration. At thrift and antique stores, you might find unique, historical, hard-to-find, and gently-used items.
- Spread your shopping out over the holiday weeks. This makes it less overwhelming and ends up being more cost-effective. Large shopping trips and spree-like shopping can make us more likely to purchase add-ons and become desensitized to our financial realities. Shopping a little at a time helps us to slow down and think about our purchases.
Shopping for Groceries
- Before Shopping, Clean Out Your Storage – Begin your holiday season with a cleanout of your fridge, freezer, and pantry spaces. This kind of reorganization will help you take stock of what you do and don’t need going into the holiday season. The act also performs double duty, clearing out space to store your holiday purchases. Proper storage, after all, will go a long way toward preserving the freshness of your ingredients for a longer time.
- Plan On Simple Snacks with a Long Shelf Life – Chances are, there will be gaps in your plan, and a hungry family might quickly become a grumpy and bickering family. So make sure to plan in some flexible snacks.
- Go Armed with a List – During the holidays, your grocery list might be more complicated than you’re used to. For instance, you might be entertaining house guests during the holidays. You might also need to budget for more meals at home, as children are on break and others take time off.
- Strategically Buy in Bulk – Stock up on items with a long lifespan for the fall and winter, so that you don’t have to deal with it again.
- Take One Comprehensive Trip – If you have a big week full of holiday events, try to purchase what you need for the week all at once. Stopping at the store several times will not only sap your time, but it will also make it more likely to blow your food budget.
- Buy In-Season Fruits and Vegetables – Buying what’s in season for your holiday meals will ensure availability and also lower prices. In-season food is the most readily available, meaning that it comes at the lowest price. In-season food for November and December includes pumpkins, winter squash, such as spaghetti and acorn squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, cranberries, pears, oranges, cauliflower, broccoli, and mushrooms.
- Avoid Pre-Assembled Trays of Pre-cut Vegetables and Fruit – These trays are very easy to grab when you’re running late to a get-together, but they’ll cost you. Most of these trays are priced such that you overpay for the convenience. Instead, buy the raw ingredients and have you or a house guest cut them while spending time with family. This is the best way to save costs while personalizing the tray to what you like.
The Right Times to Shop
Grocery Shopping – Most people consider the best grocery shopping opportunities to be when the store is the least crowded. Of course, the closer to the holidays you get, the more crowded the stores will seem to be at all times.
One sure way to avoid a busy grocery store is not to go on Saturday. Instead, if you have the opportunity to go early or midday during a weekday, then you should take it. This is because the majority of people will be busy with their workday hours, leaving the aisles wide open for you.
If, however, you also work at these times, then the best times to avoid the crows while grocery shopping are very early in the morning or late at night. Being early will mean that you can get the freshest produce and baked goods. This is an advantage over late-night shoppers who might find the produce and aisles depleted.
Wednesdays are the best days to save money, as new deals generally start on Wednesday, while old deals often remain in place until the end of the day. This gives you the best of both worlds.
Brick and Mortar Shopping – You’ll get the best deals, and a limited crowd if you go shopping on a Thursday. This is because the stores are preparing for the weekends and putting out markdowns and deals.
The biggest time to shop for deals for the holidays is right around the corner from Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day.
Additionally, if you’re in the market for big-ticket markdowns, go shopping on December 21st through the 24th. The stores will be madhouses, but most retailers will offer steep discounts to try to get their larger merchandise, such as furniture, televisions, and jewelry, out the door.
Brief Guide to Online Shopping during the Holidays
- Use a Price Comparison Application – Applications and browser plugins, such as Honey, will help you find promotions and coupon codes. They also ensure that you’re getting the lowest price on big markets, and even alert you to price drops.
- Get Free Shipping – Due to the competitive nature of online retail, you should be able to find a promotion for free shipping. Additionally, December 16th is known as free shipping day. Many online retailers will offer free shipping that is guaranteed to get to you by Christmas.
November 1-11 – Right after Halloween, many online retailers begin the season with offering specials. Be warned though, these are often the pricing of their normal weekly specials rebranded for the holidays. Nonetheless, you can find discounts of around 20-30 percent off.
November 28-30 – Black Friday is the biggest sales day of the year, but the main focus tends to be getting people into the brick-and-mortar store. Not all online retailers offer Black Friday deals. Still, you can get some good buys from larger online retailers, such as Amazon.com, which offers well-priced lightning deals throughout the weekend.
December 1 – Cyber Monday is the best day for online shopping. And it’s not just the technology companies either. All sorts of brands, from high-end to discount, are getting in on cyber sales with big online markdowns.
Concerned With Privacy?
Make sure to make your purchases on a website with a secure payment system. You can also look into the website terms to see their customer privacy statements.
Private browsing is another way of keeping your browser from storing cookies that generate ads.
Many individuals opt for using third-party payment systems, such as Paypal, which hides your credit card information from retailers.
Checklist for Safe Online Shopping
Avoid scams by making sure that the site is secure with HTTPS in the URL, as well as padlock symbol.
- Do not purchase from sites without a secure connection symbol.
- Make sure that the website states its return policy and shipping costs.
- Look for sites that publish an actual company address and phone number.
- Never give personal information during the checkout process that isn’t your billing address, especially not an identification or social security number.
- Check that you’re looking at the official, genuine site and not a copycat of knock-off site. For instance, does it have a strange address? Do the graphics look clean, or are they low-quality? Are the prices too good to be true?
- Avoid purchasing high-end or luxury products from resellers to make sure that you’re purchasing genuine goods.
- Pay with a credit card, as opposed to a debit or bank card. Credit cards offer strong fraud support for identity theft.
There can be a lot of pressure regarding what you get your friends and family for the holidays. Not only do gifts seem to indicate care for a person, but they’re also taken as a sign of how well you know the person.
The truth is, some people are more clever when it comes to giving gifts than others. On top of that different people have different gifting styles, some are playful with fun or entertaining gifts, while others are more literal with more practical gifts. If you have a distinct gifting style, lean into it and stay genuine.
Tips and Thoughts for Shopping for the Family
- Keep It Personal – Trendy gifts are only exciting to the person who follows that trend. Some trending gifts will work your recipient on a personal level, and others will not. Instead, try to tailor the gift to what you know the person likes or dislikes.
- Pay Attention to What They Want – Keep track of what they say throughout the year. Some of the best gifts are things that we may want but are unwilling to purchase for ourselves.
- Help Them Relax and Unwind – For some people, relaxation is the comfort of home or a trip to the spa. Others get away into nature to relax. You know best how your loved one likes to relax, so help them do it.
- Indulge Their Hobbies – Getting someone a gift to help them enjoy their hobbies, not only helps them take it to the next level, but it also helps them feel supported in the things that they spend their time on.
If you don’t know enough about the hobby to know what they’ll need for the next step, it’s better to ask them than make assumptions or spend money on something they don’t need, won’t use, or already have. Asking creates a welcome opportunity for them to share something they care about with you, and it will help to make sure that you get them something that will take their hobby up a notch.
- Things You Can Do Together As a Family – The opportunity to spend time together is one of the most important and formative things you can give your family. These gifts, such as games you can play together, opportunities for outings, and explorative weekend trips, help you support your family’s development, while also showing them that they’re an important aspect of your life.
Shopping for People You Don’t Know So Well
- Keep Your Gifts Useful and Flexible – You want your gift to be a combination of style and usefulness. For example, calendars make a good gift, as they become necessary with the new year. Similarly, cozy blankets and throws are a good gift to keep a friend warm throughout the remainder of the winter. The more you know about someone, the better you can determine what they will find to be useful, so make sure to use what you know about them.
- Fill the Liquor Shelf – If you know enough to know that they drink, then a good bottle of wine, a craft beer, or a small-batch liquor is normally a welcome and useful gift. If you’re lucky, they’ll open it with you and give you the chance to get to know them better. Electric bottle openers can also make great gifts.
- Mystery and Subscription Boxes – For someone that you don’t know well, a one-time purchase to a mystery box or brief subscription service can be an easy way out. The box and its theme offer a thoughtful element, while you have deniability regarding the exact gifts.
- When to Opt for the Gift Card? When you’re not sure what to get someone, gift cards offer a last resort. Gift cards are considered impersonal, but they also offer the recipient some freedom to get themselves something they’ll really enjoy. Get gift cards that you know will be used. You don’t want the recipient to have to go out of their way to use the gift card. It should fall in naturally, as a nice bonus, to where they would normally shop or eat.
Getting Your Home Ready
Just because you love hosting and entertaining during the holidays doesn’t mean that you have to pretend it’s less work than it is. There’s probably a lot that you don’t love about it, such as how stressful it can be when you’re getting the home ready for guests.
The holidays are already a busy season, and on top of that, entertaining requires us to have a clean home, equal parts cozy and tidy, with enough decorations to get everybody into the holiday spirit.
How exactly do you get your home glistening and ready in the least amount of time. Start with decluttering, move on to cleaning, and end with decorating.
Holiday Cleaning Tips
- Clean a Little Bit Every Day – Stick to one hour of cleaning a day for the week leading up to your event or the arrival of your guests. Not only will this make your cleaning load more manageable, but it will also make your cleaning efforts more thorough. Rush jobs, after all, leave rough patches.
- Take Notes on What Needs to Be Done – Before you begin, tour the house with a visitor’s perspective. Make notes of imperfections that you’ve grown used to, but guests may see right away.
- Declutter Before You Clean – It’s difficult to clean an overly cluttered space. Instead, put things where they belong before you begin the deep clean, and get rid of things you don’t need.
- Gather Backup – Get your whole family involved in the chores. Or, gather a cleaning party of close friends to help tidy the house.
- What to Clean:
- Get your windows shining
- Wet-dust the baseboards
- Wash linens and laundry
- Deep clean bathrooms, including toilets and sinks, and hang up fresh towels
- Tidy bedrooms
- Make room in the closets for guests’ coats
- Clean the kitchen, wiping down cabinets, appliances, and mopping floors
- Dust all surfaces around the home
- Vacuum carpets and all surfaces that collect dust
- Take out the recycling and trash
- Fluff cushions
- Fix up the entryway, sweeping it clean and polishing the doorknob
Holiday Decorating Tips
- Bring out the festive tableware.
- Use what you have to establish a color theme. It doesn’t have to be traditional holiday colors, either.
- Create a stylistic theme, such as minimalist holiday, rustic, natural, tinsel, kitschy, vintage, or elegant.
- Decorate with candy that guests can take home.
- Bring the good-looking pine cones, clean pine branches, and other greenery indoors. To refine the natural decorations, place sprigs of evergreen and extra ornaments inside of plain glassware.
- Tuck a sprig of pine or drape a garland around areas that need a boost of holiday cheer. Additionally, use natural greenery or pines to decorate packages and gift bags.
- Add in natural holiday fragrances with a cinnamon broom or oranges pricked with cloves.
- Add garlands around the light sources.
- Print out a decorative holiday menu to place at table settings.
Holiday Travel Tips
Accept that holiday travel will feel chaotic and you may have to compromise in one way or another.
Patience and calm will go a long way toward making your holiday traveling less stressful. Particularly in cases where you don’t have any control over what happens, such as flying.
Drive or Fly?
The decision to drive or fly depends on a number of factors and personal preferences. Distance is probably the biggest deciding factor, as most will prefer to fly if the driving road trip would be longer than eight hours driving time. However, there are a few considerations that help to tip the scales either way.
Anxiety – Busy airports and tight flight schedules often cause a lot of anxiety. Driving, on the other hand, offers flexibility that can calm anxiety during the heavy winter travel season.
Some of the biggest flight anxiety comes from catching a tight connection. Plan your connections carefully, making sure that you have plenty of time and won’t have to run through the concourse.
Passengers and Storage – When flying, adding another passenger is the cost of adding a whole additional round-trip ticket. Adding another passenger in the car, however, is mostly free, since you’re already taking the trip.
Driving also allows you to bring as much as you can fit in your car along with you, in addition to easier traveling with animals. This is also a factor if you are traveling with Christmas gifts.
Timeframe – Driving can take a lot longer than flying. Those with a limited number of days off will most likely opt for flying since it allows them more time to spend with their loved ones before having to get back to work.
Cost – Depending on your fuel efficiency and whether or not you will have to stay the night in a hotel on your way, driving can often be less expensive during the holiday season than flying.
Safe Traveling in Winter Weather
- Check the weather the week, day, and night before you head out on the road. Look for any signs of snowstorms, hail, or high winds. Delay your trip if you find bad weather in the forecast. If the bad weather is localized, plan an alternate route that bypasses it. If you’re traveling through an area that has snow on the ground, check that the roads have been cleared.
- Check your headlights for visibility. And make sure the exhaust pipe of your car is cleared of snow and ice before starting it.
- Check for potential traffic problems in your area.
- Pack a cold-weather emergency kit for your car, including warm blankets, warm clothing, and a knitted hat and gloves, snacks and water, a flashlight and glass scraper, and a first aid kit.
- If you are driving through rough weather, keep at least a half-gallon of fuel in your car and fill up frequently.
- Drive slowly, and don’t use cruise control on slippery surfaces.
- Keep your devices charged to receive weather updates and make emergency calls.
- Make sure your tires are the right pressure before starting your journey.
- If you’re flying out of or into an area that experiences winter weather, fly non-stop whenever available. This will make it less likely to miss one of the other legs of your trip.
- Book an early morning flight. This will make it less likely that you’ll experience delays that are a chain reaction from bad weather around the country.
- Pack lightly to avoid having to deal with lost baggage, or make sure that you have all your essentials and at least a change of clothes in your carry-on.
Crowds at the Airport and on the Roads
Leave for the airport and give yourself plenty of time in case of:
- Parking shortages
- Longer lines everywhere, including check-in, baggage drop, security, and gate shuttles
- Crowded gates to navigate through
Avoid the crowds and bad weather while driving by:
- Avoiding peak times
- Having alternate routes planned
- Break up a long drive with stops
- Avoid sleepy driving at all costs
The holiday season is among the most expensive times to fly. Nonetheless, the cost of air travel depends on your timeframe and location.
- If you’re traveling on a peak travel day, you’re probably looking at tickets that cost almost double your normal flight rate. For example, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of the year.
- Save costs by taking a very early flight or a red eye.
- Work competitive rates to your advantage with holiday airline and hotel packages.
Costs to factor in when flying:
- Airline tickets, including taxes and fees
- Baggage check costs
- Meals inside the airport
- Transportation to and from the airport
- Per-day parking fees
Driving costs depend on your gas mileage and the distance that you’re driving:
- Estimate the cost of your trip using GasBuddy.
- Budget for meals that you will need to purchase on the road.
- Consider hotel stays for long trips.
Budget Holiday Travel Tips
- Pack a cooler with snacks for the car. This will help you to eat healthier on the road while also making it less likely that you will need to stop for expensive road food.
- Take advantage of applications and websites that will help you find the best travel deals whether it’s comparing gas prices or finding the cheapest flights.
- If you’re flying, ship your presents directly to the destination rather than paying for baggage to fly with them, if this makes economic sense.
- Buy your flights as early as you can, since the price will go up as the seats are filled.
Staying Sane with the Family
For many, the stress of traveling, figuring out gifts, time away from work, budgeting, and meals during the holidays are nothing when compared to the interpersonal stress that a family holiday can trigger.
Having a good time during the holiday depends on your being able to handle yourself well. Not only that, but families respond to social modeling, meaning that if you handle yourself with grace, it may very well rub off on those around you.
Practice Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to use self-discipline in your interactions. When practicing emotional intelligence, you can stop yourself from reacting emotionally to teasing and hurtful comments. If you respond with something hurtful, you could escalate the situation. However, if you have a calmer and more honest response you can help the room stay more civil.
Think through the reasons others might be acting the way they are. We all make compromises and concessions during the holidays. If someone is acting in an annoying way, you might be able to identify some of the reasons they feel the need to act this way.
Is it attention-seeking behavior because they miss you and are attempting to get the most out of your visit? If so, try spending some dedicated time with them and see if it alleviates things.
Are they feeling aloof or overwhelmed and therefore acting snappish? Try offering them a quiet space where they can retreat to if need be.
Is someone picking fights because they might feel insecure of something? Try offering them quiet and unassuming support and see if they can settle down.
Breathing techniques can help to dull our stress responses, making it easier to enjoy the situations we find ourselves in. Sometimes this can mean going into a quiet room to meditate. Other times it can mean catching yourself when your feeling anxious or are having racing thoughts. Instead, start breathing deeply through your nose.
Remember to breathe through your nose to a steady count and inflate the lungs through the stomach. For better relaxation, take long exhales.
Remember to look on the bright side.
Laughter can be instant stress relief. It also helps to dissolve tension in a crowded room, and it can easily help to break the ice in an awkward or uncomfortable gathering.
Keep in mind the bigger picture of why you’re there. The holidays give us time to express gratitude, celebrate love and joy, sacrifices, and beauty in the world. They are family holidays because they give us the opportunity to spend time with our loved ones.
Keep your tone positive, and think of the good things. You are there to honor good health, warm affinity between family members, and other great achievements. If you think this way, others will follow your example.
Knowing When to Take Time Away
Add some much-needed free time and downtime into the holiday schedule. This can mean taking a morning to yourself. Or scheduling some time to spend alone in between two other activities. Or schedule all your activities on one day of the weekend, and leave the other free for decompressing.
Also, know your own limits. Some people can socialize for hours without feeling fatigued. Others, however, need more alone time after stimulating situations. Know your own limits so that you can take time for yourself without feeling resentful or overwhelmed.
When It’s Best to Stay Away
Sometimes family holidays are toxic situations that can cause lasting emotional and interpersonal harm. If the prospect of the holiday is too much or too difficult to plan, it might be healthier to stay home for the holidays.
Instead, talk to the family members that you have a strong relationship with and set up times that you will be able to see them at another time of the year.
Take Care of Yourself
The holidays can be a time of low emotions as well as happy emotions. Many feel seasonal depression and it’s common to even feel a sense of holiday depression for various reasons. The best thing you can do about this is to support and take care of yourself. After all, if you feel good and are enjoying your time, you’ll have a better chance of helping others in your family to feel good as well.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation allow you to carve out a space for getting in touch with what you’re feeling and recognizing your emotions with breathing and positive meditation. This is best practiced during alone time throughout the holidays.
If you can’t find the time to get away and meditate in the middle of a day of festivities (and you should if you really need it!), try practicing mindfulness both in the morning and at night before sleeping.
Tips for Staying Active and Healthy During the Holidays
The holiday season is easy to write-off as a time of irregular activity when we blow off our usual diets and fitness routines. This is often done in the expectation that next year, we’ll start January right with a new fitness and dieting regimen.
However, inactivity, particularly for those who are used to regular gym visits, as well as eating heavier food and more sugar than you’re used to, could easily be one of the culprits behind why you’re feeling so bad.
In most cases, the best way to take care of yourself throughout the busy holiday season is to remain consistent with the healthy routines that you’ve come to rely on throughout the rest of the year, although with a modified twist.
The holidays make a good case for no-gym workouts, particularly if you are traveling away from home for part of the season. While you may not have all of your usual equipment, there are many things you can do with a little space for calisthenics and strength training.
You can accomplish your cardio needs without wasting any time with a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) thirty minute workout or other home workout. Or take a walk or jog around the neighborhood, take a yoga class, do some mall walking while people watching, or take the family ice skating. After all, getting out and moving will do you some good.
One of the curses of the holidays is that the decadent meals aren’t often limited to their special feast-days of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holiday season is often celebrated with a series of frequent heavy meals, as well as family restaurant experiences.
The pressure of the occasion can often bid us to forget our nutritional care. However, we would probably feel better if we didn’t go overboard during the holiday season.
- Remember your normal daily proportions and avoid going back for seconds.
- Pick your desserts carefully and only indulge in the ones you’re sure to enjoy.
- Watch out for those empty calories in the holiday cocktails.
- Keep your water bottle by you and keep drinking water.
- If there aren’t any vegetables planned into the family meal, offer to make some yourself.
Drink in Moderation Throughout the Holidays
The holidays are also a time of year associated with drinking and merry-making. Intoxication is an inviting idea, since it can be used for social lubricant, to make us feel better and allow easier conversation.
However, drinking past your limit can also make all these things more difficult, while allowing problems to escalate. Knowing your limits when it comes to alcohol and intoxication, as well as knowing when to say no to more, is one way of taking care of yourself.
Whether you’re staying home or traveling, make sure to pamper yourself with the things that make you feel good. Pack some face masks, or treat yourself to some time alone with your music and some noise-canceling headphones. Don’t wait to be gifted a spa visit, but book your own massage. Plan some time to spend on your hobbies and outlets.
Help Those in Need
The holiday season is one of giving. For many, this includes charitable giving to those less fortunate and causes that we believe in. Others will pitch in with volunteering and item donations.
Ways to Help People
As you declutter your home for the holidays, set aside some items to donate:
- Give unopened, non-perishable food, such as canned goods.
- Consider outgrown winter clothes, particularly coats.
- Keep an ear out for drives to collect items such as school supplies.
Volunteer your time and skills:
- Help at shelters and soup kitchens.
- Volunteer at tutoring and literacy centers.
- Mentor teens.
- Help at an animal rescue.
- Work at mental health and help hotlines.
- Write grants for charitable organizations.
To incorporate volunteering into your holiday plans, you can even organize a group volunteering effort.
Things to Watch Out For
- Know what you want to get out of your service. Helping others is an act of gratitude, but you can’t always expect a lot of praise in return.
- Know what you are willing to give to avoid feeling resentment.
Getting Ready for Next Year
As you go into the next year, it’s important to find a way to take care of yourself while keeping up your momentum. The holidays offer a powerful opportunity of taking stock of what you’ve done, as well as what you plan to do in the future.
Now, going into the new year is a time to start working toward the plans and goals that you want to accomplish.