The Ultimate Holiday Planning Checklist Every Mom Needs

Lisa Fogarty | Nov 24, 2014 Food & Party

woman checking holiday list

Most of our fondest holiday memories involve special moments our parents created for us. Food tasted better. Our kitchens smelled like cookies. Presents magically appeared under the tree, perfectly wrapped -- not a rip in sight -- and we begged to keep those sparkly decorations up forever. Now that we have little ones who are waiting to experience that same holiday joy, we know it takes a great deal of planning (as well as blood, sweat, and tears) to pull off the magic of the holidays. 

This year, save yourself the hassle of doing everything at once by following this holiday planning checklist that every mom needs.

holiday planning checklist

Image via iStock/com/Steve Debenport

  • 3 Months Before: Book Travel Plans


    If your holiday plan includes flying or driving anywhere to see family or friends, now is the time to book your tickets because flights, in particular, fill up fast. When factoring in costs, don't forget that many airlines charge more for extra luggage and heavier bags -- a happy problem to have when you consider the gifts you will be carrying around.

  • 2 Months Before: Start Baking


    You may think it's too early to begin cooking for the holidays and you're right -- but there's one exception to that rule. Now is the perfect time to bake big batches of cookies, muffins, and breads because you can take your time and really enjoy the process, make them super yummy, and then store them in the freezer until you begin to entertain.

  • 2 Months Before: Plan Your Holiday Cards


    You don't have to mail out your holiday cards yet, but now is the time when you'll want to make sure you have all of the addresses you need, procure those you don't have, and -- if you're planning on sending cards with your children's photo -- have them pose for that picture as soon as you can. Remember: it may take several attempts before you get the photo of your dreams -- particularly if you have a fickle baby or tantrum-throwing toddler!

  • 2 Months Before: Stock Up On Wrapping Paper & Cards


    Maybe you hate feeling like you're pushing October and November away by buying anything holiday-related so soon, but the truth is: you're going to have to stock up on wrapping paper and cards anyway -- why not do it when stores are putting out the best they've got? If you wait until the last minute to buy gift wrap and cards, you may be stuck searching for any old card that fits in any old envelope on the shelf -- don't you just hate that?

  • 6 Weeks Before: Make a Gift List


    The most difficult part about holiday shopping is figuring out what you should get for your loved ones. Set aside a few uninterrupted hours when you can search online for ideas and really think about each person on your gift list. You don't want to end up wandering through a mall looking for a present -- any present -- so that you don't show up to your party empty handed.

  • 4 Weeks Before: Purchase Wine & Paper Goods


    Prepare for the holidays by expecting to entertain guests before, during, and after the big day. Order cases of wine, alcohol, soda, and paper goods in advance so that you'll always be ready if a friend or relative pops in unexpectedly.

  • 4 Weeks Before: Plan Your Wardrobe


    With so much going on, clothing may be the last thing on your mind. But you'll save yourself the stress of rummaging through your closet five minutes before a holiday event, complaining about how you have nothing to wear, if you plan out your holiday wardrobe now. Send your dress and coat to the dry cleaner, iron your favorite blouse, and buy those black heels that go with everything.

  • 4 Weeks Before: Take Care of Holiday Tipping Now


    If you have a regular babysitter or nanny, daycare provider, housekeeper, doorman, sanitation worker, or are lucky enough to know anyone else who helps make your life easier, now is the time to tip them for the wonderful work they do each day. Remember that your tip money may help them cover the cost of their holiday gifts, so the earlier, the better. Always include a short note thanking them -- and if you need "tips" on how much to tip, Emily Post is a fantastic resource.

  • 4 Weeks Before: Plan Your Holiday Menu


    Know all those holiday recipe pins you've been saving on Pinterest? Now is the time to decide between turkey or ham and make the final call on whether you think you can honestly make a roasted squash blossom from scratch. Edit your menu and make sure you call your butcher ahead of time to order meat, if necessary.

  • 2 Weeks Before: Put Up Your Christmas Tree


    If you have a fake Christmas tree, be our guest and put yours up in October if that's your desire. But if you prefer a real tree, two weeks before the holiday is the perfect time to pick one out and gather the family at your home for hot cocoa and decorating help.

  • 1 Week Before: Clean Your House


    If you are hosting the holiday, prepare to scrub your home clean about one week before the day. Do all of the work you truly dread now -- washing windows and blinds, polishing silver -- so that you'll only have to lightly dust and vacuum the day before your guests arrive. Don't forget to wash and iron table linens you plan on using.

  • 1 Week Before: Stock Up On Batteries


    Only a parent who welcomes and adores kid tantrums would even think of watching them open a bunch of battery-operated toys during the holidays and then not have batteries to make them work. Stock up on batteries of various sizes now.

  • 1 Week Before: Go Grocery Shopping


    Grocery stores become a nightmare months before the holiday, but you'll avoid super-crazy lines if you plan on going late at night or early in the morning about a week before the holiday. Make sure you create a list and stick to it in order to avoid spending a lot of money on holiday treats that look amazing in the store but that no one will actually eat.

  • 3 Days Before: Set the Table


    When it comes to the holidays, do what you can, when you can. Setting your dining table with china, napkins, and silverware -- so that the only thing you'll have to do on the day of your party is light a few candles -- is one surefire way you can take yet another thing off your plate (get it?).

  • 1 Day Before: Finish Cooking


    Sure, you'll have to wake up early the next morning to put your roast in the oven, but most of the dishes you'll prepare can be made at least one day in advance. Now is the time to whip up those salads, side dishes, and pies. Wrap them carefully, place them in the fridge, and forget about them until it's time to heat them up or serve them chilled.

  • 1 Day Before: Relax


    No, I'm not kidding! The only thing you should be doing the night before a holiday is relaxing with a cup of (possibly spiked) hot cocoa while sitting with your legs up in front of a roaring fire or sparkly Christmas tree or both. You worked hard to create beautiful, lasting memories for yourself and your family -- and you deserve to reap the benefits of your effort as well. Relax and enjoy yourself! It will all go smoothly.