Holiday Prep: Early Planning for a (More) Stress-Free Season

The holidays are right around the corner. Every year, summer seems to whisk itself away, and we are startled to see November on the calendar! How does it happen so fast?

stress free holiday prep

Last year I found myself incredibly stressed during the holiday season. There is so much to do – gifts, decorating, parties, events, school desserts, on and on. I realized that my normally joyful Christmas season was being overtaken by the number of errands I needed to run. Quite frankly, it wasn’t very fun. I’m not an over-enthusiast who cranks up the Christmas station in October, but I do really enjoy the holidays usually. And I wanted to prepare myself this year to lessen the stress of all of the end-of-year activities. This was my plan of attack:

Mark That Calendar

Way in advance, I started to mark down family birthdays, company Christmas parties, events, days babysitters were needed, school holidays (make sure to double-check because a lot changed this year!), husband’s hunting schedule, etc. We use a shared calendar on our phones, which overlays my work calendar, but any family calendar will do. I’ve asked for help in advance! What days do I need a sitter? What doctor and dentist appointments do we have coming up? When do I plan to take off work when the kids are home? When do I need to build in extra time to get things done?

Special Dates

We have a few special things we do each holiday season. I have found that when I wait until the last minute, I have either missed the time slot or I’m rushing to get it done. We like to take annual family pictures (well, it’s mostly me because my husband and kids do not love it, but too bad!) to have an updated photo and send out a Christmas card. I love receiving holiday cards from friends and getting updated pictures of their kids; it’s one of my favorite things about Christmas. If you need to find a photographer, book a mini session, or plan a trip to see Santa at the mall, go ahead and find your date / schedule your appointment NOW and get it on the books. (Photographers like to do photo sessions before December so that they can send your images back to you in time to make cards!) Then it’s handled and done with it. We also like to visit the Christmas Tree farm and pick out our own real tree. Because our schedule with our kids can be tricky, we looked in advance to see when Steele’s Tree Farm opens and marked the date in our calendar to visit. What are some things your family likes to do that you could plan in advance?


I have my mother to thank for my extreme early-planning gene. (She is usually done Christmas shopping by early September!) But truly, I decided I was going to get ahead of it this year. My husband and I took a Saturday alone in late October and knocked out 90% of our kids’ gifts. What we couldn’t find locally, we bought online. Please, shop local when you can! I keep a list in the Notes app on my phone so I remember what gifts each person will receive and so that I can make sure I’m somewhat balanced with my children. It helps me remember what’s coming in delivery and what else I need to get! I even went ahead and grabbed a few November / December family birthday gifts while I was at it. Buying early also helps me with budgeting because we aren’t paying for everything all in one month! Starting in October / early November is a helpful financial balancing tool! I was also really worried about delivery times this year and lots of toys / bikes being out of stock. Shopping early is fun when you aren’t rushed. And now (in early November), I’m almost done with my gift-buying.

Extra Things

Teacher Gifts – Find something cute and useful (no apple mugs, #1 teacher ornaments, or desk ceramics PLEASE) from a local gift shop and grab a few when you see them! We have 7 teachers between school and dance class, so I found several under $10 gifts last week and grabbed them early. Another item crossed off the list.

Holiday Recipes – Search Pinterest now to see what fun new dips and dishes you can prep for your family parties or next gatherings. I like to search when I don’t need something and keep a stock-pile of suggested recipes.

Stocking Stuffers – Visit your local Five Below store next time you pass to pick up little treats for your little ones. My kids love finding their treasures in their stockings, and I always seem to wait until the last minute. Find these little bits as you go!

Outfit/Attire for Holiday Parties – I hate shopping for a new dress or dressy clothes when I’m up against the wire. I never find anything I like. If you have the time to shop a little in advance for your holiday parties, it’s much more fun! I recently found a great deal on a holiday dress that fit great, so I went ahead and bought it early. Now I have it, and another item is crossed off the list. I also enjoy looking online at resale shops like Poshmark because you can find some great worn-once holiday / cocktail attire for great prices! Make sure you save time for shipping!

Rachel Harris Ledet
A New Orleans native and entrepreneur, Rachel is a mom of four with an active schedule. Rachel maintains a daily balance of running her own marketing firm, 30|90 Marketing, managing her kids’ schedules, and maintaining extracurriculars including coaching dance, volunteering, and occasionally teaching courses. Rachel lives in Mandeville with her best friend and husband Lenny, daughters Addison and Amelia, stepson Luke, and son Tucker. With a family of six and a million balls in the air, Rachel keeps things light by continuously learning, spending time with amazing friends, blogging, finding any route to a concert or outdoor festival, and planning her next getaway with her husband. A sense of humor can get you through almost anything, so she tends to surround herself with fabulous and very funny people.


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