If you plan, plan, plan ahead, you will be so amazed at how MUCH of a difference it will make when the holidays come!
The holidays represent the best of times, don’t they? They’re a time of celebration and a time to catch up with family members you haven’t seen all year long: the niece who is rumored to be six inches taller than the last time you saw her, the kooky aunt who just about sucks everyone’s face off when she says hello, leaving behind a mound of red lipstick, and even the not-so-spirited relative who can sometimes put a damper on the holiday but who, if caught at the right moment, can also send everyone roaring in laughter.
The holidays can also be a challenging time. People are coming together who don’t normally see each other and mixing their habits, preferences, and personalities in a concentrated amount of time and space. If your family and friends are congregating under one roof this holiday, and if that roof is yours, let’s talk about some ideas you can use to create an environment that you and your guests will truly enjoy.
Create A Guest List
Wedding planners use these to keep track of contact information, travel itineraries, and seating arrangements. Well now The Busy Woman’s Daily Planner® has contact information pages and guest list pages to help keep track of everything. As soon as you find out that company is coming, add their names along with dates and times of arrival and departure to your calendar. If they are flying in, record flight information and the name of the person delegated to pick them up. Better yet, hire a shuttle service. I’ve been using them for years and love not having to rely on anyone else. Add other valuable information such as cell phone and pager numbers in the event that flights are delayed, etc. Find out which guests have food allergies or are vegetarians and list some of their favorite items in this section as you can transfer them to your grocery list when it’s time to shop.
Decide where each guest will sleep, taking into consideration factors such as age and how well they get along with each other. For example, if two teen girls are staying with you, they might appreciate sharing the same room, or not. If your nephew is a morning person, the sofa pullout might be ideal for him since he will wake early and can watch television while others are still sleeping. You won’t want to put a late sleeper near the main areas of the home, disturbing him or her when others are up for breakfast. So make sure to ask about these things up front.
It’s a good idea to define spaces that people (particularly children) can use for a specific purpose. The main living room entertainment system could be designated for sports or holiday parades that everyone can watch together. Other rooms such as a home office with televisions and computers could be named as game rooms, movie rooms, or cartoon rooms. You may not be able to eliminate disagreements about sharing the space, but you might be able to minimize them by assigning each room’s purpose in advance. Post a page of designated spaces on the refrigerator or bulletin board for everyone to see.
Don’t forget small children. By defining their space and having toys, crayons, paper, glue, scissors, and other fun activities on hand, you’ll give them a safe place to play without disturbing others’ activities. It will also give them a sense of belonging when so many variables are changing around them. When defining a space, remember that areas can overlap. For example, the young child’s space may be in the living room where the sports-watchers are, and that may be fine with everyone. It all depends on your family’s preferences and needs.
With so many people repeatedly using the same spaces, everyone but the oldest and youngest guests should be able to help clean up. Next to each guest’s name, delegate one chore that each will be responsible for during his or her stay. For example, one person might be in charge of wiping down the bathroom each morning. (I’d give this to one of the family members who live in the house.) Small children can do their share by packing away toys in their appropriate containers. One person can handle the morning dishes while another tends to them after dinner. Rotating chores – having each person do something different each day – can be too complicated, so just assign one chore to each person for simplicity. Otherwise, mom ends up being hostess, maid, chef… okay, you get the picture.
As you schedule time with your guests, keep in mind the length of their stay to make each day simple, fun, and meaningful. Choose structured activities such as a trip to the zoo or shopping at the mall, but make sure to leave some days unscheduled for spontaneity, relaxation, or free time. Get as much input as you need without leaving it up to everyone to come to a consensus, something a large group is not likely to do. If Tuesday is scheduled for a museum trip, those not interested can use that time for something else.
If all of the adults would like to go out together without the children, schedule a babysitter and then purchase tickets in advance. If older children are visiting, ask them to watch the little ones and compensate them. They’ll appreciate the extra money around the holidays.
Think about the cars that will be available and who might want to travel together for certain activities. If your city has a reliable bus or train system, pick up maps for your guests.
One other fun thing to do is plan family time games to encourage bonding time. During this time, everyone will get to know each other better and the ones who get along best might actually start an entirely new relationship, just from spending time playing a game together.
Outside of the major feasting days, the holidays are just like any other: The basic meals are still necessary. Just as you did for activity planning, schedule groups meals for efficiency; however, leave some meals unscheduled so that people can prepare something easy for themselves or plan to go out to eat. For example, on Monday you might leave breakfast unscheduled and offer cereal, toast, and bagels, but on Tuesday you might schedule a group breakfast with certain people assigned to cook pancakes, waffles, or French toast with grits and eggs. You might plan culturally significant foods for Wednesday’s lunch, but do something easy for dinner like pizza or hot dogs. Whatever you schedule, plan ahead to avoid cooking complicated meals all day long. Be sure to have options available for guests with special dietary needs.
Plan for plenty of snacks, depending on how long your guests will be staying. A welcoming idea is to set up a pretty basket in the guests’ rooms with nonperishable snacks so they don’t have to go to the kitchen to nibble. Some of your guests might fear waking you when they have that midnight snack-attack. On the other hand, if you want people to congregate in the dining room or kitchen, have snacks set up there, including perishables in the refrigerator. Provide napkins and disposable plates in the areas you choose. It’s also a good idea to use disposable dishes, cups, and utensils whenever possible to keep meal cleanup simple, thus allowing more time for togetherness. Once you have your meal and snack plans in place, create your shopping list. Schedule your shopping trip at a time that the store is likely to be un-crowded, for example, midday during the week or even late at night at a 24-hour store.
Purchase extra pain relievers and toiletries for those who may have forgotten shampoo, conditioner, soap, or toothbrushes. Make sure extra toilet paper and facial tissue are readily available as well as cleaning supplies such as dishwasher detergent and disinfectants.
Have plenty of towels, sheets, blankets, and pillows on hand. If you can, assign each guest his or her own set of towels, each in a different color, so everyone will know whose are whose. Wash towels every couple of days to keep them fresh, but always reassign the same color to each person.
Another easy way if you have extra baskets would be to put each persons towels and such in a different basket so all each guest has to do is to carry their basket with them instead of fumbling around with many different items in their hands.
Store extra trash bags in the bottom of each can, under the one in use. Then when the top one is full, anyone can remove it and put in a new one without having to search for trash bags.