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The Parent’s Holiday Survival Guide

The Parent’s Holiday Survival Guide

Last updated on December 9th, 2023 at 11:51 pm

Does anyone else’s holidays sound like this?

You are heading out to your annual holiday events and you are making the fifteenth trip out to your car (before you load the kids in!) Going through the checklist in your head:

  • dish to pass (check)
  • potholder and serving spoon (check check)
  • white elephant gift for first party (check)
  • gift for your grandma (check)
  • shirt that your sister asked you to bring because she wanted to wear it to the party tomorrow (check)
  • gifts for your cousin’s new baby (check)
  • change of clothes for both kids – just in case (check, check)
  • ingredients to make the dip for second party (check)
  • gift for exchange at the second party (check)
  • diaper bag (check)…did I restock the diapers in the diaper bag? (nope!)
  • diapers! (CHECK!)
  • purse (check)
  • spouse (he’s around here somewhere right?!)

THEN you load the kids in the car. You head to the first party, you get there late. You unload the bags, remembering that you forgot something already. Your hubby carries in the gift for the second party (by mistake), you make a mental note to remember to grab that bag before you go to the second party. By the time the party starts and you sit down to eat, you have an hour before you have to pack up and go to the next party. You stop eating to go change your kid who dumped a cup of water down the front of their outfit. You finish eating as you realize that you have to leave really REALLY soon. You quickly squeeze in a conversation with your cousin about her new baby. As you are packing up, one or more kiddos are crying or pouting that you are leaving already. Everyone is in the car, and you pull out of the drive. You call Grandma on your cell and tell her that her gift is sitting on your aunt’s bed, and you are sorry that you forgot to give it to her in person. You pull out of the drive and head to the second party and seriously debate driving straight home instead. You remind yourself that you haven’t seen some of these people since last year, and won’t see them until next year unless you go.

Party 1 complete (check!)

You sigh, and continue on to party 2…

Unfortunately most holiday events have become more about checking items off the list than spending quality time with loved ones. So our own family solution has been to spread out the events as much as possible so that we have time to spend with everyone instead of just rushing from place to place. Here are a few solutions that have worked for our family.

Alternative Holiday Celebrations

Celebrate Thanksgiving Brunch!

Make yummy breakfast food (good for snacking until noon, so you have lots of room for dinner still!), hang out in your PJs and watch the parades! Follow parade viewing with board or card games. The first year hubby and I were married, we showed up at my parents in our PJs too!


If You Don’t Already, Divide Your Christmas Day and Christmas Eve (One Group for Each Day).

This works especially well if your families like to do the big holiday dinner. Your stomach is happier because you are no longer trying to eat TWO Christmas dinners in one day! Have all of the kiddos bring their Christmas PJs and have hot chocolate before you head home to tuck everyone in bed.

A Not-On-Christmas-Day Christmas Party!

One side of the family does our big Christmas celebration on the Saturday before or after Christmas. We set the date in October, so everyone knows way ahead of time (gotta plan ahead — 15 first cousins on that side!) Most family members don’t work weekends or they know far enough in advance that they can get the day off.

Christmas in July!

The other side of the family got tired of trying to plan around all the Christmas parties and we have our Christmas celebration in July. It’s often 80 degrees but we decorate with Christmas decorations, some of us wear festive Christmas socks, and we do a white elephant gift swap.

The major point is that the date on the calendar doesn’t matter, it is the PEOPLE that you are with and memories that you’ve made. We lived out of state last year and before we drove home to Michigan, we had our “Indiana Christmas” (it was just a random Saturday before Christmas). We wore our Christmas PJs, Santa came, and our girls opened their presents that morning. We spent the day putting everything together and playing with their new toys and after they went to bed, my husband and I opened our gifts. We didn’t have to cart everything to Michigan and drag it from house to house. (I wasn’t smart enough to admit I needed a minivan at this point, so we were attempting to fit two adults, two toddlers, and suitcases for a week into my Jeep Liberty – not smart!). We were able to have our relaxed “Christmas morning” with just our small family, and spread out all of the presents.  It was nice to have a quiet day to celebrate with just our immediate family, then go home to Michigan for the week of family celebrations.


With both of our families living in the area, five siblings total (most married and trying to organize their in-laws and our family too), and an hour drive to get from anyone to anyone else I really have to just try to organize it so we see everyone once and know that we can’t be at everything or stay until the end of every event…and that’s OK. It is up to you to figure out what you want your holiday season to look like. You might have set traditions to work around, or you might have flexibility to create your own. You can’t always be at everything, it just isn’t possible. Holidays shouldn’t be about stress and rushing from one place to the next. Then you aren’t really at any event, you are thinking about the next one instead of enjoying where you are. So really make an effort to be PRESENT and enjoy the time you have with each part of your family, including the traditions you start with your own family.

A Few Tips to Stay Sane

  • Make a list for each event and what you need to bring.
  • Try to drop off items early if you will be in the area. If you are swinging by your mom’s house the weekend before Christmas, wrapping those gifts and dropping them off early will make Christmas day much easier.
  • If you are staying with family (and your twins are little still) try to keep similar bedtime routines and hours if you can. I know that my kids are much happier the next day if they’ve gotten a good night sleep and have their stuffed animals, sound machine, night light, and their blankets from home. (Twiniversity tip! Bring dark colored sheets and clothespins to use as makeshift “blackout curtains” in rooms where your kids are napping.)
  • Plan to drive at nap time! If your kiddos still take a nap (AND if they sleep in the car) try to travel during those times. It also doesn’t hurt the older ones to have a quick nap between parties if they will be up later than usual.
Stephanie Cleland

Stephanie Cleland is a high school teacher who traded in her teen students for adorable twin toddlers and now spends her days entertaining her almost 3 year “twinadoes”. She married her college sweet heart, Kirk, and her hobbies include scrapbooking and other creative projects. She also is working on a blog

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