Create a Holiday Planning Checklist to Make the Season Simple

We all want to enjoy our holidays. But it can be difficult if we are running around, trying to get last minute things done. It’s even worse if we realize we forgot something. To keep the season simple, it helps to create a holiday planning checklist.

notebook tabs labeled get organized, planning, menus, to help you with your holiday planning checklist

By having a working checklist, you will be less likely to forget an item, person, or activity you have planned for the season. And knowing you have everything under control can help you to enjoy the holidays even more.

How to Create a Holiday Planning Checklist

 a purple, turquoise, and pink notebook sitting on a green bench

Long before you begin creating menus, you need to find time to think through your holiday plans. Even being aware of possibilities is better than not having a place to start.

During an Afternoon Tea break, sit down with paper and pen and jot down everything you know will be happening. Then make a note of things that may occur. These are some things to consider:

  • Where you will celebrate
  • Who will be attending
  • What meals will take place
  • Special Activities (school and church functions, celebrations, etc.)
  • Any travel arrangements

Once you have an idea of these things, you can begin to create your checklist. Keep in mind – creating a holiday planning checklist doesn’t mean you have to actually do them. It just means you know what needs to be done.

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Create a holiday notebook and place the checklist in the front. As you progress with each item, check it off the list. If you aren’t sure what still needs to be done, then just check your holiday planning checklist to see what’s next.

Remember, the holiday planning checklist is just an overall view of what needs to be done. In some cases, such as gift lists and menus, you may need a separate list. Just tuck these behind the initial holiday planning checklist to keep all of your lists together.

Here are a few things you may want to add to your holiday planning checklist. Just know your schedule may be different. If so, just add what’s missing to your list and keep moving forward!

Meal Plans

blue plate filled with a slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream

Most any holiday celebration will include some type of meal. This may be a sit-down dinner or a buffet. You may be required to bring a dish to a gathering. Regardless, holidays usually equal food in some capacity.

Creating a holiday meal plan can make your life simple. First you will know what is on the menu. Second, you can plan ahead by checking your kitchen inventory and adding items you need to your grocery list.

But a holiday planning checklist isn’t just about those holiday meals. You will also have to plan what to serve your family for regular meals. Since the holidays are busy, it helps to plan simple meals for those nights you have little time to eat.

Gift Lists

gifts wrapped in brown paper with red raffia ribbon

Knowing to whom and what we plan to give gifts is half the battle during the Christmas holidays. In some cases, we have more than just family members. We may choose to give a small gift to a teacher or neighbor.

There may be a gift exchange coming up at work or in a Sunday School class. We are often invited to an Ornament Exchange or Dirty Santa party. And don’t forget the hostess gifts we need to offer.

There is usually a separate list of all the gifts we want to give. But knowing we have those lists in order can reduce stress. And it will very possibly bring a smile to your face when you can check that item off your holiday planning checklist!

Wrap it Up

gift wrapped in brown paper tied with handmade red, white, and green cording; shiny Christmas ornaments

When giving gifts, it’s not just the item itself. We also need to know how we plan on wrapping it up. We can take a shortcut and purchase paper, ribbon and bows.

But we can also make it a bit more fun by creating our own wrapping paper, name tags, and more. Here are some ideas on how to create your own gift wrapping:


small Christmas tree decorated with colorful lights

One of our biggest tasks for the holidays is decorating. If we prefer a fresh-cut tree, we need to find one. Then comes the moving of furniture to accommodate it.

From there, we need to find the decorations, check the lights, and adorn the tree. But it doesn’t stop there.

Many of us also decorate a mantel and other rooms in the house. It can be a major undertaking where we could spend days just trying to do it all.

Before you start decorating, try to create a plan. Choose one room, and work on that first. Save the tree for last. This way, you will be in more of a holiday mood just by moving from one room to another.

And if possible, you can make a festive time of decorating the tree. Make it a family event – and don’t forget the popcorn, hot chocolate, and Christmas music!


measuring bowls filled with oil, nuts, eggs, flour

Holidays are notorious for filling up a calendar. Fast. Before we can fully engage in the season, we need to know our plans.

It helps to create a holiday calendar. As the invitations for parties come in, you can write it in on the appropriate date. When school or church activities are announced, add them to your calendar.

Keeping a holiday schedule will keep you from missing out on an activity. It will also help you to know when two things are scheduled for the same day and time. This way, you have plenty of opportunity to determine which one you will attend and send regrets to the other.

You will also need to schedule baking days. One of the best time savers over the holidays is baking ahead. You can create breads, cookies and other items for the holiday meals. It is also helpful to have meals in the freezer for regular family meals during the holidays.

And don’t forget to add some time for yourself. Having a bit of quiet time during the holidays can help you enjoy them even more!

Shopping Lists

a notebook opened to gift ideas; a notebook and pen

Shopping lists come in many different ways. You have grocery lists. Gift lists. Supply lists. Keeping a running list for each category will help you plan your errand days.

These lists are usually works in progress. As you create your menus and other lists, keep your shopping lists close by. As you add something to another list, check to see what you have and what you still need. Then add the needed items to your shopping lists.

Once you have the shopping lists created, then plan a day to run your errands. Be sure to pack an ice chest and possibly lunch. This may be one of your busiest errands days, so you can save time by being prepared!


The budget may be the last item on your holiday planning checklist, but it is also the most important one. Knowing how much you have available to spend will make everything else on your lists easier to accomplish.

To create a holiday budget, make a note of how much money you plan to spend. Make a note of all the necessary categories: gifts, food, decorations, gasoline, travel, etc.

From there, determine how much money to allot for each category. In the beginning, this will be estimated expenses. As you make your lists, you can check to see how close you are, and adjust as necessary.

two red, one green, one clear piggy banks

One thing you do NOT want to adjust is the initial amount you plan to spend. If at all possible, try to stay within that figure.

If you see where you are about to spend too much, look at the lists you have made. What changes can you make? Instead of preparing the entire Christmas dinner, consider asking each guest to contribute a dish. This alone can cut your grocery bill tremendously.

When you have a gift list completed ahead of time, you have more leeway in shopping sales, or finding other locations that have it cheaper. You can also look to see if any of those gifts can be handmade.

a red lantern with a lit candle, Christmas ornaments sitting on a snow-dusted table

Create Your Holiday Planning Checklist

If you really want to enjoy your holidays, having a holiday planning checklist can put you on the right track.

You will know what you are planning and what activities you want to attend. You can get started on making or buying gifts. Gift wrapping supplies will be ready and waiting for tape.

And once you have completed each item on your holiday planning checklist, you can sit back and just enjoy the magic of the holidays!

Do you need a checklist? One of the perks of subscribing to the newsletter is all the freebies! You can find the Holiday Planning Checklist and other great freebies (including a few eBooks, recipes, and more!) just waiting for you there!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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