Oh, I remember those days well. It was 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve – well, I suppose really it was the wee hours of Christmas Day by then. I was on my 4th or 5th of assembling gifts for my daughter.
Then there was the time I LEAPED out of bed at 4 am, suddenly realizing that I had forgotten to make Santa’s footprints. Or how about the time we ran out of tape in the middle of Christmas Eve gift wrapping (after the stores had closed, of course!).
That’s why I put together this Christmas Eve Survival Guide for Parents. Christmas should be a time of joy and peace, not panic and stress. These tips of Christmas must haves for parents will ensure that everyone has a happy holiday. FREE printable below!
Grab a free printable of my Christmas Eve Survival Guide for Parents here.
Christmas Eve Survival Guide for Parents
We all want our kids to have a special, magical Christmas. I learned right after our car accident that one of the best ways for my daughter to have the best Christmas was for me to be organized and relaxed. These tips reduce the stress of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning!
MAKE A LIST
I have found that the best way to ensure that everything gets done and we all have a happy holiday is by making a list. It seems like we make a lot of lists for Christmas – gift lists, Christmas card lists, lists of food to serve at our holiday party, and more.
It took me a few years, though, before I realized the importance of a list for Christmas Eve. That list used to be written out, but these days I keep it on my phone.
PRO TIP: One of the advantages of adding it to your phone is that you can schedule things in with alarms so you’re sure not to miss a thing! Use whatever type of list works best with your personality.
STOCK UP ON WRAPPING PAPER, BOWS, GIFT BAGS, TAGS, AND SO ON.
If you’re going to buy wrapping paper, I suggest you add a reminder to get this done by mid-November (better yet, buy it at the after Christmas sales and tuck it away for the next year). I highly recommend making or buying fabric gift bags (Lush has lovely squares of fabric each holiday season sort of like scarves that are perfect for wrapping gifts) so that you can reuse them year after year.
My suggestion would be to start wrapping gifts well before Christmas Eve. I like to do them as I buy them, but I know some people make an evening event out of it. Either way, don’t leave it until Christmas Eve!
PRO TIP: Make sure you have plenty of Scotch tape on hand if you’re using standard wrapping paper. There’s nothing worse than being on a roll with wrapping gifts and running out of tape midway through.
BUY PLENTY OF BATTERIES
Most toys and electronic devices needing batteries will state just how many and what kind right on the outside of the box. I highly recommend adding these to a running list in your phone each time you buy another battery operated gift.
It can be a real letdown for a child to open a gift, get all excited, and then realize there are no batteries on hand for it. Avoid disappointment and stock up!
PRO TIP: No matter how many batteries are needed, ALWAYS buy extras just in case. You never know when a well-meaning grandparent might show up with a gift and no batteries for it!
ASSEMBLE ANY GIFTS THAT NEED IT.
Oh those late nights trying to get that new bicycle put together before morning – they can suck the Christmas cheer right out of a parent! It’s not always easy to do, especially with really large gifts, but if you can, assemble everything well before Christmas Eve.
PRO TIP: By putting these items together well before Christmas, you have time to ensure that they are complete. If any parts are missing, you still have time to take them back to the store and get a replacement. In addition, you’ll be able to find or buy the right sized wrench well ahead of time.
WHERE POSSIBLE, REMOVE GIFTS FROM THEIR ORIGINAL PACKAGING.
When giving toys to children, it is often a good idea to remove the items from their original packaging before wrapping. Any parent who has sat there with a pair of scissors, trying not to stab themselves, as they cut through a gazillion little plastic thingies holding the toys in place in the box.
Seriously, how DO they expect us to remove those without hurting ourselves? Then there are usually 20-30 twist ties and 15 pieces of plastic to take out, all the while you have an impatient child waiting to play with their toy. Take my advice. Do it ahead of time!
PRO TIP: Recently, I’ve started noticing, particularly on Amazon, toys that are designated as coming in “frustration free packaging”. I purposely look for it now!
MAKE SURE YOUR PHONES AND TABLETS ARE FULLY CHARGED.
You’re going to want to take photos and videos. Be prepared by ensuring that your devices have been fully charged overnight on Christmas Eve.
PRO TIP: If you’re headed out on Christmas Day to visit friends and family, be sure to take your chargers or portable power banks along with you.
MEAL PREP AHEAD OF TIME.
Do as much meal prep for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day ahead of time as possible. Often side dishes and desserts can easily be prepared before the big day and then simply heated in the oven (or placed in the slow cooker).
PRO TIP: Don’t forget about your Christmas morning breakfast. It can be so frustrating to have to leave the rest of the family as they have fun with their new goodies and head to the kitchen to prepare an elaborate meal. Consider making an overnight French toast casserole or breakfast strata.
SET REMINDERS FOR THOSE SPECIAL CHRISTMAS EVE TRADITIONS.
Sit down and do some brainstorming about all those little things that you and your kids look forward to on Christmas Eve. Set reminders on your phone so that you’re sure not to forget any of them.
These could include: putting out Santa’s cookies and milk (and another reminder to ensure they get nibbled on/sipped!), making and putting out reindeer feed, moving the elf, leaving behind Santa’s footprints, using one of those apps to take a photo of Santa by the tree, and putting Mary and Joseph in the stable.
PRO TIP: If there are any traditional books you read or movies you watch on Christmas Eve, be sure to find those well before the 24th and put them aside in a safe place so you’ll know where to find them! We always read T’was the Night Before Christmas and Santa’s Favorite Story (Santa tells the story of the first Christmas). We always watch The Muppet’s Christmas Carol so we can sing “It’s Only One More Sleep Til Christmas”.
GATHER UP ANY HOLIDAY OUTFITS YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR FAMILY MEMBERS TO WEAR
This is probably the thing that is the number one most likely cause of any last minute holiday stress around our house. “I don’t have anything to wear!” “I was going to wear my Christmas Vacation outfit but the sweater is missing!” “My tights have a run in them!” “Where is my underwear???”
Plan out those outfits – yes, right down to the underwear! Make sure that every component is clean and ready to go. I also put them all together in a bin or hung them in my closet so that every piece was accounted for AND so that no one grabbed them the day before to wear. They were tucked away safely for the intended occasion.
PRO TIP: Be sure that everything fits and remember the accessories as well. If your little girl needs tights for her dress, be sure to check them for runs and grab a new pair if needed. Little guy’s pants a smidge too big? Be sure you’ve got a belt or pair of suspenders on hand.
IF YOU’LL BE TRAVELLING, PACK THE NECESSITIES AHEAD OF TIME
Even if you’re just spending the day at someone else’s house and it’s not an overnight trip, you still will want to be prepared, especially if you’re traveling with little ones. Get the diaper bag well stocked now. Pack a few more diapers and snacks than you think you’ll need!
Even with older kids, it’s a great idea to give them each a backpack and encourage them to pack a few items to get them through the day (or the plane ride etc). I always had a few backup items in my bag just in case.
PRO TIP: Accidents happen. Be sure there are some extra pieces of clothing on hand for each person. Holidays are hectic. Things get spilled and even little kids who are well beyond the diaper stage can have accidents from the excitement.
These SUPER EASY holiday appetizers are the perfect thing to nosh on while finishing up your Christmas Eve preparation.
Be sure to check out some more amazing holiday survival guides below!
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Alli Smith says
Yes to stocking up on batteries and putting gifts together early. I remember all the power wheel trucks and things having to charge for hours. These are such helpful tips.
Cherryl Ehlenburg says
These are great tips! I used to be extremely stressed out on Christmas Eve and Day, especially if I was hosting. Now, we usually celebrate earlier in the season due to work schedules. And my youngest is a teen, so it’s not quite as stressful as it used to be! But these would have been great tips to follow when my kids were younger!
Cyn Gagen says
Oh gosh yes. We had a car accident and I was pretty much incapacitated that Christmas. It really helped me figure out what was most important and how to deal with it more efficiently.
These are awesome ideas. I start stocking up on batteries now and we have learned that the hard way because as new parents we didn’t even think about batteries. Thank goodness he was too little to know and his grandparents saved the day and brought some. I’m definitely going to wrap this year as presents are bought. I did it in huge piles last year and it was overwhelming.