Reconsider the Dress
The coolest girl at the party knows this secret: perfectly done is overdone. For this reason, try a tuxedo or pantsuit this holiday. We know, it’s daring, but having pockets (aka a place for your hands) will immediately make you feel relaxed and at ease.
Don’t Forget the Clutch
Pick one clutch to take you through the holiday season and pack it with all your party essentials well before your first event (mints and a Tide to Go pen are a must). Then leave everything in there so you don't have to continue to start from scratch.
Invest in Fancy Flats
In our opinion, pointed-toe flats are just as dressy as a pair of strappy heels. Besides, you’re happier when your feet are comfortable. Enough said.
But Don’t Invest in Trends
Why do the holidays always seem to convince us that we need a $400 sequined jumpsuit for New Year’s Eve? Ladies, come to your senses and sign-up for Rent the Runway Unlimited instead. For just $99 a month, you’ll have access to three items of your choosing (like that drool-worthy boucle coat) which you can then keep indefinitely or swap out when you please. Fair warning: There is a waitlist, but if you sign up now you’ll be set in time for the ball drop.
Shhh, It’s Only a $10 Bottle
The difference between a cheap bottle of swill and a cheap bottle of totally drinkable, kind of delicious wine? A decanter. Traditionally used for removing sediment from older wines, decanting can also open up the potential of a young buck. Decant the wine 20 minutes before guests arrive, and go ahead and pour it into glasses so when the doorbell rings you won’t be scrambling.
Do One Thing (And Do It Well)
When planning a menu, be a little selfish and put your time first. Choose one or two things that can be done completely in advance: A braised meat for the main course or a chocolate espresso cheesecake to cap off the night. This will give you time to focus on each dish beforehand and allow you to actually mingle with your guests instead of shuffling them out of the kitchen so you can sweat over the stove.
Let Your Oven Handle It
SponsoredThere’s nothing more reassuring around the holidays than having an appliance you can count on. (The stove top that sporadically ignites is not going to fly.) This season, consider the new Kenmore Pro collection. Their Self-Clean Gas True Convection Range is not only beautiful to look at but also features new technologies like a built-in Meat Probe and Accela-Heat,™ which preheats your oven in half the time so you don’t have to wait forever for it to hit 450 degrees.
Face it: The best laid plans often go awry. Pick up a copy of How to Repair Food for those times when the top of the saltshaker breaks and you accidentally add 19 teaspoons of salt to the gravy instead of one. (Hint: You can easily fix it with more pan drippings.)
Opt for One-and-Done Decor
You know that garland you’ve been twisting around your staircase banister--and tying yourself into knots trying to make look good? It works even better (and is so much easier to manage) as a centerpiece: Just run it down the length of your table et voilà! Oh, and be sure to grab a pre-decorated version.
Just Say No to the Crystal
Hand-washing delicate glassware for a dozen people is perhaps best left for an event that’s not in the middle of the most hectic season of the year. Stick with your nicest dishwasher-safe glassware to make life easier before and after the meal.
Embrace the Mismatched Look
Don’t have enough chairs for everyone who’s coming? Turns out, chairs that are perfectly matched to the table are a design no-no, anyway. Instead, switch out your seating to incorporate a few different options. Try adding a banquette sofa and tulip chairs into the mix. The trick to making the end result look sleek and not sloppy? Symmetry in all the right places--even the indoor shrubs.
Create the Ideal Guest Room
First things first, don’t fuss over it. The only thing you need to worry about is whether the room is comfortable. Make sure you have a quality duvet and a few extra blankets in case it gets chilly. Then, spend a night in the room. Seriously. It’s the only way you’ll discover if anything is missing, like a bedside table, light or--gah--curtains.
Make It a Family Affair
Small talk, sit-down dinner, nap-inducing mashed potatoes, repeat. The holidays have a way of leaving your family in a party rut. Games change that. Try new takes on the classics, like Reverse Charades, and watch how a little friendly competition changes the whole night.
Buy in Bulk
Purchasing gifts for your nieces, nephews and their new exchange student, Yolaf, can quickly become overwhelming. The easiest way to tackle the task? Nab a few variations on the same gift. Head to your nearest Best Buy and pickup an entire DVD set of Pixar movies then divvy them among the kiddos. This way there’s no picking favorites or fighting over who gets what. And thankfully, age doesn’t really not matterwe all cried during Inside Out.
Get on The Same Page
If you’re struggling to find a date that works for everyone, employ the help of the app Doodle. It sends out a message to everyone and asks them to check the dates they are available. It then aggregates all possible days and narrows them down to the ones that work for everyone. Genius.
One is the Loveliest Number
Save money, time and sanity by embracing the idea of Secret Santa. Trust us, it sounds gimmicky but finding one ah-mazing gift is far superior to six mediocre ones. Do it the old fashion way by picking names from a hat or use the website Draw Names if your family happens to live in all parts of the country. You can even use the site to make wish lists and set a budget.
If you haven’t done so already, sign up for TSA PreCheck ($85 for five years), which will expedite you through security in more than 150 U.S. airports. Better yet if you’re an international jet-setter, become a member of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program ($100 for five years) and you’ll get PreCheck and the ability to zip through U.S. Customs.
A Boingo account (from $5 a month) keeps you online at more than 30 domestic airports (and more than 1 million hot spots around the globe). Tip: American Express Platinum cardholders are eligible for free accounts.
Less is Most Definitely More
Here’s your M.O. Pack your bags. Then immediately take out 30 percent. That pencil skirt you think you just might possbily need is actually something you will never need.