Holiday Planning Guide

Hello! I’m super excited to present you with this Holiday Planning Guide! Not only is this article chock full of ideas to help you plan for the holidays, there’s also a lot that was inspired by lovely Bullet Journalists that I’m excited to share with you!

Whether you’re enjoying a small gathering, planning a party, want to get straight to the food (everyone’s favorite part of the holidays!), shopping the sales, or traveling this holiday season, I aim to help you get prepared for the holidays with this guide!

Brainstorm & Create an Outline.

First thing you’ll want to do is brainstorm ideas about your holiday needs. Are you having guests over? Getting gifts or planning a party? Most importantly, do you know what you’re doing about all of the delicious food?!

Here’s an example of brainstorming on the left. This will help you gain a better understanding into your own holiday planning objectives. Make connections and circle the main topics you want to tackle. Start with any of the circled words to get started brainstorming some ideas for the holidays. On the right, break down the brainstorming page into an outline. The outline will act as a master list and index for the collections to follow. This will help you keep track of the collections you’ve made and where they are in your Bullet Journal. Check them off as you create them.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Please note that you don’t have to follow all of these suggestions, just pick the ones that call out to you and work with those. This is meant to be a comprehensive guide covering the main parts of holiday planning.

Gather Inspiration

The next thing you’ll want to do is gather inspiration. This means creating a collection of online sources you found helpful or adding the ideas directly into your Bullet Journal (such as writing out recipes). Use the power of the internet to look up recipes, party decoration ideas, and even ideas for fun headers and doodles to embellish your Bullet Journal a little for the holidays. Adding those extra details might help add a touch of fun to the otherwise stressful thing that is planning for the holidays.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

As a special note, you don’t have to add any lettering or doodles! Just thought these were fun to share for the holidays.

Inspiration for these fonts gathered from here, here, here, here and here.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Inspiration for these doodles from here.

Planning

Now that you’ve set yourself up for success with some brainstorming and inspiration, it’s time to start getting prepared. Make an action plan by divvying up steps over the course of a few weeks and days before the big event to help you get as much done with minimal amount of stress.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

As inspired by professional organizers.

Add the dates when these occur into your Monthly Log to make sure you stay on track! Add the page numbers to make it easy to flip back to the spread above and knock out some prep steps!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Countdown with some fun!

Here’s an idea to countdown to the big day by coloring in the ornaments each day. By the time the big day arrives, your tree will be completely lit! For some added fun, create a holiday bucket list with a few things you want to get done in the last few months of the year. Enjoy a movie every time you knock something off your list!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Popcorn movie tracking inspired by Stefania.

Guests & Details

Now that we’ve set up a few fun collections, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of planning.

Create a guest list of friends and family you’re inviting over – if you’re hosting, that is. Write down if they’re bringing anything to make sure you have enough room on the table. Leave the place cards for the seating arrangement empty until a week before the event when you confirm who’s attending. (Don’t worry, this is included in the “Preparing” collection above).

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Budget & Gifts

Budget is just a word that means you’re being proactive about where your money is going. I modeled this budget tracker after YNAB’s budget view. This way you can plan out how much money you’ll spend in each category. Afterwards, you can update what you’ve spent and how much you have available. There’s also room to add a list of supplies – stock up on things such as wrapping paper to envelop all those presents you budgeted for!

Speaking of gifts, write out a list of gift ideas to surprise all of your favorite people this holiday!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

If you prefer a more visual way to see gift ideas, try out this cheery illustrated Collection.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

If you’re into stockings, you might want some room to brainstorm stocking stuffer ideas and who you’re giving a stocking to!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Food

Now that we’ve taken care of gift planning and done some budgeting, it’s time to sink your teeth into everyone’s favorite topic: food!

Brainstorm Recipes: Favorites & To Try

Create a collection to toss in recipe ideas and jot down any related notes. For the recipes, I recommend writing down your favorite holiday foods along with foods you want to try. Try the new recipes ahead of time so you’ll know whether you like them enough to serve at your big event. One you’ve decided on a menu, check off that recipe to indicate it’s part of the menu and add it to the official menu on the following page. If you prefer to add columns for the types, you can do that as well!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Informative source about how to calculate how much to serve.

Menu & Timeline for the day of!

Once you’ve put together a menu, head over to the seating arrangement collection from above and arrange the dishes where you want them to go on the table! This timeline will be very handy the day of because you’ll have an action plan for when to toss in the turkey or ham and can see the menu at a glance to make sure everything is set. The timeline will help you stay on track and make what could be an otherwise stressful event into something you have pleasantly under control!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Write Recipes down

To make cooking easier, write down the recipes you’ll be working with. Scale them before writing them down to make sure you make enough (reference the notes from the previous collection to figure out how much to scale according to how many guest will be in attendance). Check off ingredients with a pencil as you create the recipe so you can ‘reuse’ the recipe.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning Bullet Journal Holiday Planning16 Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Visual food tutorials

For tricker techniques, such as pie lattice, drawing out a tutorial may be helpful.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Grocery List

Write out a grocery list organized by a few main aisles to make shopping a breeze. Indicate which items you need to buy ahead of time with a signifier. Thanks to the “Preparing” collection from before, you’ll know when to buy certain ingredients ahead of time! If you like to know which food an ingredient corresponds to, write out a mini menu to reference with a corresponding code and add them after the item in the list. Now when you’re shopping and you forget why you needed 1 single lemon, you can glance at the mini menu! If the numbers might confuse (Do I need 5 lemons or is that the 5th recipe?), try letters instead.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Table Setting Guide

Where does the fork go? What about the napkin? On such a busy day, it’ll be delightful to have a handy table setting guide.

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Party Planning

There’s quite a bit that goes into planning a party. From picking a theme and figuring out decorations, to creating a music playlist and working on some fun projects – planning for a party can be a doozy to keep track of! Luckily, the Bullet Journal gives you just the right amount of room (however much you need!) to help you think through ideas however best works for you, whether you function better with a list or some illustrations – or both!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Travel

Traveling for the holidays? Here’s a simple 1 spread idea to keep all of your travel info in one place. Inspired by Natalie, this travel collection includes your itinerary, hotel & flight info, schedule for the days you’ll be travelling, a simple budget, packing list and finally a sunshine of places to visit! The sunshine is something Jess adapted as her gratitude log and I’ve always loved the idea and thought this was a fun adaptation of her adaptation of the gratitude log.

Two sets of task bullets for the packing list, check it once to indicate you’ve packed before you go on your trip, and check it the second time to make sure you’ve packed it all back up!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

After the Holidays

Sales

The holidays mean it’s also time for some great deals. To help you keep track of what you have your eye on, write them down on these simple lists. Writing them down might also curb overspending by having somewhere to write down the things you have an eye on instead of impulse buying. If you find that you still want the item when you check the list again, that’s great! You’ll be getting a deal on it anyways, so treat yourself!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Memories

Even though the festivities may be over, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep the fun going! Consider having a Memories log to draw your favorite moments or journal a bit about how the holidays or your year went. You might find you enjoy reading through the memories later on!

Bullet Journal Holiday Planning

Memories collection inspired by Kacheri.

Phew! That was quite a bit, but hopefully you’ve picked up some ideas to help you in your holiday planning adventures!Again, you don’t need to add any doodles or lettering if you don’t want to, I thought it would be a fun touch for the holidays. I sincerely hope you find the ideas helpful!

Do you have any special ways to plan for the holidays that I didn’t cover? Share in the comments below to spill your secrets!

Happy Holidays and stay safe!

___

Header image by Chelsea Francis

About Kim Alvarez

Kim Alvarez is the creative behind Tinyrayofsunshine.com, where she writes about the Bullet Journal, productivity, planning, and other creative pursuits. She runs a sunshiney Etsy shop with stationery goods that will bring a smile to your face at tinyrayofsunshine.etsy.com
  • Mae-Mae Han

    Thank you, this is a very extensive guide!

    • Thank you Mae-Mae! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • This was great. I wasn’t intending to do much holiday planning, but I have so much going on, you’ve got me thinking it might be a good idea to get some of it down on paper and out of my head so I can stop worrying about it all. <3

  • Kathleen Brune

    Wow! Some really awesome ideas here for keeping things together during the holiday season. Thanks!

    • Happy you think so, Kathleen! Happy Holidays!

  • P J Lawrence

    Thank you for all the organizing ideas! A suggestion for the “After the Holidays” section would be to keep a list of gifts received or parties attended so that you could write thank you notes.

    • Yes! That was included as part of the guest and details spread. The little gift column is if they brought a gift and the letter is to write them a thank you note. Both are to be marked as completed once they’re given 🙂

  • Wonderful planning! Totally going to do something similar here.