Whether you’re driving cross-country to celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives, or hosting an intimate Christmas cocktail party at your home, preparing for the holidays takes careful planning. Consider the following tips on how to make the most of your holiday season.

Do…

  • Create a system to help you stay on track. MSN Money suggests devising a timeline to help you get everything done. If you need a head start, Martha Stewart offers several detailed checklists that can be downloaded for free, including a Thanksgiving planner and a holiday checklist.
  • Prep your car for long road trips to visit friends or relatives, advises Kiplinger. This includes making sure your car is primed for winter road conditions and stocking your trunk with emergency items.
  • Redeem credit card or rewards points to use towards gifts, suggests MSN Money. The site recommends you do this sooner rather than later, since rewards programs suggest you allow four to six weeks for delivery.
  • Consider serving boxed wine at your Thanksgiving dinner or holiday party, suggests Money Crashers. Before you scoff at the idea, The New York Times points out that boxed wine stays perfectly fresh for weeks after being opened; they even offer up a few of their favorites.

Don’t…

  • Forget to recognize the service people (housekeepers, mail carriers, teachers) who help you out every day. Get Rich Slowly has a holiday tipping guide that offers suggestions on who you should think of during the holidays and what you should give them.
  • Drive yourself crazy by cooking everything yourself. Money Crashers suggests having a potluck Thanksgiving to save you both money and time in the kitchen.
  • Wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas Day to prepare your big meal. If you are taking on most of the cooking yourself, Martha Stewart has 25 Thanksgiving dishes that can be prepared a day or two before the big meal. Good Housekeeping offers up some holiday appetizers that you can also make in advance.
  • Forget about those who have less than you. Money Crashers notes that volunteering at a soup kitchen during the holidays can be a great way to help others and remind you and your family just how fortunate you are.Consider finding one in your community this holiday season.

How do you prepare for the busy holiday season? Do you usually cook holiday meals on your own, or do you ask others to contribute?