Holiday Bucket List: Making Christmas Magical, Fun, and Organized

Scheduling is super important in my household.  My husband’s work schedule varies with nights and weekends, so in order for us to get errands run and make time for family fun, date nights, and more, we schedule things out to keep this mama sane and to be sure we actually leave the house for more than toilet paper. 

Now as the holiday’s come into play, this can be tricky with so much going on and just not enough hours in the day to do it all.  In order to maintain some sort of schedule and build in time for much needed R&R, we have to narrow down and decide what the most important things are for us to do during the Holiday Season.


Here is my Holiday Bucket List for a magical, fun, and organized holiday season!

Create a gift list

I started a gift list a couple years ago, and I have it saved as a word document so I just update it every year. I would hate to forget someone, and this also gives me a chance to write down ideas I have throughout the year.  Having this list also makes it so if I see the perfect gift way before Christmas, I get it, and then write it down so I don’t forget about it. #mombrain!  

Black Friday Shopping

Some love this annual tradition, and some hate it. Either way, this one takes a lot of planning.  Reviewing ads, makings lists, arranging child care, packing snacks.  Last year was a haze with a three-month-old, so I did all of mine online, at 5 a.m. in my bed.  It was glorious! 



See Santa

For our first meeting with Santa last year we went to Von Maur at the Iowa River Landing in Coralville. It included a free photo and was a wonderful experience! For more places and times to catch Santa around Iowa City this year, check out our guide to Santa Sightings.


With a toddler around, we are going to keep our precious ornaments and figurines safely packed away in our basement until he is old enough to be trusted.  We plan to keep the holiday spirit by getting some kid-friendly decorations. Window clings, paper snowflakes, a holiday card display, and a kid-friendly tree are on our list.

Christmas music and movies

I usually wait until after Thanksgiving, but this year, I needed Christmas early.  My radio stations are already set to stations playing Christmas music, and I am looking forward to watching Christmas movies.  Some of my favorite movies are Love Actually, Elf, Home Alone, and Christmas Vacation!

Attend local events

My hometown of West Branch has an annual Christmas Past Celebration, and the Herbert Hoover Museum has a killer Christmas Tree display.  I loved going to both of these events as a kiddo and am grateful we live close to this awesome community so I can share this with my family.   We also are looking forward to the Iowa City Downtown Districts annual Gingerbread House competition, and driving around to check out the Christmas light displays.  Check out this huge list of more holiday events near Iowa City, and get your calendar ready!


I finally am going to sit down and bake some treats from that Pinterest board I’ve been saving. I plan to share these with our loved ones and pass on the holiday spirit!  


Read Christmas books

My son loves reading, so I plan to add some seasonal and holiday books into his collection.  If you don’t want to spend a fortune, go to your library and check them out.  Get inspiration from this Books of Christmas tradition.

Give back

This season, to me, is about giving back to those you love and those who are in need.  We have many local organizations that are in need of many items. Consider choosing something from this list of local volunteer and service opportunities.


A minimalist’s favorite! Now that you will be getting gifts for yourself, your spouse, and kiddos, be prepared. Go through what you have now and purge the clutter, unused toys, clothes, and books.  Try the “one-in-one-out approach:” if you get a new pair of gloves, donate the old ones.  Get inspiration and details on how to embrace minimalism here.

Last year I was reminded that as parents, we are now in the position to help create a magical time for our kids.  We set the stage for what the holiday season is all about, so don’t let the stress of it all get to you. Enjoy, snuggle close, and narrow down the things that really matter to you. 

What is on your Holiday bucket list?


Megan, an Iowa native from West Branch, shares her home with husband Cody, their three kids (Charlie-8 Gwen-6 & Ben-2) and 2 dogs (Dottie- lab-basset mix & Ham-all basset). When she is not smooching on them she is trying to change lives as a social worker, taking walks around their Iowa City neighborhood or cruising in Rita her minivan looking to score deals at local thrift stores. Check our her finds on her Instagram page @megthethriftingqueen.


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