It’s the most wonderful time of the year, full of fun festivities and loved ones. But if you’re not careful a happy holiday can quickly turn disastrous!

From toppling while trying to hang the mistletoe to getting sick from a tainted turkey, trouble lurks in every corner over the holidays.

Keep your home and loved ones safe this season with our ultimate (but concise) guide to holiday safety. We’ve got all the tips, tricks, and two-cents you need to get by with a disaster-free holiday season.

Decorating

Bright lights and tinsel can help make your home look festive, but there are surprising dangers hidden in your holiday decor. Avoid a disaster with these basic decoration safety tips.

  1. Lift Properly – Safety should be a priority, even before you pull the decorations out of the box. When unpacking decor, don’t overreach. Instead, bend and lift from your knees, and ask for help if you need it. You don’t want an injury before the process even begins.
  2. Test Lights – Always inspect your string lights for fraying wires and broken bulbs. Plug them in to verify that everything is working and that there are no shorts before stringing them around the house. Replace broken or missing bulbs, and make sure you use a surge protective powerstrip to avoid an electrical overload.
  3. Hang Tight – Use a ladder or sturdy stepstool to hang lights, garland, and other decorations. Don’t stand on your tiptoes to reach higher, and make sure another person is present to spot you. Never put staples or pins directly through the wire when putting up lights.
  4. Tree Tricks – A beautiful tree can be the centerpiece of your holiday decor, but dangling ornaments are tempting for small children and curious cats. Keep decorations that look like toys (for kids or cats) out of reach. It’s also a good idea to anchor your tree if you’re worried about it standing strong throughout the hectic holidays.

Food

We all like to eat, drink, and be merry, but nothing can ruin a festive feast faster than a nasty case of food poisoning. Here’s everything you need to know to avoid salmonella and other bugs at the holiday table.

  1. Turkey Taming – Make sure your turkey doesn’t bring disease to your dinner party. Thaw the bird properly, either in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours or in cool water. If you use the water method, change out the water every half hour and make sure you’re ready to pop the turkey in the oven as soon as it’s thawed.
  2. Safe Stuffing – The best way to keep your stuffing tasty and bacteria-free is to cook it separately from the bird. But if you can’t resist cooking it the old-fashioned way, make sure not to stuff it too tightly and add the stuffing at the last possible moment before putting the turkey in the oven.
  3. Police the Buffet – Bacteria starts to set into food after about two hours out on the buffet table. Set a reminder on your phone to make sure you get food back in the fridge before you hit the two-hour mark. Provide plenty of spoons, spatulas, and tongs to prevent guests from being tempted to use their fingers to snatch up one more meatball.
  4. Devour Leftovers – Who doesn’t love a turkey-cranberry sandwich on a leftover roll? Just make sure you enjoy your leftovers within three to four days of the original meal. The food can’t stay fresh in the fridge much longer than that. Oh well, good excuse to chow down on leftovers quickly!

Travel

Whether by plane, train, or automobile, the holidays are a busy time for travel. Use these tips to make sure you travel safely no matter how far you have to go.

  1. Germs-Be-Gone – When you’re trapped in a plane at 30,000 feet it’s hard to avoid the germs floating in the air from every coughing and sneezing passenger. Visit your doctor before embarking on your trip to get a flu shot. Give yourself an extra hand by carrying hand sanitizer or wet wipes with you too.
  2. Road Safety – Don’t get behind the wheel without having your car checked out from top to bottom. Pay special attention to tires and fluids. Make sure tires are properly inflated and equipped for winter roads and check that all the fluids are topped off and there are no leaks.
  3. Prepare for Emergencies – Put extra blankets, working flashlights with new batteries, and snow chains in your trunk. Other winter safety essentials include an ice scraper, jumper cables, emergency candles, matches, and kitty litter to help with traction if you get stuck. Make sure you have your cell phone, and get a car charger if you don’t have one already.
  4. Safe Social Media – It’s fun to stay in touch and share your spoils on Facebook or Instagram, but if you’re traveling your posts can advertise that your home is vacant. Save vacation photos for after you return home to make sure your house doesn’t get targeted by burglars while you’re away.

Fire

Although a fire is quintessential holiday decor, it’s also one of the most dangerous. Avoid a flame-related accident by using these smart reminders.

  1. Chimney Sweep – If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, have it checked out before lighting the first fire of the season. Hire a chimney sweep to make sure there are no obstructions and check for loose bricks or cracks.
  2. Keep Your Distance – Don’t place a tree, garland, stockings, or other decorations where they can catch fire from the fireplace or candles. Give anything with a flame plenty of room, and that includes watching for flying sparks from the fire.
  3. Candle Caution – Enjoy the warm ambience of candlelight safely by placing all burning candles on sturdy surfaces, moving flames away for holiday decor, and keeping an eye on them. Be sure to blow out candles before rushing to the store or going to bed.
  4. Water Wise – If you have a live tree be sure to keep it well hydrated. Check water several times per day and never leave lights on when you’re not home. You don’t want dry bristles getting too toasty.

Visitors

Treat your loved ones right when they come knocking on your door over the holidays. Follow these simple steps to make sure your doorstep is welcoming and trouble-free.

  1. Salt Sidewalks – Keep walkways and steps free of snow and ice, especially those with steep inclines. Regularly shovel or plow and lay down de-icer or rock salt to help keep sidewalks and driveways from freezing solid overnight.
  2. Safety For All – The holidays may bring more little ones and elderly family members to your home than usual. Take a look and be sure to remove child safety hazards, add protective covers to outlets, and gate off dangerous doorways and stairs. For senior guests make sure you have handrails for stairs and add slip resistant mats and rugs to high traffic areas.
  3. Mind Your Medicine – Keep all medications safely out of reach and locked away where they can’t accidentally be discovered. Make sure you review all the bathroom medicine cabinets and take this opportunity to get rid of old medications, just make sure to dispose of them properly with a medicine collector.
  4. Pet Smarts – If your animals aren’t used to guests, create a safe, quiet haven for them where they can rest away from the action. A corner in your bedroom or basement can make a huge difference in calming anxious pets’ nerves. And help them get ready for visitors by practicing how to greet guests.

Conclusion

No matter how you like to celebrate the season, these super simple tips will let you safely greet the new year with a big smile and the satisfaction of avoiding the usual holiday hazards.