13 Helpful Apps to Take the Stress Out of the Holiday Season

If the holiday season is leaving you feeling stressed out or pressed for time, chances are there's an app out there designed to make things easier. Check out these apps for Android and iPhone that can help you with everything from finding the perfect recipe to finding someone who could wrap presents for you in a pinch.

1. Yummly // Free

Yummly App

If you’re hosting a dinner this season and aren’t sure what to make, turn to Yummly, home to over 2 million recipes. When you sign up, you pick what level of cook you are; then, the unique search feature lets you narrow recipes down by preferences, like dietary restrictions, cooking time, nutrition information, and more—this can help you find a dish that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. The app also allows you to add all the ingredients to a shopping list and order groceries from local stores.

Available on iOS and Android.

2. Food Network Kitchen // Free

Food Network app

The user-friendly Food Network Kitchen app is home to an extensive database of recipes, so you’re sure to find plenty of options for meals. You can save your favorite recipes so they're easy to find, create a shopping list, and even order the ingredients from your grocery store. If you want to go premium ($7 a month or, for a limited time, $48 for an annual subscription), you can take advantage of the app’s live classes with chef Q&As. Even better, a portion of your annual subscription will go to charity.

Available on iOS and Android.

3. How to Cook Everything // $10

how to Cook Everything app

You now have access to the best-selling How to Cook Everything cookbook. Alongside 2000 recipes and their variations, it also comes with 400 how-to illustrations, which take you step-by-step through the cooking process. The app also has handy built-in timers placed throughout the recipe, making meal prep that much easier. If you download the app onto your iPad, you'll have access to even more, like the ability to add notes to recipes and a constant-on button to ensure that the screen doesn't dim while you're cooking.

Available on iOS.

4. Happy Cow // $4

If you’re traveling and vegan or you’re hosting vegan friends and family, finding a place to go out to eat can be a bit of a challenge. But the Happy Cow app—which includes reviews, photos, and the ability to save restaurants for offline viewing—can help users find plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian restaurants in more than 180 countries.

Available on iOS or Android.

5. Giftster // Free

Gifster app

Trying to figure out the perfect present for everyone on your list can be stressful and time consuming. Luckily, Giftster takes out the guesswork. This app is essentially a gift registry that connects you to family and friends. Each person in your group creates their list and adds items to it. It marks the items once they’ve been bought (though the recipient won't see what's been purchased) and members can reserve the items they want to purchase on someone’s list so more than two people don’t show up with the same present. There's also a Secret Santa option. And beyond the holidays, it can work for everything from birthdays to baby showers.

Available on iOS or Android.

6. Santa’s Bag // Free

Santa's bag app

Not only does this app have a built-in Christmas countdown, it helps keep your shopping list and budget organized. First, you make a list of the people you want to buy for, and then add gift ideas, links, favorite stores, and notes for each recipient. The app also allows you to sort through your list by recipient, shopping list, extra gifts, ordered gifts, stocking stuffers, location, and more, so you can stay organized throughout the whole process.

Available on iOS.

7. Chanukah Guide // Free

Whether it's your first time celebrating Chanukah or you're just looking to brush up on the basics, this guide can help. The free app will walk you through all the aspects of celebrating the festival of lights, with prayers available in six languages, instructions on how to light the Menorah, and more.

Available on iOS and Android.

8. Task Rabbit // Free

TaskRabbit app

While the holidays bring a lot of joy, they also bring packed schedules and long to-do lists. So, if you’re looking through your planner and wondering how you can possibly get everything done, TaskRabbit can help. Whether it’s wrapping presents, assembling a child’s new toy, installing light fixtures, or even shoveling out from a surprise snowstorm, you can find someone on TaskRabbit to help you complete just about anything for an hourly fee.

Available on iOS or Android.

9. Calm // $70 a year after free trial

Calm app

Let’s face it, the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of the most hectic times of the year—so it’s important to take the time to breathe. Calm offers hundreds of hours of guided meditations that cover topics like managing stress and calming anxiety. The app also features relaxing music, soundscapes, and Sleep Stories designed to send the listener to dreamland (there's even one featuring Bob Ross!). Calm also gives users access to master classes that are led by experts and cover a wide range of topics from breaking bad habits to the power of rest.

Available on iOS or Android.

10. Tripit // Free

Tripit helps take the stress out of holiday travel. After you make your plans—like booking flights and rental cars—you simply forward the reservation to an email, and the app puts together a schedule for you. You can also instantly send your travel plans to anyone you choose, so it takes all the guesswork out of when you’ll be arriving. Tripit is free, but if you want to pay the $49 a year, it comes with features such as showing airport security wait times and periodic travel updates.

Available on iOS or Android.

11. Roadtrippers // Free

If you are going to be road trippin’ to your holiday destination, you may as well make it fun. This app will help you find restaurants, scenic points, and roadside attractions along the way. With the free app, you can plan up to seven stops, but if you want to be able to add more destinations, you’ll need to upgrade to Roadtrippers Plus for $30 a year or $7 a month.

Available on iOS and Android.

12. Flush - Toilet Finder & Map // Free

If you’re on the road for a long time, it’s inevitable that you’re going to need to stop for a bathroom break. But what to do when there's no rest stop in sight? Before you hit the road, download Flush, which has data on over 190,000 bathrooms around the world. When you open the app, it displays the nearest toilets—and even lets you search without an internet connection. (Flush is only available for iOS, but don't fear, non-iPhone users: Toilet Finder is free, available on Android, and has data on over 150,000 restrooms.)

Available on iOS.

13. Fake Call Plus // Free

Seeing family over the holidays is great ... until you get stuck in an awkward conversation that never seems to end. If you're an iPhone user, Fake Call will come to your rescue. The app allows you to schedule a time for a "phone call" that will help you escape some of those not-so-pleasant discussions.

Available on iOS.

10 Fascinating Facts About Chinese New Year

iStock.com/aluxum
iStock.com/aluxum

Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning January 25 in 2020, China will welcome the Year of the Rat, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. Chinese New Year was originally meant to scare off a monster.

Nian at Chinese New Year
iStock.com/jjMiller11

As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A lot of families use Chinese New Year as motivation to clean the house.

woman ready to clean a home
iStock.com/PRImageFactory

While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. Chinese New Year will prompt billions of trips.

Man waiting for a train.
iStock.com/MongkolChuewong

Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. Chinese New Year involves a lot of superstitions.

Colorful pills and medications
iStock.com/FotografiaBasica

While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. Some people rent boyfriends or girlfriends for Chinese New Year to soothe their parents.

Young Asian couple smiling
iStock.com/RichVintage

In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. Red envelopes are everywhere during Chinese New Year.

a person accepting a red envelope
iStock.com/Creative-Family

An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. Chinese New Year can create record levels of smog.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
iStock.com/lusea

Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. Black clothes are a bad omen during Chinese New Year.

toddler dressed up for Chinese New Year
iStock.com/lusea

So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. Chinese New Year leads to planes being stuffed full of cherries.

Bowl of cherries
iStock.com/CatLane

Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand. In 2017, Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. Panda Express is hoping Chinese New Year will catch on in America.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
domandtrey, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

Write a Letter to Shakespeare’s Juliet for a Chance to Spend Valentine’s Day in Her Romantic Verona Home

Airbnb
Airbnb

Shakespeare didn’t specify which luxurious Italian estate was home to Juliet and her family in Romeo and Juliet, but hopeless romantics have linked a certain 13th-century house in Verona to the Capulets for many years. A balcony was even added during the 20th century to mirror the famous scene from Shakespeare’s play.

Now, Airbnb is offering one pair of star-crossed lovers the opportunity to stay in the house for Valentine’s Day. To apply, you have to write a letter to Juliet explaining why you and your sweetheart would be the ideal guests for the one-night getaway. The winner will be chosen by the Juliet Club, an organization responsible for answering the 50,000 letters addressed to Juliet each year.

juliet's house in verona, italy
Airbnb

If you’re chosen, you won’t just get to spend the evening reenacting the few happy parts of Romeo and Juliet—you’ll also be treated to a candlelight dinner with a cooking demonstration by Michelin-starred Italian chef Giancarlo Perbellini, access to a personal butler for the duration of your stay, tours of both the house and the city of Verona, and the chance to read and answer some letters sent to Juliet. Even the bed you’ll sleep in is especially romantic—it’s the one used in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

juliet's house in verona, italy
Airbnb

juliet's house in verona, italy
Airbnb

And, of course, you’ll be giving yourself the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift: Freedom from the pressure to plan a perfect Valentine’s Day. The contest is open now through February 2, 2020, and you can apply here.

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