Lessons Learned from New Year's Eves Gone Wrong


Nobody gets out of dodge faster than me on New Year’s Eve.

Not because I don’t like to spend the holiday at home — New York City has some of the best celebrations on earth — but by this time of the year (especially now — holy blizzard, Batman!) I’m ready for fun in the sun.

For the past couple of years my destinations have been tropical, and anyone with seasonal affective disorder knows that a healthy dose of UV-delivered vitamin D can at least temporarily restore one’s sanity. But even though the locations are usually conducive to rest and relaxation, my getaways haven’t always been the respite I anticipated.

In 2005, my flight to Paris was canceled due to inclement weather, leaving me stranded in Dublin with a plane full of disgruntled travelers. A year later, torrential rains dampened our festivities in downtown Toronto. When my husband and I traveled to San Diego to ring in 2008 on the beach, we forgot to pack supplies to build a fire. And when we decided to bar hop in Honolulu last year — instead of buying tickets to a party — we were left sitting at a booth with two people we didn’t know, spinning our noisemakers in vain.

Like it or not, these experiences make me an expert on what not to do on New Year’s Eve. So to ensure that you start 2011 off right, consider the following tips. Fail to comply and, well, you may find yourself facing the business end of an old Irish woman’s vacuum cleaner as you catch some ZzZs on an airport floor. Sláinte!

Don’t Pack Too Much Into the Trip

Ryanair (avoid it at all costs, no matter how cheap the fares are) deserves the brunt of the blame for my unfortunate European experience. It canceled flights to the City of Light due to fog, which is hardly a reason in my book. Still, the rest of why I had NYE envy that year falls on me. In eight days, I had planned time in London, Dublin, and Paris, and the truth is, it was too much. In hindsight, I would have split my time between only two of the cities — that way I would have had time to come up with a contingent plan had either one of them not worked out. (Not as if London went off without a hitch, however. When Paris was no longer an option, Ryanair shipped us back to the U.K. capital — just in time for the Underground workers to strike an hour before midnight on December 31, forcing us to exit the train in the middle of nowhere, Great Britain. Yeah.)

Dress Appropriately for the Party

In 2008, we stayed local and purchased tickets to a New Year’s Eve cruise on the Hudson River, complete with hors d’oeuvres and alcohol. Sounds perfect, right? To us too, until we got there and realized that the event was a tourist trap, filled to the brim with a sneakers-and-T-shirt crowd. We were dressed in blazers and ties — reasonable attire for a holiday party in public — but because of the atmosphere we felt overdressed and out of place. My rule of thumb is to always dress up — because you can dress down when you get there by removing the blazer and/or tie — but I would also recommend calling ahead to see what’s expected. If it’s a Nike-clad kind of event, embrace it. No reason to be so stuffy when everyone else is comfortable.

Don't underestimate the weather, either, if you're partying outdoors. An hour in the cold is one thing; six hours is a whole new level. Remind me to tell you about the time I took my socks off after the festivities in Times Square to find ice crystals on my frozen toes. Talk about pain.

Pick a Place — and Stay There

My husband and I would rather bar hop than stay at one location all night, but New Year’s Eve is not the time to do that. Many places host prepaid, ticketed parties (for which you’ll pay dearly at the door if it’s not already sold out), and if it’s not a ticketed event, they’ll hit you with an inflated cover charge. This year we’re traveling to Miami, and before the big night arrives we plan to scope out a reasonably priced party that includes an open bar (a must if you’re paying up front) or accept an invitation to the house fiesta of a friend's friend. The lesson here is that if you’re in an unfamiliar city, don’t leave your good time in fate’s hands. It will quickly turn sour, and before you know it, you’re standing in a line listening to everyone inside counting down from 10. Even if the party itself is a bust, at least I’ll have the two things I need most — unlimited booze and my babe. In that order.

Have a Back-Up Plan

If I’ve learned anything from my end-of-year debacles, it’s that Plan B is absolutely necessary. Inclement weather, fed-up subway workers, an ill DJ, a liquor shipment that didn’t arrive on time — anything that can happen sometimes will and is apt to turn your itinerary inside out. Instead of sulking (like I’ve been known to do) line up your options. Talk to the person with whom you plan to celebrate regarding what would happen in the totally likely event that disaster strikes. What will you do? Do you cut your losses and go home? Do you find an off-the-beaten-path party? Whatever it is, make sure you’re on the same page about it ahead of time, because it’s a double doozy when you can’t agree on the backup. One plan you should have and keep, however, is how you’ll get home. Drinking and driving should never be an option. Especially when you can have so much naughty fun in the back of a cab.

Stay safe — and Happy New Year!

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Andrea Karim's picture

You are much more ambitious than me. I have largely skipped New Year's shenanigans ever since my parents insisted on going to stand under the Space Needle to watch the New Year's fireworks. These are two people who constantly complain about Seattle's weather, and yet somehow thought that standing outside at midnight in January would be fun.

That was all the celebration that I could handle for at least the next ten years.

Guest's picture

I lost interest in New Year's Eve years and years ago, for one simple reason: When I was young and full of energy, I worked a few years as a bartender. Absolutely guaranteed to make a person despise New Year's Eve.



Guest's picture

I've always wondered why folks feel such a need to 'party party party' on New Year's Eve. You still need to get up the next day and continue life as usual - it's not as if the stroke of midnight to ring in the new year means all your wishes will come true. On New Year's Eve, we usually go out to a nice dinner and then head home to ring in the new year. We keep it simple and safe.

Guest's picture

I learned about having a back up plan this year. Should have read your blog sooner!