It’s cold, it’s dark, and everyone’s still broke from the holidays: It’s officially bailing season.

By Brittany Loggins
February 11, 2020
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'Tis the season—for canceling plans.

January, February, and March are hard months for a number of reasons. It’s cold, you’re still short on cash after the holidays, and you’re probably craving sunlight and vitamin D—but I’m going to throw in one more thing: It’s bailing season.

Never heard of it? Bailing season is the phenomenon of having all of your friends bail on plans at the last minute due to the aforementioned issues, among others. But let’s face it: We’ve all been both perpetrators (the bailers) and victims (the bailed upon). The worst part about this “season” of social life is that it can be lonely and, well, boring. But it doesn’t have to be.

To help everyone overcome this notoriously gloomy time of year when committing to plans feels impossible, we spoke to party planners Sara Raffa and Linden Ellis of Coterie to find out how to plan our way out of this mid-winter social rut. Ready, set, make (and keep) plans!

Keep groups small.

The last thing anybody wants to do is go to a crowded place where they’ll hardly get to spend time with the friends they actually care about. “People are more likely to bail when they think they won’t be missed,” says Raffa. “Make everyone feel like their presence matters to keep spirits high.”

Keeping groups small will not only allow deeper, more meaningful conversations, but often makes people more inclined to feel like their attendance matters. The tighter the group, the more accountable everyone is.

Take advantage of fun, viral holidays.

You know the ones: Galentine’s Day, National Drink Wine Day, National Pizza Day. Go ahead and use them as the perfect excuse to hang out. Even if people don’t like getting out of the house because of the cold, they can often be incentivized with treats and a theme.

Raffa suggests ramping up the decor for the theme and maybe even having a corresponding activity like pizza-making or a wine swap. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money—just get creative and make it worth committing to.

Get outside.

This one sounds counterintuitive, but there are plenty of winter activities that warrant a group outing. If you’re in a city, find the nearest ice skating rink. If you live in a place with snow, grab some mittens and a sled. And never underestimate the restorative power of bundling up for a brisk, winter walk (you can catch up just as easily side-by-side on a trail as you can on the couch). Not only will you feel like a kid again, you’ll get some much needed time out of the house. Oh, and it's free!

Finally, lure them in with the promise of treats and drinks afterward. “Getting out and doing a thing is even better followed by a hot toddy, mulled wine, or hot chocolate,” Raffa says.

Assign friends a (fun) task.

I know from experience: I’m much less likely to bail if I’m in charge of dessert for a dinner party course. Giving your friends a “responsibility”—like bringing their famous artichoke dip or the marshmallows for s'mores—will make them much less likely to text and flake 20 minutes before the event starts. You could even host a weekly or monthly potluck where everyone is responsible for a side dish.

“Most people bail because it’s easier to stay home with Netflix,” says Raffa. “So sign friends up for a task to give them some responsibility and make it harder for them to bail.”

Keep it casual.

Take the pressure off. No one wants to put effort into their hair if the cold, winter wind is just going to blow the style out of it. Host a low-key get-together at home and emphasize that yoga pants, sweatpants, and pajamas are welcome. Watch a movie, make brownies, and mostly, just stay comfy.

Cater to the group.

Sometimes people end up bailing for personal reasons beyond laziness. Maybe they’re attempting “dry January,” or trying veganism in February, and don’t want to be tempted to stray or have nothing to sip or nibble on. They could be trying to get their sleep back on track or training for a marathon and not interested in staying up late to eat and drink. Whatever the case, offer something for everyone: fun mocktails and a spread of veggies and dip, in addition to the mountain of cookies, snacks, and margaritas. And tell your crew they’re welcome to leave whenever—as in, no obligation to stay until 2 a.m.