You’ve been counting down the years, days, and minutes since you were eighteen. You’ve fantasized about it from TV and movies, and have drooled over Facebook photos of girls in tiaras chugging wine from bottles, and finally taking shots at the bar. You’ve counted every birthday as “one year closer to the big birthday”. Now, all that patience and waiting is about to pay off. You’re finally about to turn 21. So, how exactly do you prepare for what appears to be the biggest night of your life and that moment you’ve been waiting so long for? Here are some tips and tricks to help you survive your big day and cope with any obstacles that may occur.

1. Plan Ahead

This is the best advice to prepare for your big day. Know in advance who will be going out with you, and where you will be going. Plan ahead, call the venue and let them know you are turning 21. Ask them about their policy for identification, and see if you are allowed to enter but not drink before midnight. Ask if they have any promotions or special offers for big parties on your birthday, or if they offer birthday shots or discounts. Have a designated driver planned in advance, or book a hotel room if you’ll be celebrating out of town.


2. Underage Friends

In reality, you would love for all your girlfriends to come out and party the night away, some of them might still be 20 or even 19 years old. Many clubs and bars don’t allow people under 21 in and aren’t forgiving with fake ID’s. Though you think it would be fun for everyone to get together, imagine how you would feel if you were that one friend who had to order a Shirley Temple drink while everyone else ordered scorpion bowls. Try to plan an activity that could include your friends of all ages. You could hold a separate “before party”, pre-game, or another house party on a separate day, so your under 21 friends will feel included.


3. Include Your Parents

I mean, your mother did birth you 21 years ago. Try to include her, your dad, and the rest of your family somehow into your big day. Though she may say that she wants you to go have fun with your friends, or your dad may silently sit there as his little girl gets whisked off into adulthood, they are likely having trouble accepting the fact that you are an adult now. Try a dinner with your parents first, then the big clubbing trip afterward. Or, have a family party, or party where both family and friends are invited – and go out afterward with your girls. Don’t forget about them. It’s a special day for them too!


4. Licenses Expire

Most bars won’t let you get in with an expired ID – even with your sash, tiara, or adorable “I’m finally 21, now let me in!” expression. Know your licenses’ expiration date, the process behind renewing your license, and take steps to ensure that you have the proper ID to gain access to bars, clubs, and the sacred liquor store on your big day. Some alternatives are a passport, a temporary license, or other government issued ID.


5. Have a Back-Up Plan

What if the bar is at max capacity at midnight? No sash and tiara can get you into a private party, or past the security when the bar is full. Always have a backup plan and even a backup plan to the backup plan. Though you likely will not even need the backup plan, it will help decrease any frustration and disappointment that might occur if your plans are a bust on your birthday. It’s always good to have an idea in place to avoid the 12 a.m. scramble or the 2 a.m. let down when your efforts fell flat.


6. Pace Yourself

The last thing you may want to do on your 21st birthday is pace yourself, it’s a good idea to take it slow and steady on your birthday. You don’t want to be so sick at your pre-game party that you can’t go out for your after-party. If you are incredibly drunk in the first 20 minutes of your birthday, it will be a steady decline to toilet-ville. It’s okay to say no to shots, have water in between, have a big pasta meal before, or to say “let me take this in a minute” while you go pee and get your shit together in the bathroom.


7. Embrace Freebies

Some places offer birthday specials or freebies ranging from a free dessert to a free birthday shot. It doesn’t hurt to ask if the place you are going has free shots or free admission for the birthday girl. Take advantage of these deals while you can. Chances are, you will be bought shots and drinks – but be realistic. Your friends probably can’t keep up with you all night, or dozens of shots of the top shelf tequila. Expect to spend at least a little bit of money, and keep drinks cheap. Also, you don’t have to accept every shot you are given – and you shouldn’t feel as though you “have to” take shots if they aren’t your thing. You do you!


8. Prepare for the Morning After

There is no magic exception for your 21st birthday when it comes to hangovers. If you party hard the night before, you will probably be feeling a bit green the next day. Prepare in advance by drinking tons of water, have a Gatorade on standby, and some Advil in your purse in case you feel sick the next morning. Inform your girls that you won’t be doing anything other than brunch in bed, and that part of their duties as your friends are helping you cope with the hangover.


9. Make it Count

You only turn 21 once. There is a huge build up to this birthday. You are truly an adult and able to buy and drink alcohol. In reality, 21 is awesome. This is a night full of freedom and friends. Enjoy it!