How to flee a holiday party early -- and politely

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(MoneyWatch) The holidays can be a busy time, filled with obligations from work, family and friends. If you're particularly social, you may have had the exhausting experience of attending two or even three parties in one evening.

While it's nice to have places to go, if you stay for the full duration of each and every work-related event, you can feel burned out and like you're missing quality time with your loved ones. Here's how to get in and out quickly and graciously, so you minimize the time you spend at each one while still making a good impression on your host and fellow revelers.

Make a point to say hello to the host. One key to making a maximum impact in minimum time is to make sure you have a meaningful interaction or two early in the night with the host and any other key players at the party. "Make sure to say your hellos, mingle, have a cocktail, pose for a photo or two... and then leave without fanfare," says manners expert Thomas P. Farley, who pens the etiquette website What Manners Most. By not exiting with a dramatic "goodbye," your early departure will likely go unnoticed by the busy host.

Give your host a heads up if you can't stay. When you RSVP, consider letting your host know that you can't stay for the duration, suggests etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas. "Say to your host, 'I would love to attend your event, but I have already accepted another invitation. Would you mind if I came for the last half (or first half) or would you prefer I take a rain check?'" Gottsman says. In all likelihood, your host will welcome you for the time you can spare -- and won't be offended when you pop out early.

Be a great guest while you're there. Don't be a bar-flower. Instead, mix and mingle like you mean it. "Engage in conversation with others you do not know very well. A host appreciates you branching out to people who are less familiar. When it's time to leave [early], let your host know how much you enjoyed meeting X, X and X," Gottsman says.

Depart before dinner. Upon leaving the event, try not to disrupt your host or the party. As mentioned earlier, that means avoiding any dramatic and extended adieus. But it also means timing your exit carefully, says etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, author of "Poised for Success." "If you plan to attend a dinner party, leave after the cocktail hour just before dinner is served, or leave just before dessert is served if you want to get to the next event."

How do you handle holiday party overload? Please share in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Michael Osmenda

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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