It's December now, which means it's officially THAT time of year. Time to deck your halls, put up the menorah, or whatever else it is that you might do for the holidays. Every family has a tradition that goes back for years -- maybe even for generations. This doesn't mean that we can't add a few technological tweaks to save time and money and bring the family together, though! Here I give you five ideas to make the month just a little bit merrier.
1) Amazon's Holiday Flurry Deals: Starting this past weekend and running through Saturday, Amazon will have big sales on particular categories each day. It seems that some deals will last until Christmas, but this week will have more specific sales, like 60% off thousands of DVDs and Blu-rays on Wednesday and a $100 Amazon Gift Card with the purchase of certain smart phones on Friday.
For more information about what exactly is on sale, check Amazon every day this week!
2) Kayak.com: Finding an affordable flight online can be quite stressful, especially during a time when lots of others are also flying. There are dozens of websites that claim to get you the cheapest flights, but which one is really the best? With Kayak, it doesn't matter. Kayak compares all of the popular sites to book flights (Orbitz, Priceline, Hotwire, etc.) as well as the airlines themselves so that you can get the best deal without looking at ten different sites. When I travel, Kayak is my go-to site for flights, hotels, and whatever else I might need.
3) Skype: If it isn't possible to get everyone together for the holidays, it's not the end of the world. Now that Skype has become so popular, it's incredibly easy to have a face to face conversation with people on the other side of the world. I realize that Skype isn't exactly a secret (especially to people who are reading a tech blog), but the point of bringing it up in this list is to remind people to set up their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and whoever else doesn't have it yet. I recently had the opportunity to watch a focus group with older adults (all over the age of 65) talking about technology and the web, and all six participants had used and LOVED Skype. Simple things like eating Sunday breakfast with Grandma over Skype can really mean the world to them. When you can, try to set up your whole family to be able to video chat online!
4) Sale Aggregators: There are quite a few sites out there that give you information about sales from multiple stores, but there are two that stand out to me. Both of these sites are active year-round, but they really come in handy during the holidays.
SaleLocator is both a website and an iPhone/Android app that uses your zip code to look for deals closest to you. If you plan on leaving the house to do your holiday shopping, just search for the item you plan on buying and it will tell you if there are any deals in stores nearby, saving you from driving all over town or checking the website of every store in town that might sell that TV. It also helps you compare prices if you find an item in a store but want to check to make sure the WalMart down the street doesn't have a better deal. I find that this works really well in some areas but not so well in others, so check to see if people are reporting sales in your part of town.
If you like to do your shopping from the comfort of your computer chair, don't buy anything without checking RetailMeNot first. This site has coupon codes for thousands of websites, often providing deals like free shipping or a percentage off of an entire purchase. Just use the codes they provide at checkout on whatever site you're using and enjoy the savings!
5) NORAD Santa: The North American Aerospace Defense Command likes to have fun during the Christmas season by using high-tech means to track Santa's progress with Google Earth and video updates about his progress. Before Christmas, though, there's a countdown until Santa's flight and plenty of games for kids. Maybe this isn't the most useful tip on the list, but what's wrong with a little fun for the holidays?
There's still a few weeks left until the holiday season is in full swing, which is more than enough time to get your planning and shopping done before the last minute. If you are one to put things off until the last minute, I hope these tips can at least save you a bit of time, money, and stress. Anybody else have websites or apps that they like to use during this time of year? Leave us a comment!