Hacking the Holidays: Time-Saving Survival Tips

Hacking the Holidays: Time-Saving Survival Tips

The holiday season comes wrapped in tradition and nostalgia, but that's just at the surface. Like those high-efficiency LED lights on your tree, your personal tech devices provide modern tools for creating a perfect holiday. From cooking to carols, get ready for your most organized, stress-free holiday season, ever.

Getting There Means Having Fun

Getting There Means Having Fun

The holiday crowds and bustle make it more than challenging to travel, but intelligent use of technology can tilt the odds in your favor.

  • Use a to-do list on your phone to keep track of everything you need to pack. It's always with you, so it's perfect for those face-palm moments when you remember that one crucial detail that eluded you.

  • Use a flight-finding app such as Skyscanner to book your flights, then rely on a travel organizer such as TripIt to keep all the details of your trip in one place.

  • Don't lose focus once you're on the ground. You can plan your route using any GPS app, but Waze is especially handy during the holidays because it provides crowd-sourced traffic data in real time.

  • If you're meeting friends in a park or public venue, install a geo-location app such as App2Find. Unlike standard GPS apps, this one leads you straight to the chosen friend's phone, so even directions like "a little way west of the entrance" are fine. App2Find even has an “Augmented Reality” feature so you can find your friends in a crowd by scanning with your phone's camera.

Tick, Tick, Tick

Tick, Tick, Tick

One thing you can count on, no matter how efficiently you organize your holiday, is that there won't be enough time to do it all. Instead of slogging through holiday traffic to drop in on friends and family for a few minutes, schedule virtual visits. Organize an online hangout with your loved ones on a set day so people can pop in and out between gift-wrapping, packing or getting those last decorations up. Find a good spot for your laptop or tablet, fire up your favorite video chat application, and you're all set.

Step-By-Step: Party Smarter

Step-By-Step: Party Smarter

The big, showy holiday meal might not be your thing, but you'll probably still have friends over. Here's how to rock your party prep.

1) Collect any recipes you're going to use over the holidays. Snacks, desserts, cocktails...everything.

2) Load a shopping-list app such as Smart Shopping List or Buy Me a Pie! onto your smartphone or tablet, and make a master list of ingredients. You can usually sort the ingredients you need by store and department, to help you get in and out in a hurry.

3) Use your smartphone or tablet's scheduling app to plan your prep ahead of time. Usually there will be things you can do days or even weeks ahead.

4) Set timers on your smartphone or tablet whenever you put anything in the oven or microwave. That way, you won't need to camp in the kitchen until it's ready.

5) Pull together a playlist of holiday classics before the party starts, and run it continuously on your television. If you have a Smart TV, you can pull content from cable, the Internet or your own library in whichever order you choose.

6) If music is more your thing, connect your smartphone or tablet to your audio system and use it for custom holiday playlists. Work from your own music library, or pick a holiday playlist from your favorite music app.

Shop Smart

Shop Smart

Gift buying is a major time suck as well. Instead of shouldering your way through the crowds at the mall, do your shopping online. For a small extra fee you can even have presents gift-wrapped and sent straight to their destination, so you don't have to tote them along or worry about losing one. Avoid post-holiday returns, and make life easier for your friends and family by creating and sharing a shopping "wish list" using a holiday shopping app like Christmas List: Gift Pony. Relatives can simply cross out the item they've purchased, eliminating duplicates and “what were they thinking?” moments. The time you save with quick shopping shortcuts can go to better uses, like strapping on your Gear and heading to the gym to work off that obligatory slice of Mom's fruitcake.

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