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Mall survival tactics this holiday season with kids

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Ready, set, go!

It's hard not to feel the rush of it. The holiday season is upon us. The halls are decked and the carols blaring and there is one thing left to do ... shop. With the kids. No need to face the prospect with a lump in your throat. You can survive mall shopping without going crazy. Here's how.

Family at MallGot kids? It can be hard enough to navigate the narrow aisles of mall stores without the stroller, let alone when those aisles are crowed with harried shoppers who just want to get the shopping trip over with. Can you say bah humbug?

But other people's misery is no reason to put a damper on your holiday shopping. Grab the kids, it's time to start shopping!

 

Do your research

You can simplify your shopping experience by taking the time to plan ahead, says Mayna Sgaramella, a wardrobe consultant and personal stylist from Closetfly.com. Sgaramella suggests making a list of all the gifts you want to purchase and including where to get them. She also says that sometimes you can call ahead and have items put on hold, to make things even simpler. "Keep a map of the mall with you before you shop in order to plan out parking, elevators (if you have kids in strollers), and restaurants (because you will get hungry). Use valet parking if it is available. It will be worth the money rather than waiting in traffic," Sgaramella said.

She also says that it helps to keep to a time limit. "Give yourself a couple hours in one large store, then hit a couple smaller shops and take a break. Keep a few snacks in your purse and drape it around your body for more hands free movement, but leave your coat in the car," Sgaramella said.

Snack attack!

As Sgaramella suggested, having a few snacks on hand is essential to a meltdown-free shopping excusion. Pack up two to three different snacks for your child. And don't forget the drinks too. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through the mall and hearing cries of, "Mommy! I'm thirrrrrsty!"

Stick to nonperishables like Goldfish, graham crackers or fruit snacks with mostly fruit.

Stay in budget

Staying on the pre-set budget you have is another essential for stressfree shopping. If you are on budget, you won't be worrying about maxing out credit cards or living beyond your means and that makes for a happier mommy.

If budget control is what's worrying you, take Ruth E. Thaler-Carter's advice. "I survive mall shopping, by the way, by carrying only cash, so I don't overspend; smiling at all the clerks and salespeople, who are so surprised at being treated nicely that they respond in kind; and indulging in a chocolate, coffee or sugar treat a couple times along the way. I don't make a list of what I'll get for whom, but just let the inspiration of the moment carry me along," Thaler-Carter said.

Going it alone

If you can leave the kids at home, it might be worth it to do what the pros do.

Sarah Shah, an image coach and TV beauty expert, shops for and with clients as part of her job. When she's off the job, she has some easy ways to avoid the crush of holiday crowds. "(I) do all my shopping during stores' extended shopping hours between 8:30 pm and 11:00pm. Most shoppers have gone home by then so I can see the merchandise and check out quickly. I scope out ideas online, then shop in person in the stores and get as much done as I can during the two to three hour block. It usually only takes me a couple trips to get it all done," Shah said.

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