Everyone knows about Black Friday and the crazy holiday shopping season, but going to the stores right after Christmas brings its own unique challenges for parents. This might seem late as New Year’s Eve is here, but it’s never too early to get ready for the 2013 holiday season, especially based on one dad’s experiences from this year that are fresh in his mind. Going back to the stores immediately after Christmas seems almost anti-climatic. We know Boston fathers are busy people. The kids have opened their presents, the food has been served, and many of you have gone back to work. Seems like you can relax…the craziness of the holidays is over, right? Not exactly. Now is the season of the return to the malls. Time to exchange or return gifts, use your gift cards, or just keep the kids busy during their week off from school. It is time to put together a plan before you go, as the stores will be as crowded as ever.
Some of you may be inclined to venture out the day after Christmas. Don’t do it. Yes, there are good deals… but if you are like me, you would rather pay $20 more for a pair of shoes, then deal with a post-holiday madhouse. If you are clinically insane or are possessed by an evil force and have to go out, try to go out alone. South of Boston, Rt 3 and 24 are a risky adventure. Taking the kids along adds another level of stress to your day. Just remember, most sales this day begin early in the morning. If you have returns, and have no plan of sale shopping…. go later in the day. Many stores open at 5am and if you go too early, those crazed shoppers will be there to meet you guys at the door. Further on in the day, the crowds seem thinner for the most part, and you can do what you have to do in less time. Enjoy the morning coffee and relax.
From Dec. 27th on, the crowds seem manageable. But it is still a good idea to make a plan on how to approach the day. If you have kids with you, turn the day into an adventure. A solid approach is splitting the day into 3 parts. Remember to set this agenda with the kids early, so they know they cannot divert from the main itinerary. This can be a long day, so bring along some of their toys, your iPad, or DVDs if you have a player in the car. Any trip over 20 min will require appropriate buffers for your own sanity. The malls are best visited in the mornings, especially S. Shore Plaza in Braintree, when during peak times, you can have a 2 mile walk from the nearest parking spot to the door, as if you were going to a Patriots game at Gillette Stadium. Don’t forget, if you take the highway, wait until rush hour is over. Less people means less stress for dad, and not a chance of losing small children in a sea of humanity. Part two of your day should include a midday lunch… You will spend more money then maybe planned, but it kills another hour. Also, if you take the kids to fast food, the kids’ meal will give them a cheap new toy to play with so you can get another 20 minutes of peace. Finally, plan to tackle the plazas and stand alone stores later in the day. Plymouth has some excellent new plazas that are a welcome change to the indoor malls. An excellent choice is Colony Place, off of route 44 west. You can usually get out of these stores quicker, especially if there is no toy or electronic sections.
If planned correctly, fathers can make it back to the stores safely during the days following December 25. Set the agenda as if you were planning draft strategy for your fantasy football team, making a schedule that will get you home before the evening rush hour. Many of you will have to take the kids along, but have no fear. Children can be added to the plan successfully. You have to be sure to include them in all aspects of your day. Making a bad call here, can have dire consequences. There are no mulligans in this game, so if you are unsure… GET A SITTER. If your kids are happy, you are happy. Alone or with family, proper planning will get you home in plenty of time for the 6 pm Sportscenter.