The Christmas and Chanukah holidays are just around the corner and you’ve still got last minute gift shopping to do! Sometimes it requires travel to a mall, a task that many find cumbersome even when it’s not holiday time. Here are TravelingMom tips to help keep your mall travels smooth. We’ll help you navigate your way and keep you from pulling your hair out.

If last minute gift shopping forces you to head to the mall, here are tips to help make a chaotic travel situation manageable.

Teach children to use maps when navigating last minute gift buying at the mall. Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Last Minute Gift Shopping: Mall Travel Survival Tips

Does the thought of having to drive to the mall for last minute gift shopping cause you to break out in a cold sweat? Sure, the option for online shopping is tempting, but with a last minute gift, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid a trip to the mall.  These TravelingMom tips will help with your travels, so you can find what you need – no sweat!

Make a List & Check It Twice

Before you even leave your home, have your gift list ready to go. There’s nothing store owners love more than a shopper arriving unprepared and listless. Walking from store to store, you’re bound to end up stressed and spend more on impulse buys.

In addition to the last minute gifts you want, be sure to list a few alternatives in the event they aren’t available. Oh, and with a list on hand, it’s less likely you’ll get home later and realize you’ve forgotten someone! Travel with a positive mindset and friendly attitude. You may find that salespeople are more likely to be helpful back to you if you do.

If last minute gift shopping forces you to head to the mall, here are tips to help make a chaotic travel situation manageable.

Traveling to the mall for a last minute gift can be a real headache. Smart travel planning can make a difference. Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Travel Early

Arrive early. As in, shortly before the mall opens. This should allow you to get a premium parking spot near entrance doors. That’s helpful if you want to put boxes or bags in your trunk so you don’t have to carry them around while you continue shopping. (When we tested these techniques out recently at the King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia, we also made someone else’s day when we left and gave up our spot!) Additionally, the crowds will be at a minimum, making for a more pleasurable experience and salespeople that are actually available.

If you aren’t able to get there early, don’t waste  time circling around and around looking for a close-up parking spot. Instead, head to spots that are the farthest away from the entrance.  You’re more likely to find one. Time saved looking for parking can be spent gift-getting and the walk  from the car is good for you. In a real pinch, if you don’t mind spending a few extra dollars, there are quite a few malls these days that offer valet parking. (Some even offer free car wash and detailing if you want to go all out!)If last minute gift shopping forces you to head to the mall, here are tips to help make a chaotic travel situation manageable.

The Hours

Stores want to take advantage of all who’ve procrastinated, which often means extended holiday hours. Lucky for you! You may find stores open as early as 6 a.m. or stay open as late as midnight. That gives you a lot more leeway as to when you’ll be on the road getting to and from, helping you avoid some of the worst traffic. Check hours online before you go.

As most shoppers have to get their errands done on weekends or after work, try going on a weekday morning if possible. Not that you won’t fight any crowds during the week, but it’s likely to be less.  (And depending on where you’re shopping, you can avoid being there when shopping tour buses roll in—especially if you’re at an outlet mall.) Another bonus to morning-time mall shopping will be stores that haven’t been completely picked over yet. Neater shelves make it easier to find what you’re looking for.

If last minute gift shopping forces you to head to the mall, here are tips to help make a chaotic travel situation manageable.

Struggle less at the mall while searching for a last minute gift by using maps and services. Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

What to Wear

Comfortable shoes are key if you’re going to be on your feet for a while. Sneakers or walking shoes are probably the best choice, as not only do they provide cushioning to protect your feet, psychologically you can turn your time there into a mini-race. Or consider the concept that for each step you take, you’re gaining a fitness benefit. They don’t call it “mall walking” for nothing.

Map It Out

Once at the mall, take a moment to study the maps. Become familiar with the stores you need to get to and how the mall is laid out. Many malls these days have multiple branches of the same stores, which can make it quite confusing if you’re using a particular store as a landmark to help you get where you want to go. Some malls are so large it can become overwhelming if you don’t go in prepared.

A lot of malls have electronic maps these days, which, if you have kids with you, makes for a good “map reading” moment together. They also may give you electronic information about stores that are under construction or closed all together, letting you avoid going there and wasting time in the first place.

Food and Drink

As silly as it may seem, don’t forget to eat and drink. If you’re going to be eating at a mall food court, again, consider eating early (as in before 11:30 a.m.)  because by noon, you’ll be fighting the food crowds. Re-energizing yourself with some light fare and drink will help you stay focused on the task at hand. You’ll deal more effectively with crowds or handle other’s bad attitudes if you’ve got a little something in your stomach.

If there are more than one food court to choose from, try to strategically eat at the one that’s closest to where you’ll be. And while you’re eating, re-energize your phone as well. Many malls now have charging stations for your phones so you can juice ’em up while you’re eating. Forgot your charging cable? Ask the mall’s guest services if they have extras available (as some do).

Bonus Savings

You’ve taken the time to travel to the mall and shop in person, and taking an additional few minutes could save you even more money. Many mall visitor centers offer discounts in the form of coupons, coupon books and sale information that you may not have seen otherwise. If you join up with certain VIP programs on the spot (free to do), you may save anywhere from 10-25% on your day’s purchases. Depending on where you’re shopping, if you spend a certain amount of gift cards from certain brands, you’ll receive free gift cards for others. (For example, at a Simon-owned mall for the month of November, buying $150 worth of gift cards in the Gap family of brands, earned you a $30 Visa Simon gift card.) That’s well worth the walk to the visitor center, guest services or concierge!

Armed with these travel tips and suggestions and your list, heading to the mall for those last minute gifts doesn’t have to mean any loss of holiday spirit!

If last minute gift shopping forces you to head to the mall, here are tips to help make a chaotic travel situation manageable.

Enjoy holiday decor while shopping for last minute gifts! Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom