(NC)—The holiday season is a busy time for families. These shortcuts will help families save precious time and lower anxiety.

Avoid crowds—Start holiday shopping early to avoid the Christmas rush. This means either shopping earlier in the season or getting to stores when they open and are the least crowded. Before visiting a holiday attraction, call ahead to find out when they experience their ‘slow’ periods.

Online shopping—No lineups and convenient hours make the internet a favourite for busy parents. Most major stores have online sites and so do many smaller stores and brands. A popular option are charitable gifts that allow you to offer tangible help to somebody in need, in honour of somebody on your Christmas list. The World Vision Gift Catalogue has many great options (see WorldVision.ca/gifts) including olive trees and soccer balls.

Shop organized—Time spent at home preparing to shop means much less time in store. Make and keep a list for Christmas shopping. Do research to take advantage of sales. Use coupons and get discounts. Preparation will help reduce December shopping stress.

Have a family calendar—Start tracking your holiday schedule with a calendar in a central place. If it looks like the timing will be too tight, don’t feel bad about politely declining an invitation.