A Hampton Roads Gem

Here Come the Holidays!

Here Come the Holidays!

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kawanzaa, and New Years!
Ready or not, here they come.

For some, the Holiday season is a joyous time of the year, abundant with happy feelings of togetherness, good cheer, and festivities. For others, it is the downright most depressing time of the year, and for good reason: Loved ones gone, personal crisis, family conflict and the like. For many of us, the Holiday Season is a combination of both.

One thing is for certain, this time of the year is more hectic for most of us, whether we celebrate the holidays or not: Traffic is heavier, check out lines are longer, and all of the media outlets (tv, radio, newspaper, internet) are bombarding us with Holiday matter.

For those of us who are in the middle…find the holidays joyous, with a mix of depression and a dash of unpleasantness, here is a practical guide for getting the most out of the season

Small Doses

Attending the big holiday parade may not be your cup of tea, yet you want to be more festive than just watching a parade on tv. Going to a smaller venue can give you more enjoyment.
If you live in Kempsbrier, small, yet robust,holiday events are mere minutes away.

A Horse Drawn Wagon Ride or Hayride in the nearby country is the perfect small venue to enjoy this Holiday Season, starting November 28th and ending December 7th. This event is so small and intimate, it is done by appointment.

Breakfast with Santa, at the Virginia Beach Farmer’s Markert, December 13th is always a fun and enriching experience if you have little ones. A visit to the Farmers Market vendors, after breakfast, is the perfect way to get into the spirit of things, while keeping it light.

Christmas in the Country, December 10th - 19th, has a live Nativity, hayrides, pony rides, marshmallow roasting, crafts, for, music and more. How’s that for an cozy way to celebrate the Season?

Jingle Jog 5K is December 20th, 9am. If you like to do these kinds of runs as a way to stay in shape, and have some fun, but want to avoid crowded races, this may be just the event for you. Visit their Facebook page.

Attend or have a Holiday Party. Many work places host these and they often range from small and informal to large and formal. If you like, you can also have a small Holiday party. To avoid getting overwhelmed with planning a Holiday gathering at your home, consider getting with a couple of neighbors, and planning a multi-house open house of sorts. Agree on a time and date, and plan to have some small hors d’oeuvres, about 2-3, at each house, along with some beverages. These food and drink items can come right out of a package, box, or bottle. As long as they are cheerfully displayed on festive trays and in festive cups…that is quite enough to set people’s Holiday spirit a light! Neighbors can visit between each of the three houses.

Parade, Illuminations, and More!

If larger crowds are not an issue, here are some festivities you will surely enjoy:

Light Up the Town in Virginia Beach, November 22th, is a grand affair, complete with a parade, laser light show, carolers, and visits with Santa!

Norfolk’s Grand Illumination Parade, November 22th, is probably the grandest event in the Hampton Roads area. If you want to do the holidays big and kick it off with a bang, this event delivers a powerful punch!

Founders Illumination in Kempsville on November 30th. This event tends to draw lots of participants while still being rather intimate and not as busy as other events of this nature.

FestEvents Yule Log BonFire on December 4th. Get toasty and cozy!

Chesapeake’s Rotary Christmast Parade on December 7th. This festive event is just as joyous as the other parades, and as a big plus…it comes 2 weeks after the other Hampton Roads area parades and illuminations. So if you missed some of the other grand affairs, catching this event is sure to fulfill your spirit with Holiday cheer!

Avoiding Crowds

If it crowds you want to avoid, join the crowd, no pun intended. This may be a no brainer…the best time to shop is on a weekday, if you can. For groceries, right after a store opens, or just before closing, on a Monday or Tuesday. You may considering calling a local grocery store and asking a manager when the store is less crowded, yet well stocked. If shopping at a mall or a department store, the same thing basically applies…any week day, just after opening or during the later evening hours.

Another no brainer…shop online for gifts! There is no bigger time saver if you really want to avoid the crowds or spend your time more efficiently so you can celebrate the holidays in other ways, like attending the events mentioned above.

Even though shopping online is a big time saver, you will want to have a game plan in mind when using this method…just like many Holiday shoppers.

First, decide where you would like to do your online shopping, based on what you plan to purchase. You may decide to do all, or most of it at a one stop shop site. Or you may want to use several online sites, for a variety of reasons: Free Shipping, efficient shipping, good return policies, good customer service, savings, variety, etc. And to keep things simple, stick with standard shipping days. Face it, one of the reasons to plan for on line shipping is to avoid the need to do anything other than standard delivery.

As with with any kind of shopping you do, it is always good to first come up with a list of items you wish to purchase, before navigating the www. You may want to even list how much the items are for each online site, to help you save more.
Consider doing the following, if you don’t find it too troublesome:

  • Come up with a list of your 2-5 top online shopping sites, from doing your research in the paragraph prior to this one.
  • Open an Excel spreadsheet.
  • In cell A-1, type the word Item(s).
  • In cell B-1, type ‘For:’ This will indicate who the item, listed in the A column, is for.
  • In cell C-1, type the name of one of your type shopping sites.
  • In cell D-1, type the name of another one of your top shopping sites. Repeat this, in columns E-1, F-1, etc. for however many top shopping sites you have.
  • Now, do your research! All you need to do is type in a good search engine, the name of the item, and name of the site. For example, I simply Googled “Nude Queen Size Panty Hose Amazon”. On the first page of results, I saw the appropriate link, and within a couple of clicks, saw the price. Then I repeated this for the next site on my list.
  • Record the prices, for the item, for each of the respective sites, in the designated cell..
  • When you are done listing the price of all of the items, for each site, you can sum up the total of each site. This will show you which site is most economical for your list. You may need to add in any shipping fees that may apply to see which site is truly most economical when it is all said and done.
Attached is a sample spreadsheet, with just one item, but it will do for an example, and a template for you to use if you like.

When actually ordering your items, it is wise to avoid gift wrapping options from the online sites. The prices are extremely inflated for such a simple task. You are better off getting a few rolls of wrapping paper and packs of bows from a local merchant, and locking yourself in a room for about an hour or so. What could be merrier than wrapping gifts while sipping wine, cider, coffee, or any beverage of your choice, while playing carols, or whatever fits your mood!

As far as where to have items shipped, here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Will anyone be home to retrieve the gifts, so they don’t risk being stolen from your porch?
  • Will the intended recipients of the items be home when you are not, and can they be trusted to not pry open such deliveries?
  • Will the simple fact that boxes were delivered spoil the magic aspect of the season?
  • Is your porch not covered, and is there a chance that inclement weather could damage the deliveries before anyone can get home to retrieve them?

If any of the above are pressing concerns, consider having deliveries go to a location other than your home:
  • Your job
  • Your spouse’s job
  • A relative’s house
  • A friend’s/neighbor’s house
Note: most delivery services will not deliver to a PO Box.

Just make sure someone will be able to retrieve the deliveries at these locations too. In the case of deliveries to a job, try to place your orders so they will not be delivered during a day, or time time of day, when no one is at the job site. In the event that this does happen, the delivery service will usually make an attempt to re-deliver during office hours and/or leave a notice on the door, informing how you can retrieve the item. Note: This practice is sometimes (but not always) done with residential deliveries, vs. the delivery service leaving an item on a porch when no one is home.

And of course, always keep your tracking information handy, so if there is a problem, the shipping agency and/or online site will have ample time to resolve it.

When deliveries do arrive, discretely check them as soon as possible. If you did your research to determine your top sites, hopefully, accuracy in filling orders correctly was taken into consideration. With that being said, even the most efficient, and accurate sites for filling orders, can have the occasional slip up. It is not a good feeling to have a box sitting around for days, or weeks, just to discover 2 days before Christmas, that an item….
Did not get shipped
Is damaged
Came in the wrong size, color, etc.

Shopping online is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people just don’t shop during the Holidays, and others revel in the hustle and bustle of getting out in the crowds, looking for deals, etc., while others just don’t trust the whole idea of purchasing something before physically seeing and handling the item. But if you do plan on some gift shopping, then a quick mental assessment would be in order to see what is best for you:
Time, gas, money, anxiety of traditional shopping vs. Time, money, anxiety of shopping online.
Weigh the odds….
Would you get more enjoyment from the experience of traditional shopping, and would it be worth it? Or would you be able to better utilize your holiday time by shopping online, and have your away from home excursions devoted to holiday events vs. traditional shopping?