With barely more than three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah this year, the 2019 holiday season will be the shortest it has been since 2013. Shoppers have six fewer days and one less weekend to stock up on gifts than they did last year. To find the best gifts for every kid on your list, the experts at the Toy Insider — the trusted go-to resource for parents and gift-givers — are sharing a three-week holiday toy shopping guide with tips to keep in mind in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
“We’re all busy, and holiday shopping definitely gets away from the best of us, no matter how early we promise ourselves we’ll start,” says Chief Toy Officer Laurie Schacht. “Going into your holiday shopping prepared is always helpful for a more successful experience. At the Toy Insider, we’re here to help you take the stress out of buying gifts so you can relax and enjoy the holidays.”
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Finding the perfect, age-appropriate toys for every kid on your list is just as crucial as knowing the holiday sales and deals. Shoppers can refer to the Toy Insider‘s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide, which features nearly 350 toys from more than 120 toy companies and reveals this year’s most coveted toys as seen in their annual Hot Lists: the Hot 20 (the most wished-for items of the year), the STEM 10 (science, technology, engineering, and math toys that make learning fun), and the brand-new 12 Under $12 (affordable toys packed with play value and unboxing experiences).
THREE WEEKS OUT
Know what toys should cost: There’s plenty of time to do some research. As the holiday season approaches, lots of online resellers hike up the price of hard-to-find toys. Know the MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price), and never overpay for a toy. Take special care to beware of third-party sellers that may drive up the price.
Grab that must-have toy when you see it: Don’t walk by it on the shelf and plan to come back later. With just a few weeks between Black Friday and the holidays, everyone is packing their shopping into a smaller timeframe, and you don’t want to miss out because you hesitated. If you see a toy that kids on your list really want — buy it when you see it! There’s no guarantee it’ll be on sale later, and if it’s really hot, it could sell out quickly.
Make a list: Before you head out to the store, make a list of the kids for whom you’re shopping. Know what you want to buy — or at least their ages and interests — so you can figure it out in the aisle or online. Do some Googling (or use the Toy Insider‘s Holiday Gift Guide, broken down into easy-to-search age categories) to find something for each kid, so you only have to make one shopping trip.
TWO WEEKS OUT
Shopping for a kid you don’t know that well? Stick to the classics: Classic brands that you know and love, such as LEGO and Play-Doh, are classic for a reason! Board games that are fun for the whole family, activity kits for kids to create their own masterpieces, or super-hot collectibles that kids love are all great buys for kids you might not know too well. Don’t forget: Double-check the age grade on the packaging to make sure it’s a fit for the kid for whom you’re shopping.
Look for licenses: Kids love anything with their favorite characters on it, so if you know they love a TV show or a movie, they’ll probably love anything from the toy line as well! YouTube stars, such as Ryan’s World and Tic Tac Toy, are also hitting the toy aisle this year, so keep an eye out for your kids’ favorite unboxers as well!
Pay attention to details: When you’re shopping, you have some time to do a price comparison, so make sure you watch out for additional taxes or shipping fees that may drive up the cost of a toy you think that you’re buying for a bargain. Be cautious of knockoff versions of popular toys — make sure you’re buying the real thing! Also, note shipping deadlines and dates — you want to know your toy will get to you in time!
ONE WEEK OUT
Look for free, two-day shipping: Amazon, Target, and Walmart offer free, two-day shipping during the holiday season without special memberships. This is great for last-minute shoppers who are short on time — which, at this point, is you. If you purchase all of your goodies in one order, you’ll meet a free shipping requirement on most sites, so try to avoid sporadic ordering. Keep track of all of your order tracking to make sure you know when your packages will arrive!
Check to see if a retailer offers in-store pickup: Order online, pickup in store. This is especially great if two-day shipping is not an option. Browse the digital aisles now and pick it up later when you have time to stop and grab it. No need to search the aisles; someone at the store will grab all your purchases for you and hold on to them until you can pick them up. Some stores will hold product a few days or even weeks.
Be sure to have backups: One week out, you may struggle to find some of the hottest toys that sold out, so you may not be able to buy exactly what is on your kids’ wish list. Make sure you go in with back-up items, in case your first one or two picks don’t work out. It’ll save you the stress when you’re staring at an empty shelf in the aisle because you have alternatives. There are plenty of toys out there, so go in prepared.