Black Friday 2016 – Tips and Tricks

Although Black Friday does not hold the same punch it had just a few years ago, it is still the official kick-off to the Christmas shopping season. Retailers are holding pre-Black Friday sales starting a week or even more before Thanksgiving. For example Costco started their sales on Nov 18 this year. Also, there are many retailers that are opening their doors Thanksgiving evening, a good 12 hours before they used to open. All of this has (thankfully) reduced the craziness and stress of heading out for Black Friday shopping, although it is now interfering with the Thanksgiving holiday.

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But there is some good news – many retailers have publicly come out and announced that they will be closed for Thanksgiving, and some are closed even for Black Friday. This benefits primarily their employees who are not forced to work when they should be spending quality time with their family.

So what kind of Black Friday shopper are you? Maybe you are intense, maybe you are just casual. Or maybe you couldn’t be bothered. Also, are you primarily and Online shopper, constantly scanning various websites for sales and deals? Or do you like getting out there in person, hitting the malls and navigating the crowds? Whatever kind of shopper you are you may benefit from our suggestions here.

Black Friday Planning

Every Black Friday shopper should start planning about a week ahead. This planning should include:

  • Putting together a comprehensive gift list
  • Putting together a Wish List for yourself
  • Note which items might be in very high demand, based on information found on various sites such as Hot Toy Guide. This may influence what price you are willing to pay right now, and whether you should risk waiting for a better price later on.
  • Finding out the schedules of the stores you plan to visit in person. You certainly don’t want to show up to a closed store.
  • Planning your shopping schedule, by coordinating with your family and friends. Don’t forget to leave extra time for snack or meals, and for the inevitable waiting in lines.
  • Taking note of the regular prices of some of the key items on your list, and setting some price targets for them as well.
  • Regular visiting of “hot deal” websites
  • Check out the newspaper ads on Thanksgiving day (and before). Play close attention to any restrictions and limits placed on the hottest in-store deals. Often a store has a very small number of the hottest items for sale at the best prices.

Toy Shopping on Black Friday

FurReal Friends Bootsie

Toys and electronics are historically two of most targeted and frenetic areas of Black Friday buying, and for the whole Christmas season as well. When the little ones insist that they want a particular toy, some parents will stop at nothing to fulfill their wishes. Sometimes that spills overs into the what we see on some news reports where people go crazy grabbing and shoving in order to get their hands on the hottest items in the store.

So we have a couple of suggestions to make your toy buying go a little more smoothly:

1. Be willing to buy early and to pay a little more

Is it really worth it to fight the crowds, and to risk coming away without that targeted toy just to save a few dollars? Why not just check out the prices now (before Thanksgiving) and buy at least a few items on your list, just to have the peace of mind that you are part-way through your shopping list.

2. Know what’s Hot

Cozmo Robot

Keep an eye on the hot toys, as found on our Most Wished For Toy List, our Top Ten Toy List, and many other pages on this site. For those Hot toys, watch out for special deals and grab them when you think the price is right. If you wait until December you may find the toys are impossible to get, or you’ll have to pay higher prices from 3rd party re-sellers, such as on Ebay or some shady character on Craigslist.

3. Impress by Being Up to Date

Parents often buy toys which are past their prime. There’s nothing worse that finding out that what you bought makes you look old and out of touch. If you want to impress Tweens and Teenagers you really should try to focus on the “in” products, especially related to electronics, and to entertainment (movies, TV shows, and music). So if you’re not sure what to buy that 13-year old, ask around and try to find out what kids that age might like.

Good Luck with your Christmas shopping!!!

Disclaimer: This post may contain Affiliate links. Prices may change at any time. Do your own research before purchasing.

Best Advent Calendars of 2015

It’s that time of year where parents start looking for unique and interesting Advent calendars to get their children to participate in the full Christmas season.soft-advent-calendar

Most Christians know what Advent is, but in case you need a refresher, or simply don’t know what Advent is, let’s first go over the basics.  In Christianity Advent is a period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas.  The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming”.  In the Roman Catholic Church Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  In other Rites Advent can be six weeks long.

The Advent calendar is one way to follow the progression of Advent, and it is commonly geared for children.  For each day of Advent there is typically a “window” or “door” or some other mechanism to expose the number of the counted days until Christmas, typically starting with the first day of December.  Consecutive doors are opened for each progressive day, and they open to reveal an image, a poem, a small portion of a story or a small gift, such as a toy or candy.  Basic ones are mass produced from cardboard, but more elaborate and decorated calendars can be made of any material.

So now that you have your Advent calendar basics, let’s highlight some popular ones we found on Amazon.com.

CAUTION: Almost all Advent calendars have small pieces and parts, so they are not for small children under 3 years old.  Read on for a calendar designed for small children.

LEGO Star Wars Creator Advent Calendar

LEGO Star Wars Calendar

LEGO Star Wars Calendar

This is not your grandmother’s Advent calendar.  The Star Wars Advent Calendar is a fantastic find that will enthrall your children for the entire Christmas season.  Each window reveals 24 different LEGO Star Wars themed gifts, including 5 mini-figures and 2 holiday themed Droids.  Other gifts include vehicles such as fighters and a sand crawler, and other Star Wars related items. The calendar itself is constructed of cardboard, with brightly printed interior with various Star Wars scenes. There is a fold-out playmat where children can play with their new mini-toys each day one is revealed.

It is highly rated by buyers on Amazon, with many people buying similar calendars year after year.  But due to small parts this is not for small children under 3 years old.

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LEGO City Advent Calendar

LEGO City Advent Calendar

LEGO City Advent Calendar

If you’re not into Star Wars (and not everybody is) this more generic-themed LEGO City Advent Calendar might be a good choice.  The doors of this calendar reveals small LEGO figures such as a pretzel, ice skates, pie, a camera, tablets, handcuffs, megaphone, bowl and bone, cake and Santa’s backpack.  Due to small parts this is not for small children under 3 years old.

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PLAYMOBIL Unicorn Fairyland Advent Calendar

PLAYMOBIL Unicorn Adventure Advent Calendar

PLAYMOBIL Unicorn Adventure Advent Calendar

This is a wonderful Unicorn Adventure Advent Calendar which allows children to express their imagination each day of the Christmas season.  Each window of this set reveals various small toys that together create a fairytale wonderland.  The gifts include three fairy figures, and other accessories to create a magnificent fairy world including a heart-shaped box, unicorn foal, peacock, deer, owl, foxes, and more.  As with other sets, this set is not for small children.

amazon-shopnowThere are also other PLAYMOBIL Advent Calendars on Amazon:


Little People Nativity Advent Calendar

Little People Advent Calendar

Little People Advent Calendar

The Fisher Price Little People Nativity Advent Calendar is designed specifically for smaller children (18 months and older).  It does not follow the traditional design with small gifts revealed by individual doors.  In this calendar the child can move individual soft figures into the appropriate slot for each day of the Advent season.  The figures use hook and loop connectors (i.e. Velcro) to stay attached.  We think this is a very unique way to get small children to participate in the Christmas season, and not to be overwhelmed with the expectations of toys and other gifts to arrive on Christmas morning.

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Disclaimer: This post may contain Affiliate links. Prices may change at any time. Do your own research before purchasing.

2015 Megahit – Avengers: Age of Ultron

ultron-posterAvengers: Age of Ultron is the 2015 superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers.  The Marvels Studio movie is the sequel to 2012’s The Avengers and the eleventh installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  We’ll not only briefly cover the movie, but we’ll highlight some of the hottest Avengers Ultron toys for the coming Christmas season.

[ Spoiler Alert ]  Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, but things go horribly wrong and it’s up to earth’s superheroes to stop the latest of a long line of Marvel villains from enacting his horrible plans.  Ultron is a fierce bad-guy, and this conflict results in one of the most successful and exciting movies int he Marvel superheroes series.

The toys spun off from the Ultron movie include some of the characters appearing in Avengers and other Marvel movies, but of course the newest addition is the Ultron character.  This well armored villain has powers that include superhuman levels of strength, speed, stamina, durability, and reflexes; flight at subsonic speeds; and various offensive weapons such as concussive blasts of energy fired from its optical sensors or hands and an “encephalo-ray,” which places victims into a deathlike coma.

There are many Avengers: Age of Ultron toys and playsets, some with great user ratings on sites like Amazon, and some with mediocre ratings.  At Hottoyguide.com we don’t restrict ourselves to writing about only 5-star toys, but we try to exclude toys that clearly are not satisfying buyers.  As always, you should always do your own research before buying.

Age of Ultron & Iron Man Attack Playset

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Age of Ultron Iron Man Playset

This Age of Ultron / Iron Man playset is packed with adventure and fun for the kids looking for adventure.  This set doesn’t just sit there – there are lots of things to do.  First of all there is a really cool rotating Missile Launcher that you use to try to attack and destroy Ultron.

Then, if you are persistent in your attack you can capture Ultron in the grabber arms and send him through the trap door.  Here’s where things get interesting.  If you attach the Captain America Tower Defense playset (sold separately) you can then put Ultron in the path of a speeding Captain America on his motorcycle.

amazon-shopnow-150x150You can actually combine this set with two other Avengers set to build the Avengers Headquarters (HQ).  The more sets you combine, the more attack features are activated. The other two sets are:

Avengers HQ

Avengers HQ

Age of Ultron Voice Changing Helmet

Ultron Voice Changing Helmet

Ultron Voice Changing Helmet

If you’re looking for something a little simpler, then this voice changing helmet is sure to keep your kid entertained.

amazon-shopnow-150x150Captain America and Black Widow Figures

Captain America and Black Widow

Captain America and Black Widow

Captain America and Black Widow are two of the main superheroes of the Ultron movie.  These figures are articulated (meaning you can move their arms and legs) and they are almost 4 inches tall.  Combine them with other action hero figures and you can relive battle scenes from the movie.

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Disclaimer: This post may contain Affiliate links. Prices may change at any time. Do your own research before purchasing.