Tech

Quick tech tricks to make the busy holiday season easier

For some people, the holidays are all about relaxing at home. If you have extra time on your hands, do yourself a favor and organize your messy photo collection. Tap or click to see how I get the job done.

Are you visiting family? Look for your favorite old photos hanging on their walls or tucked away in albums. Tap or click for an app to scan them without any glare.

And if you laughed at the words “extra time,” I’m here for you, too. Here are a handful of simple ways to get through the holidays with a smile on your face.

Stop arguing about when to leave

The classic holiday battle: What time should you leave the house to get to your destination on time and avoid traffic?

Stop guessing and let traffic-predicting algorithms make your drive easier. Google Maps and Apple Maps offer options to help you plan your trip. 

Google Maps. 
(Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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You can get a pretty accurate traffic forecast for a future date based on what the conditions are like on that day and time. Then you can fine-tune your departure time to find the ideal time to hit the road.

Here’s how to set a planned time and date for a trip in Google Maps:

  • Open Google Maps and tap on the Search here field.
  • Enter a destination and select it from the results.
  • Tap Directions and then tap the three-dots button to the right of the Your location field.
  • Tap Set depart or arrive time.
  • Select Depart at and enter a date and time, then tap Done. You’ll get various route options and details such as time and distance.
  • Select a route and tap Start.

Tap or click here to find out the best time to leave based on when you want to arrive — and steps to do both in Apple Maps.

Keep an eye on your luggage

Losing your bag on a flight is a drag, and it’s even worse when you have gifts tucked in your bag. Knowing where your suitcase is is easy as long as you have a tracker inside.

Apple AirTags are quarter-sized trackers that use Bluetooth from other iPhones to determine where they are. You can see the location of every AirTag associated with your account using the Find My app. 

The quarter-sized Apple device allows users to keep track of their personal items via Bluetooth technology.

The quarter-sized Apple device allows users to keep track of their personal items via Bluetooth technology.
(Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tile trackers work similarly and are a good option for Android users.

It’s a good idea to throw one in your checked baggage. This way, you can see whether your bag makes it to your destination. But there is a time when the tracker is worthless: When your luggage travels through the airport’s inner conveyor belt system. Once your luggage is out of there, you’ll know exactly where it’s located.

I have AirTags on my keys, in my cars and on my dog. Tap or click for smart ways to get more out of these useful little trackers.

Make virtual gatherings enjoyable

It’s not always possible to see the whole family each year. Virtual gatherings are much easier to organize since we got used to them during the pandemic.

Don’t spend a Zoom or Google Meet call wishing everyone would stop arguing about politics. Here are three simple ways to liven up your online get-together:

  • Give everyone time to talk: Choose a prompt and tell your family members to be ready to speak for a few minutes. I suggest a time cap, so your more loquacious relatives don’t go on and on. My favorite is asking for funny family stories.
  • Play a game together: Bingo is always a hit, and you can pass out cards for free from this site. If you prefer a Pictionary-like game, try Drawasaurus. Up to 16 people can play.
  • Host a talent show: If your family is full of performers, rope everyone into a short performance. I can guarantee a lot of laughs and maybe even a knockout performance or two.

Jingle bell rock together: How to create and share holiday playlists with loved ones.

HOW TO SCAN A QR CODE WITH YOUR IPHONE OR ANDROID PHONE (NO APPS NEEDED)

Don’t overpay on Amazon

Ever wonder if the price you see on Amazon is the best price or — the moment you check out — that price will drop? That’s where CamelCamelCamel comes in.

It’s a price-comparison site that tracks the cost of millions of products on Amazon. You can use it to check if the item you’re considering is at a good price or if you should wait for a better deal. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to camelcamelcamel.com. Enter a product’s Amazon URL in the search bar, then hit enter or the search icon.
  • Look at the graph for trends. You might notice a product typically goes on sale during certain months or around the holidays.

To make deal hunting even easier, install the CamelCamelCamel browser extension, The Camelizer. Tap or click here for direct links to download and the steps to use it.

For everything else, compare prices here

Google Shopping.

Google Shopping.
(Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

No one has time to go from site to site or to a bunch of different physical stores to find the best price on something. Let Google Shopping do the hard work for you. It’s easy to use and shows you prices across just about any retailer you can think of. 

  • Go to shopping.google.com.
  • Browse popular items, or search for what you’re looking for. Hit enter to see where you can buy it, the price and shipping options.
  • Use the filters on the left side of the page to narrow down your results. You can filter by sales, items available for pickup nearby, and more.

Here’s a nice bonus: You can even buy things right there without having to make a new account if you have payment info tied to your Google account. Select the Buy on Google filter to see your options.

Google smarts: 10 search tricks to find what you’re looking for faster on Google.

MY PODCAST PICK: AirPods as hearing aids, PayPal warning, Twitter alternatives

In 30 minutes, you’ll learn 1: How to find the hidden privacy report in your phone, 2: The secret to kicking moochers out of your Netflix account, and 3: My tried-and-true method for cleaning up your messy photo gallery.

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