11 Innovative Tips for Spending Less Time in Lines

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Waiting for the holidays to arrive can be a test, but waiting in line during the holiday season can be even more frustrating. From stores to the post office to the airport, you can minimize your waiting this year with an assist from some smart technology.

1. Go for the Obvious Solution First

The most direct course of action in avoiding long lines (and stores altogether) is to do all of your holiday shopping online. You’ll need to get a bit of a head start to account for shipping times, but by signing up for a service like ShopRunner, which offers free two-day shipping and returns from a wide range of stores, you can buy yourself a little extra time to procrastinate.

2. Order Online, Pick Up In-Store

No matter how good a deal you snag on your product by finding it online, you’re likely to incur those pesky shipping expenses. If you’ve got enough time for a quick trip out of the house, the order-online/pick-up-in-store option might be your best bet. Most major retailers offer this service via their official websites, and will alert you when your desired product is ready for you to swoop in and retrieve it—without the hassle of scouring the aisles or waiting in line.

3. Outsource Your Line-Standing

Even if a store has long lines, you don’t have to be the one standing in them. The Web has spawned an offbeat new job: surrogate line-sitter. While your friends are bound to have their own gift shopping to do, a small community has pioneered the act of waiting in line for hire. The blossoming industry is best represented by the likes of Same Old Line Dudes or TaskRabbit.

4. Pay as You Shop

If you’re still inclined to take to the stores yourself, one of the best advancements comes with apps like QThru, which allows you to scan and collect items as you browse, paying instantaneously upon leaving the floor.

5. Skip the Lines for Mid-Shopping Snacks

If you spend your day hopping from outlet to outlet, you’re going to need to fuel up at some point. Luckily, these pit stops don’t have to slow you down. Square Order allows you to speed up visits to your favorite café or eatery by placing a digital order. This way, your dish will be ready for you to run in and grab. A number of chains have personalized versions of the app, including Starbucks and Chipotle.

6. Jump the Velvet Rope

There are similar apps that can help if you’re hoping to entertain some out-of-towners spending the holidays with you … or if you just need to unwind after a stressful day of shopping. Preo will let you digitally order a drink in a crowded nightspot so that by the time you make your way up to the bar, you’ll have a refreshment waiting.

7. Don’t Park Yourself in Line

Long lines don’t just loom once you’re inside a store. One of the worst places to get stuck in a long wait is in your car, and the quest for a parking spot can be as dreadful a purgatory as any. Parking apps like Best Parking and Parker will limit your time spent waiting for that perfect spot.

8. Time Your Trip Perfectly

In the absence of pre-order pickup or check-out-as-you-shop apps, you can always strategize to avoid lines the old-fashioned way: By dodging people in general. It might mean getting up with the roosters (or going to bed with the owls), but early morning and late night shopping can offer you the chance to sail through lines.

9. Turn Your Living Room into a Post Office

Even if you’ve acquired your gifts in a speedy fashion, you’re still faced with a challenge when it’s time to send them to their recipients. Rather than spending interminable hours in line waiting to ship your gifts, take advantage of major carriers’ websites and apps that will enable you to print your shipping labels at home and request a package pickup.

10. Breeze Through Airport Security

Of all the daunting lines that emerge during the holiday season, the queue to clear airport security can be the most unpredictable. Luckily, the TSA’s app can remove some of the guesswork by telling you how snarled the security situation is at the airport before you leave home. You can use this info to make sure you never head out for your trip too early or too late, leaving you more time to spend with friends and family.

11. Clear Customs With Your Phone

If you travel abroad with friends or family during the holidays, you know that the line for Customs and Border Protection can dwarf the TSA screening queue. Luckily, the new Mobile Passport App lets travelers expedite the process by answering Customs’ questions with their smartphones and jumping into an express line for screening.

Soon you’ll be able to add an objective new dimension to your stories about standing in line. Intel® RealSense™ snapshot will let you take measurements from a photo, so you’ll never exaggerate the length of another line. Learn more here: intel.com.