13 Helpful Apps to Take the Stress Out of the Holiday Season

If the holiday season is leaving you feeling stressed out or pressed for time, chances are there's an app out there designed to make things easier. Check out these apps for Android and iPhone that can help you with everything from finding the perfect recipe to finding someone who could wrap presents for you in a pinch.

1. Yummly // Free

If you’re hosting a dinner this season and aren’t sure what to make, turn to Yummly, home to over 2 million recipes. When you sign up, you pick what level of cook you are; then, the unique search feature lets you narrow recipes down by preferences, like dietary restrictions, cooking time, nutrition information, and more—this can help you find a dish that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. The app also allows you to add all the ingredients to a shopping list and order groceries from local stores.

Available on iOS and Android.

2. Food Network Kitchen // Free

The user-friendly Food Network Kitchen app is home to an extensive database of recipes, so you’re sure to find plenty of options for meals. You can save your favorite recipes so they're easy to find, create a shopping list, and even order the ingredients from your grocery store. If you want to go premium ($7 a month or, for a limited time, $48 for an annual subscription), you can take advantage of the app’s live classes with chef Q&As. Even better, a portion of your annual subscription will go to charity.

Available on iOS and Android.

3. How to Cook Everything // $10

You now have access to the best-selling How to Cook Everything cookbook. Alongside 2000 recipes and their variations, it also comes with 400 how-to illustrations, which take you step-by-step through the cooking process. The app also has handy built-in timers placed throughout the recipe, making meal prep that much easier. If you download the app onto your iPad, you'll have access to even more, like the ability to add notes to recipes and a constant-on button to ensure that the screen doesn't dim while you're cooking.

Available on iOS.

4. Happy Cow // $4

If you’re traveling and vegan or you’re hosting vegan friends and family, finding a place to go out to eat can be a bit of a challenge. But the Happy Cow app—which includes reviews, photos, and the ability to save restaurants for offline viewing—can help users find plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian restaurants in more than 180 countries.

Available on iOS or Android.

5. Giftster // Free

Trying to figure out the perfect present for everyone on your list can be stressful and time consuming. Luckily, Giftster takes out the guesswork. This app is essentially a gift registry that connects you to family and friends. Each person in your group creates their list and adds items to it. It marks the items once they’ve been bought (though the recipient won't see what's been purchased) and members can reserve the items they want to purchase on someone’s list so more than two people don’t show up with the same present. There's also a Secret Santa option. And beyond the holidays, it can work for everything from birthdays to baby showers.

Available on iOS or Android.

6. Santa’s Bag // Free

Not only does this app have a built-in Christmas countdown, it helps keep your shopping list and budget organized. First, you make a list of the people you want to buy for, and then add gift ideas, links, favorite stores, and notes for each recipient. The app also allows you to sort through your list by recipient, shopping list, extra gifts, ordered gifts, stocking stuffers, location, and more, so you can stay organized throughout the whole process.

Available on iOS.

7. Chanukah Guide // Free

Whether it's your first time celebrating Chanukah or you're just looking to brush up on the basics, this guide can help. The free app will walk you through all the aspects of celebrating the festival of lights, with prayers available in six languages, instructions on how to light the Menorah, and more.

Available on iOS and Android.

8. Task Rabbit // Free

While the holidays bring a lot of joy, they also bring packed schedules and long to-do lists. So, if you’re looking through your planner and wondering how you can possibly get everything done, TaskRabbit can help. Whether it’s wrapping presents, assembling a child’s new toy, installing light fixtures, or even shoveling out from a surprise snowstorm, you can find someone on TaskRabbit to help you complete just about anything for an hourly fee.

Available on iOS or Android.

9. Calm // $70 a year after free trial

Let’s face it, the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of the most hectic times of the year—so it’s important to take the time to breathe. Calm offers hundreds of hours of guided meditations that cover topics like managing stress and calming anxiety. The app also features relaxing music, soundscapes, and Sleep Stories designed to send the listener to dreamland (there's even one featuring Bob Ross!). Calm also gives users access to master classes that are led by experts and cover a wide range of topics from breaking bad habits to the power of rest.

Available on iOS or Android.

10. Tripit // Free

Tripit helps take the stress out of holiday travel. After you make your plans—like booking flights and rental cars—you simply forward the reservation to an email, and the app puts together a schedule for you. You can also instantly send your travel plans to anyone you choose, so it takes all the guesswork out of when you’ll be arriving. Tripit is free, but if you want to pay the $49 a year, it comes with features such as showing airport security wait times and periodic travel updates.

Available on iOS or Android.

11. Roadtrippers // Free

If you are going to be road trippin’ to your holiday destination, you may as well make it fun. This app will help you find restaurants, scenic points, and roadside attractions along the way. With the free app, you can plan up to seven stops, but if you want to be able to add more destinations, you’ll need to upgrade to Roadtrippers Plus for $30 a year or $7 a month.

Available on iOS and Android.

12. Flush - Toilet Finder & Map // Free

If you’re on the road for a long time, it’s inevitable that you’re going to need to stop for a bathroom break. But what to do when there's no rest stop in sight? Before you hit the road, download Flush, which has data on over 190,000 bathrooms around the world. When you open the app, it displays the nearest toilets—and even lets you search without an internet connection. (Flush is only available for iOS, but don't fear, non-iPhone users: Toilet Finder is free, available on Android, and has data on over 150,000 restrooms.)

Available on iOS.

13. Fake Call Plus // Free

Seeing family over the holidays is great ... until you get stuck in an awkward conversation that never seems to end. If you're an iPhone user, Fake Call will come to your rescue. The app allows you to schedule a time for a "phone call" that will help you escape some of those not-so-pleasant discussions.

Available on iOS.

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

11 Things You Might Not Know About Reindeer

Britain's only herd of free-ranging reindeer live in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park.
Britain's only herd of free-ranging reindeer live in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park.
Joe Green, Unsplash

Beyond their sled-pulling capabilities and discrimination against those with red noses, what do you really know about reindeer?

1. Reindeer and caribou are the same thing.

Historically, the Eurasian reindeer and American caribou were considered to be different species, but they are actually one and the same: Rangifer tarandus. There are two major groups of reindeer, the tundra and the woodland, which are divided according to the type of habitat the animal lives in, not their global location. The animals are further divided into nine to 13 subspecies, depending on who is doing the classification. One subspecies, the Arctic reindeer of eastern Greenland, is extinct.

2. Reindeer have several names.

Reindeer comes from the Old Norse word hreinin, which means "horned animal.” Caribou comes from Canadian French and is based on the Mi'kmaq word caliboo, meaning “pawer” or "scratcher," in reference to the animal’s habit of digging through the snow for food.

3. Santa’s reindeer are most likely R. tarandus platyrhynchus, a subspecies from Svalbard.

pum_eva/iStock via Getty Images

Clement C. Moore’s poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” introduced the world to Santa’s reindeer and describes them as "tiny." The only reindeer that could really be considered tiny are the Svalbard subspecies, which weighs about half as much as most reindeer subspecies and are at least a foot shorter in length. That may prove useful when landing on roofs.

Strangely, you’ll almost never see these guys in depictions of Santa. Live-action films usually use full-sized reindeer and animations usually draw the creatures as a cross between a white-tailed deer and a reindeer.

4. It’s not always easy to tell the sex of a reindeer.

In most deer species, only the male grows antlers, but that’s not true for most reindeer. Although the females in certain populations do not have antlers, many do. During certain times of year, you can still tell the sex of a reindeer by checking for antlers. That’s because males lose their antlers in winter or spring, but females shed theirs in the summer.

5. Santa’s reindeer may or may not be female.

Since reindeer shed their antlers at different points of the year based on their sex and age, we know that Santa’s reindeer probably aren't older males, because older male reindeer lose their antlers in December and Christmas reindeer are always depicted with their antlers. Female Svalbard deer begin growing their antlers in summer and keep them all year. That means Santa’s sled either has to be pulled by young reindeer, constantly replaced as they start to age, or Santa’s reindeer are female.

6. Reindeer were originally connected to Santa through poetry.

Before Moore wrote “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (a.k.a. “The Night Before Christmas”) in 1823, no one thought about reindeer in conjunction with Santa Claus. Moore introduced the world to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem (the last two of which were later changed from Dutch to German, becoming Donner and Blitzen). While the first six names all make sense in English, the last two in German mean “thunder” and “flash,” respectively.

As for little Rudolph, he wasn’t introduced until catalog writer Robert L. May wrote a children’s book in verse for his employer, Montgomery Ward, in 1939 titled “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

7. Reindeer are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light.

Humans can see light in a range of wavelengths, from about 700 nanometers (in the red spectrum) to 400 nanometers (in the violet spectrum). Reindeer can see light to 320 nanometers, in the ultraviolet (UV) range. This ability lets reindeer see things in the icy white of the Arctic that they would otherwise miss—kind of like viewing the glow of a white object under a blacklight. Things like white fur and urine are difficult, even impossible, for humans to see in the snow, but for reindeer, they show up in high contrast.

8. Reindeer evolved for life in cold, harsh environments.

Geoffrey Reynaud/iStock via Getty Images

Life in the tundra is hard, but reindeer have it easy-ish thanks to their amazing evolutionary enhancements. Their noses are specially adapted to warm the air they breathe before it enters their lungs and to condense water in the air, which keeps their mucous membranes moist. Their fur traps air, which not only helps provide them with excellent insulation, but also keeps them buoyant in water, which is important for traveling across massive rivers and lakes during migration.

Even their hooves are special. In the summer, when the ground is wet, their foot pads are softened, providing them with extra grip. In the winter, though, the pads tighten, revealing the rim of their hooves, which is used to provide traction in the slippery snow and ice.

9. some reindeer migrate longer distances than any other land mammal.

A few populations of North American reindeer travel up to 3100 miles per year, covering around 23 miles per day. At their top speed, these reindeer can run 50 mph and swim at 6.2 mph. During spring, herd size can range from 50,000 to 500,000 individuals, but during the winter the groups are much smaller, when reindeer enter mating season and competition between the bucks begins to split up the crowds. Like many herd animals, the calves learn to walk fast—within only 90 minutes of being born, a baby reindeer can already run.

10. Reindeer play an important role in Indigenous cultures.

In Scandinavia and Canada, reindeer hunting helped keep Indigenous peoples alive, from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods all the way through modern times. In Norway, it is still common to find reindeer trapping pits, guiding fences, and bow rests dating from the Stone Age. And in Scandinavia, reindeer is still a popular meat, sold in grocery stores in fresh, canned, and dried forms. Almost all of the animal’s organs are edible and many are crucial ingredients of traditional dishes in the area. In North America, Inuit rely on caribou for traditional food, clothing, shelter, and tools.

11. Reindeer used to live farther south.

Reindeer now live exclusively in the northern points of the globe, but when Earth was cooler and humans were less of a threat, their territory was larger. In fact, reindeer used to range as far south as Nevada, Tennessee, and Spain during the Pleistocene area. Its habitat has shrunk considerably in the last few centuries. The last caribou in the contiguous United States was removed to a Canadian conservation breeding program in 2019.

As for how Santa's nine reindeer manage to fly while pulling a sled carrying presents for every child in the whole world, science still hasn’t worked that out.