Busch Gardens Tampa Bay to hold Black Friday camp

If you’ll be in Florida for Thankgiving, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is offering to watch your kids while you shop on Black Friday.

The theme park is holding a Black Friday Kid’s Camp for children ages 5 to 11. The camp is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 26, which should allow you at least 10-11 hours of shopping once you factor in travel time to and from the park.

The cost for a full day is $55, or, if you’re not as serious a shopper, you can choose a morning or afternoon half-day camp for $30.

Programs during the Black Friday Kid’s Camp will include interactions with some of the animals that live at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Meals and snacks for the kids will be provided, and the park is even promising to greet you with a hot cup of coffee when you drop them off at dark-thirty.

Reservations for the Black Friday camp are required in advance. Make them by calling (813) 987-5087.

Top Black Friday travel gear deals

With just over a week until Black Friday, now is the perfect time to start planning your shopping adventure. We sat down with the founder of one of the largest Black Friday deal sites to talk about the deals this year, and how stores deal with the inevitable leak of their top secret ads.

Brad Olson runs Blackfriday @ Gottadeal.com, and he’s been dealing with the shopping event since the first ads started leaking out back in August. Since then, it has been a never ending task to keep readers updated with the latest bargains, and add them to his handy deal database.

After the jump, you’ll find our interview with him, and the top twenty travel themed bargains from the currently leaked or published Black Friday deal listings.

Gadling: Have you noticed any stores taking a more liberal approach to their ads being “leaked”? I know some (like Home Depot) are very strict, but do others actually encourage the ads to go out in public as soon as possible?

Gottadeal: Overall stores have been more liberal with their Black Friday ads in the last couple of years. The peak of the legal threat nastiness was more in 2006-2008, but since then I think stores have realized that having their ad leaked early isn’t the end of the world and can actually benefit them.

Gadling: Any big trends this year for shoppers? It seems like there is no real “hot” gadget this season in electronics or toys?

Gottadeal: As for trends this year, it’s probably electronics again. People want deals on HDTVs and Blu-ray players. iPods are always popular, especially with a deal like Walmart’s with a free $50 gift card.

Gadling: Will you be out shopping on Black Friday, and what will you be looking for?

Gottadeal: I will likely be home again. I’m usually up all night Thursday night updating the site with what BF ad items people can buy online at the sale prices, and I usually do that non-stop until around 7 in the morning, and then while everyone is out shopping I get some much-needed sleep, lol.

And here are twenty of the best Black Friday travel gear deals. Some of these deals link directly to the store product page – and you will not see the low Black Friday price until Black Friday!

  1. Best Buy – $159.99 JVC Everio GZ-MS230 Dual Flash Camcorder
  2. Best Buy – $149.99 Compaq 10″ Netbook 1GB / 160GB
  3. Office Depot – $279.99 15.6″ Lenovo Celeron laptop 2GB/250GB
  4. Best Buy- $129.99 Garmin Nuvi 1300LMT 4.3″ GPS with lifetime free traffic and maps
  5. Gander Mountain – $99.99 Garmin Nuvi 1300 4.3″ GPS
  6. Kmart – $79.99 7″ Dual screen car portable DVD player
  7. Kohl’s – $37.99 Prodigy Hudson 5-piece luggage set (early bird)
  8. Office Max – $74.99 TomTom Portable One 130 3.5″ GPS
  9. Pep Boys $49.98 Magellan Roadmate 1440 GPS
  10. Radio Shack – $4.99 Targus travel 4 port USB hub
  11. Sears – $9.99 music travel pack FM transmitter, mount, charger (early bird)
  12. Sears – $99.99 Samsung C20 Camcorder (early bird)
  13. Sears – $109.99 Sony Bloggie HD camcorder
  14. Sears – $9.99 Capri 21″ Carryon upright luggage (early bird)
  15. Target – $19 30″ Embarq rolling duffel bag
  16. Target – $49 RCA 7″ portable DVD player (4 colors)
  17. Walmart – $99 Flip UltraHD Camcorder (early bird)
  18. Walmart – $29 Philips 4GB MP3 player (early bird)
  19. Walmart – $49 Philips 7″ portable DVD player (early bird)
  20. Walmart – $198 eMachines 15.6″ Celeron Notebook 2GB/250GB (early bird)

These are obviously just a very small selection of some of the bargains you’ll find on Black Friday. For an overview of all the deals that have been published so far, head on over to Black Friday @ Gottadeal.com.

Seven ways to escape the Black Friday shopping experience

Ahhh, Black Friday. Those that love it are die-hard shoppers, those that hate it would rather stick their arm in a blender than experience being crushed while trying to grab a discounted laptop out of the hands of killer bargain hunters.

Me? I’m firmly in the group that loves the idea of staying up all night to grab discounts that really make it barely worth the hassles. Still, there is something oddly comforting about waiting in line for two hours to save three Dollars off a board game. Black Friday is when the Holiday season officially kicks off – and is when 140 million Americans grab their credit cards and spend whatever they can on whatever they don’t really need.

Here are seven ways you can escape (parts of) the Black Friday experience.Escape the cold

If you live in a cold state and want to shop in the warmth on Black Friday, then you’ll either need to dress warmly or fly somewhere warmer. Standing in line in the freezing cold starts off quite nicely when everyone is in a good mood, but once things dip into the 20’s, people get cranky really fast. Hot cocoa only goes so far when the wind is brutally cold.

Alternatively, find the largest indoor mall in the area, park your car outside while you watch the crowds shiver in the arctic temperatures. Then, when the mall opens its doors, wait for everyone to walk inside and slowly join the end of the line. Chances are most of the deals will still be around, and you’ll stay toasty warm and comfortable.

Escape sales tax

Planning to do a lot of shopping for big ticket items? Consider making the trek to one of the five remaining states in the country with no sales tax. Those states are:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon

Of course, this plan doesn’t really work if you live in Indiana and plan to drive to Delaware to buy that new 65″ LCD TV – but if you are shopping for smaller items and are within driving distance of a sales-tax-free state, the savings could be quite considerable.

Escape being sane

Lets make a checklist for this one – one lawn chair per person, one portable toilet, soft drinks, snacks, phone backup charger cord, music, spare batteries and a total lack of respect for yourself.

This is of course the checklist for the 5AM shopper. And no – not 5AM on Friday – 5AM on Thursday. You’ll be the person I see waiting outside Best Buy when I’m driving to relatives for Thanksgiving Dinner. To you, saving money on a new laptop or TV is more important than turkey and stuffing. And to be honest, given how some family dinners can be, who’s to blame you.

Doorbuster deals can indeed really be worth it. The only thing that can spoil a 19 hour wait in line is snow, rain and people who try and jump the line when the store doors open. Before Black Friday, always ask the store in question what their line policy is, when staff will be present to control lines, and whether they hand out tickets hours before opening. Also be sure to check store inventory, because showing up as number 150 at a store with just 40 laptop is a colossal waste of time.

Escape jail time

There are many ways you can get in trouble on Black Friday – spending too much and maxing out your credit card is just one of them. If you really want to avoid finding yourself facing some real trouble, don’t jump the lines, don’t push store staff members and don’t yell at checkout clerks.

Remember, if you think Black Friday is a hassle for you, consider what a hell it is for people that have to work this time of year. My motto is that Black Friday needs to be fun – yes, waiting in line can be a bit of a bore, and once store doors open, everyone is fighting for themselves, but that doesn’t mean you need to behave like a jerk.

Introduce yourself to your fellow shoppers in line, chat about what they think the good deals are, and make sure you have a good time. Because quite frankly, if it turns nasty – the fun is gone, and I’m going to head home for some sleep.

Escape the crowds

You really think there is anywhere with no crowds? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but even the smallest places in the nation with one Wal-Mart for the entire community will have its fair share of crowds.

The best kept secret about Black Friday deals is that most of the same deals will pop up again between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Granted, the real doorbusters may not be as cheap – but if you are like me, you probably don’t mind spending $25 more if it means saving a trip to the hospital, or watching someone get crushed by an angry mob.

Escape it all

If you are one of the members of the “I hate Black Friday” crowd, then you can stay inside all day and watch TV news reports of injured shoppers, or you can get away from it all and check into a hotel. While everyone is busy finding Zhu Zhu pets (or whatever is in this year), you can enjoy the hotel pool, order room service and get yourself pampered.

If your budget is a bit more flexible, picture yourself on a Hawaiian beach on Black Friday, or sipping cocktails on a cruise ship.

Escape the heat

I can’t really see anyone actually in a warm climate wanting to do their Black Friday shopping in the cold, but if you want to get in the Holiday spirit with a nice case of the flu, then you can leave your warm climate and head to one of these fine cold climate malls:

Gurnee Mills, Gurnee, IL

This massive mall is located about 30 minutes up the highway from O’Hare international airport. The mall is surrounded by several cheap hotels, and is home to over 200 stores. The mail itself is indoors, so warm climate visitors won’t feel too chilly. The doors open at 5AM on Black Friday and stay open till 10PM. About 20 minutes from Gurnee Mills are the Pleasant Prairie Prime Outlets – stores here open at midnight on Black Friday!

The Mall of America, Bloomington, MN

This is the king of all megamalls – with over 500 stores and a huge amount of food outlets, a theme park, a theater, an aquarium and more – this is where you can shop, and those deal haters you’ve dragged along can entertain themselves on their own. Stores here open at 6AM on Black Friday, but be prepared to encounter an absolute zoo when it comes to parking.

Tysons Corner Mall, McLean, VA

Tysons Corner mall may ring a bell if you are an Apple fan – this is where the first Apple Store in the world opened its doors. If you are not a fan of gadgets, you’ll be happy to know that the mall is also home to your usual lineup of luxury department stores. Doors open at midnight and stores stay open till 10PM.

[Photos from: Getty Images, Mall of America photo: Flickr/puroticorico]