SkyMall Monday: It’s my first Christmas tree, Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree SkyMallToday is Cyber Monday. It’s the internet version of Black Friday. What does all this retail marketing speak mean? Well, it’s officially the holiday shopping season (with a special emphasis on the shopping). By now, your Thanksgiving leftovers have begun to spoil and your mind has replaced thoughts of turkey with lists of gifts for family, friends and coworkers. With so much emphasis on shopping, it’s easy to forget what the holidays are really about: togetherness, appreciation and, of course, fruit cake. You might find it odd for a snarky, sarcastic travel writer who was raised Jewish and then became agnostic to wax poetic about the holiday season when he’s supposed to be writing about SkyMall, but hear me out. Here in the SkyMall Monday headquarters, we just set up our Christmas tree. I love this tree. It has its origins in all the things that make this time of year so special: family, SkyMall and Charlie Brown. This week is a little bit different for SkyMall Monday. Rather than simply reviewing a product, I’d like to share with you my story of the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.As I mentioned above, I was raised Jewish. We were not a very observant family. Bacon cheeseburgers were enjoyed often and we only saw the inside of a synagogue when we were summoned to attend a bar mitzvah (including, oddly, my own) or a wedding. Sure, we’d light the menorah on Chanukah, but my extended family would gather at my aunt and uncle’s house for their annual holiday party on Christmas Eve. My aunt was Catholic, so it made sense. Also, no one had work the next day. Few offices tend to close for Chanukah and the adults usually enjoyed a fair amount of eggnog wine. My sister and I would receive our gifts on Christmas morning. Why? Well, probably so we could experience that special joy along with all the other kids around the world.

Over the years, my family evolved. My parents divorced, my father remarried and we all stopped attending my aunt and uncle’s holiday party because, well, that’s what happens with families. The holidays became far less formal. Now, I visit with my mother to exchange gifts and spoil my nieces with toys. I go to my father and stepmother’s home for dinner and exchange more gifts. All of these gatherings are done on arbitrary days selected only because everyone’s schedule is free. There’s no dressing up. No huge gatherings. Just immediate family, a new generation of children and lots of laughter. In my mind, things have improved. I’m with the people I love the most and get to spend Christmas Day in Chinatown stuffing my face.

My stepmother was raised Catholic and, as such, she and my father have a Christmas tree every year. She’s about as Catholic as we are Jewish, though, so there’s no nativity scene to be found in their house. Just plenty of holiday music and that great big tree. I’ve always cherished having that tree there. Not because it’s a symbol of Christmas or houses all of our gifts. I enjoy it simply because it means, after another long year, the people I love are together again.

Bigfoot Yeti Holiday Ornament SkyMall Christmas TreeLast year, under that very tree, was an oddly shaped, awkwardly wrapped box bearing my name. It was long, three-sided and strangely light for its size. When the time came to open our gifts, I immediately attacked that mystery package. Upon opening it, I was delighted. I was 30-years-old at the time, but easily could have been three based on my reaction. There, in my very secular hands, was a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.

That’s the very same tree that I set up this morning. The picture you see above? I took that five minutes before sitting down to write this. It’s not the musical version sold on SkyMall. The catalog used to sell the silent model that my father and stepmother bought for me but, like all things these days, even the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree has received a technological upgrade. I, however, prefer my simple tree.

It’s not really a celebration of Christmas. It’s certainly not a rejection of Chanukah or Judaism. It’s a reminder of what’s important. As you begin your holiday shopping, try to maintain some perspective about why this time of year is so special. Whatever your traditions may be, no matter how annoying your holiday travels are and regardless of your religious affiliation (including those who don’t have one at all), remember that this time of year is about family, giving thanks and Bigfoot Holiday Yeti Ornaments.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Top Black Friday travel gear deals

Black Friday

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.


gottadeal Black Friday

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.

Cyber Monday: not just for retailers any more

After four days off, the world will slide behind its desks again on Monday morning. They’ll try to get back into the swing of work life, but it won’t be immediate. So, as they ease back into productivity, many will push into the shopping world they dodged three days earlier on Black Friday. The hotels will be waiting for them, with more than 60 of them pushing deals to try to get in on the holiday shopping action.

Around 69 million people are expected to jump into the Cyber Monday fray, with workers aged 18 to 24 seen as the most likely to shop at work. Overall, 54 percent of people with internet access at work will start to take care of their holiday season obligations on Monday.

According to a Shop.org survey, 87 percent of the retailers surveyed plan to get deals out in front of online consumers this holiday season, up a tad from last year’s 83 percent. So, it’ll be tough for the hotels to stand out, but this won’t keep them from trying.

Fifty of Starwood‘s resorts will be offering deals during a three-day sale that starts on Monday, with discounts of up to 45 percent. But, you’ll need to travel between the beginning of January and the end of April. Seven Affinia Hotels properties are offering 15% off a 2010 stay at properties in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The James Hotel in Chicago is offering a 100% bonus on gift cards purchased.

Gadling’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals guide

Yes – Black Friday is almost here again, which means brave people will once again be out of bed at 3am so they can stand in line with 500 others, just to save $100 on a TV. Before I mock those people too much, I too will be one of them. Even though I don’t need any new gadgets, I enjoy being part of the madness that is Black Friday.

If you don’t get too excited by this concept, or you’d rather be shot than be part of this once a year event, then check out this massive lineup of great online deals we have collected for you. Shop from the comfort of your own home, without the risk of being trampled to death in a mass of slow moving shoppers.


Double your gift certificate with James Hotels

Gift certificate promotions are nothing new – but this deal from James Hotels is truly a great way to kick off our lineup. To celebrate Cyber Monday (Monday November 30), you can buy “James Credits”, and double your purchase for free.

James Credits can be applied towards a room, but also the restaurants and bars (only exception is for the spa and private events). James Credits can be purchased up to $500, which means a $500 investment gets you $1000 to spend at their hotels. One minor piece of fine print – the free credits need to be spent before March 31st 2010. Click here for the deal, and more details on James Hotels.

Callpod Black Friday / Holiday bundles

Callpod is one of my personal favorites – they make some of the best portable device chargers on the market. To celebrate the Holiday season, and kick off Black Friday, Callpod has put together three bundles of their products.

The Chargepod Uno is on sale for $39.95, the Chargepod Duo for $49.95 and the Chargepod multi-device charger is just $59.95, with three adapter tips and a voucher for three more. You’ll find the deals on their holiday special offers site.

25% off iBend artist series iPod and iPhone stands

iBend sells very simple cool looking iPhone stands. They normally retail for $7.99, but you can get one for 25% off. Head on over to myibend.com. The promotion begins today and ends December 25th 2009.

Portable grilling on the go – buy 2, get 2

Yeah, grilling season may be over for most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of a great deal on a fun disposable grill. The EZ Grill can be stored until you need it, and when you are done (and it has cooled down), you simply throw it away. These normally retail for $19.95 per pack of 2. But between now and December 25th, when you order a pack of two “party grills”, you’ll get 2 for free. Head on over to ezgrill.com to order.

Moshi voice command alarm clocks – up to 40% off!

We took the Moshi voice command travel alarm clock for a spin on Monday – and proclaimed it ” the cure for the crappy hotel alarm clock”. Between the 27th and the 30th of November, you can get up to 40% off your own Moshi alarm clock. This means you can order a voice command travel alarm clock for just $19.99! Head on over to moshilifestyle.com to order.

ACES Black Friday shopaholic train + hotel discount for NYC shoppers

South Jersey shoppers who want to make their way to New York City for some Black Friday action can sit back and relax on the Aces Shopaholics train. The train leaves Atlantic City at 10:02 am on Friday the 27th. All passengers will receive a “signature ACES shopping tote”. Hardcore shoppers who want to spend the night in New York can stay at the Ace Hotel and enjoy a 10% discount by using coupon code “ACESTRAIN”. This code is valid on stays from November 27th through December 30th.

$25 rooms at the TradeWinds Sandpiper resort in Florida

What better way to enjoy Black Friday than booking yourself a relaxing $25 room at a luxury resort in Florida. The Tradewinds Sandpiper resort is offering these discounted rooms “as low as” $25 to early bird Tweeters and Facebook fans on the 27th, starting at 6am (EST). The rooms will be available for select dates in January and include the resort fee. The $25 rate is a discount of almost $200.

The only way to get the fantastic rate is to follow the resort on Twitter.com/TWResorts, or visit the property’s Facebook Fan Page Facebook.com/tradewindsislandresorts.Good luck!

20% off all purchases from booq bags

Booq bags are extremely popular – and once you see their lineup, you’ll see why. They make really good looking bags, with a very smart design. On Black Friday, you can order anything from their store with a sweet 20% discount and free shipping. You’ll need to use promo code SWEET during checkout.

40% off all Ten One Design products

Do you ever get annoyed by trying to type on your iPhone or iPod Touch? Did you know that there is actually a stylus that works with it? Ten One Design invented the Pogo Stylus, and is selling all their products with a 50% discount on Black Friday. In addition to this, the 50th customer to place an order on Black Friday will win a free iPod Touch! The discount is valid between the 27th of November and the 30th, which means you can sleep in on Friday (unless you want a chance at winning that iPod Touch!). Head on over to tenonedesign.com for their products.

50% discount on be.ez notebook bags

be.ez notebook bags and sleeves are on sale with a whopping 50% discount on Black Friday. The deal is only available through their Amazon storefront. In addition to this, all netbook sleeves are free with the purchase of any 10.2″ netbook on Amazon. The following bags ar
e on sale:

  • LA besace 13″ Addict Wasabi Messenger Bag (Black/Wasabi): 50% off MSRP
  • LA besace 15″ Lime Drop Messenger Bag (Grey/Lime): 50% off MSRP
  • LA besace 15″ Classic Messenger Bag (Black/Orange): 50% off MSRP
  • LA robe Sleeve for MacBook 13.3″ (Black/Pumpkin, Black/Wasabi, Black/White): 50% off MSRP
  • LA robe Netbook Sleeve 10.2″ (Black/White, 2Blue, 2Green, 2Pink, Red Kiss/White): Free with purchase of any 10.2″ netbook

Head on over to the be.ez bag store at Amazon for these deals. The promotion starts on November 26th, and lasts till December 30th.

Cyber Monday hotel deal – 15% off an Affinia hotel stay

Right after you recover from Thanksgiving and Black Friday, you can once again become immersed in deals on “Cyber Monday”. This new deal day was invented by online retailers as a way to get some of their own attention.

One of these deals comes from Affinia Hotels where you can book a room for 2010 with a 15% discount. The reservation can be made until Sunday November 28th 2010. In addition to the 15% discount, the first 50 people to create or update their “My Affinia” profile and book a room with a discount will receive a $50 Amex gift card when they check in.

The discounted rates are available at any Affinia hotel in Chicago, New York or Washington D.C. and can only be booked on Affinia.com on Monday November 30th between 12:00 EST and 11:59pm EST. To book a discounted room – be sure to use this special link.

Gadling’s Black Friday 2008 deals roundup!

Welcome to Black Friday 2008! You either love it, or you hate it. Those that love it, will be camping outside their local stores on Thursday afternoon, those that hate it will be sitting at home, watching the news on TV and laughing at those camped outside their local store.

Either way, Black Friday is traditionally when the silly season of deals starts. It is when you can forget all about the malaise in the world, and get back to being the spend-happy consumer all the retailers want you to be.

I’ve made you a handy list of products that I consider to be substantially cheaper than usual days, but as always, it pays to research! Just because 350 other people are fighting over that GPS unit, does not make it a bargain. People do stupid things, and being tricked into thinking something is cheap is one of them!
Luggage deals

There are some good luggage deals to be found this year, but most of them involve the kind of luggage you use if you only take one trip a year.

Most major stores have at least one 6 piece luggage set on sale this Black Friday. Walmart currently has the best deal going, with the 6 piece “Protege spinner” set.

If you are able to brave the cold and the crowds, and make it to the Walmart doorbusters, you’ll be able to snag one of these sets.

Of course, luggage is not always the hottest seller, so when everyone heads to the electronics department to buy a flat panel TV, you might just be able to quietly make your way to the luggage department and grab your deal.

If you are a fan of high quality luggage, then head on over to Tumi.com, where you’ll find their annual 40% off sale.

GPS deals

GPS devices have been one of the hottest sellers around the Holiday season for several years. Just be sure you don’t get tricked into buying a unit you don’t want.

Before you settle for one of the really cheap units, ask yourself what exactly you need in a GPS receiver. Keep in mind that the cheapest deals will only cover the United States, and most of them will have a pretty limited selection of “points of interest”.

A cheap GPS receiver may seem worth fighting for, but when you realize that $20 more can get you a device with 4 times as many points of interest, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Some stores are offering GPS units from cheap “no-name” Chinese companies. I’d suggest staying away from these units as support may be hard to find, and it is often impossible to find map updates.

One of the cheapest decent GPS deals this year is the $79.99 Magellan Roadmate 1212. This device is part of the Best Buy doorbuster deals, so be prepared to stand in line to snag one. The device features 6 million points of interest. The 1212 usually retails for around $129. Of course, Best Buy only guarantees a minimum of 5 units per store, so the TomTom ONE 125 posted earlier this afternoon might be a better option.

Memory card deals

Memory cards are almost not worth the trouble on Black Friday. In 2006, a 2GB SD memory card sold for about $30, but they have dropped well below $5 now. Save yourself the hassle, and just order what you need from one of the cheaper online retailers like Newegg or Amazon.

Laptop computer deals

Completely random and unproven statistics of my own, show that more people get injured on Black Friday fighting over cheap laptops than any other product. Of course, the idea of saving $100 makes a little bit of pain worthwhile to some people.

Despite the crappy economy, really good laptop deals are hard to find this year. Best Buy is once again where you’ll find the best deal. The HP G50-104NR is a special Best Buy deal for a dual core laptop with 2GB of memory and a 120GB hard drive. The package includes a Canon 3-in-1 printer for $349.98. Of course, this is another product where each store receives a minimum of 8, and you will need a ticket in order to get one.

In my experience, you’ll need to be in line by 7pm Thursday to have any chances of winning a ticket. Once you have your ticket (usually handed out around 4am), you can leave the line and head back to your warm car. The ticket will tell you how long you have to redeem your item. Just remember that Best Buy has a nasty habit of overselling, and I know several people that were unable to redeem their ticket, despite being inside the store on time with a ticket in hand.

There are surprisingly few Netbook deals this Black Friday. Dell is offering their Insprion Mini for $299, but with a tiny 4GB SSD drive, I’d suggest paying about $50 more for a better machine.

Portable DVD player deals

Portable DVD players are perfect for long car trips, or for flying with kids on an airline without personal TV screens.

Just like with GPS units, I highly suggest staying away from the really cheap b-name units.

Circuit City is offering the highly rated Sony DVP-FX820 for $149, but a 20 second search shows this same unit at Amazon.com for just $139.

K-Mart has the one of the cheaper deals of the season, this Venturer 7″ DVD player sells for $49.99 after a $30 mail in rebate. If the rebate is not enough to scare you away, then the 90 day manufacturer warranty might do the trick.

If you want a reliable unit, from a decent store, then this 7″ RCA unit for $49 at Target might be just what you need. My experience with Target is that they usually have quite a good amount of inventory for each store.

Things to watch out for!

Needless to say that this Black Friday might be a tad more aggressive than previous years. Unless there is a deal you really want, stay away from the big box electronics retailers.

I’d also like to remind you that Circuit City is having some issues with over 155 of their stores. The stores that are in liquidation will not be participating in the nationwide Circuit City Black Friday deals. If you do make your way to one of the stores holding an “everything must go” sale, make sure you have online access to Amazon or any other shopping site, as these liquidation sales are a prime target for people who don’t do their research. Even at 30% off, you’ll often find the deals cheaper online.

Stay away from deals involving rebates (one of the countries largest rebate processors just went bankrupt), and stay away from anything with a free gift card, when a retailer goes under, gift cards are usually wiped out. If you can, use a credit card that offers additional warranty, or extended return rules. Of course, also be sure to use a mileage earning card!

Before you leave for the store, do your research, and print out any deals you want to try and grab. I suggest using bfads.net, where all the deals are in one handy place.

Most importantly, make sure you have fun, remember that there is more to life than a really hot deal, and that the closer we get to Christmas, the larger the chance is that retailers will drop prices even more.