How to Survive Holiday Parking Chaos

As much as we’re supposed to love the holidays – the food, the gifts, the family, the friends – we all know that like any true love, there are caveats. One of the worst, of course, is the pilgrimage required to attain those great Roots sweat-socks, or an Apple Watch. The pilgrimage to that scourge of the modern holiday shopper: the mall parking lot. It’s the place that can make even the friendliest, minivan-driving soccer mom or dad turn into a monster better suited for the set of Mad Max than It’s a Wonderful Life.

That being said, there are some simple things we can avoid doing that would make all of our lives so much easier. Easy stuff that would allow us to revel in the warmth and joy of family when it’s all said and done, as opposed to huddling in the fetal position like some strung-out shopaholic in desperate need of a warm blanket and a snort of Jim Beam.

Not only will following these tips will leave you with lower blood pressure, it may help those around you too.

Beware the Second-Spot Spill-Over

We’ve all seen it. Someone is “just hopping in to pick up the latest copy of Don Cherry’s RockEm SockEm Hockey that Best Buy has on hold and will be right back,” so according to them, it doesn’t matter that they’ve fronted in and let their back wheel haphazardly drift over the demarcation line.

This time of year, however, there are hundreds of others that are “just hopping in”, and chances are, the first spot you come across will have been partially annexed by a neighbouring vehicle. Though it may be tempting, resist the urge to score a pyrrhic moral victory by sliding your car in flush beside them.

Don’t forget that even if you can thread your car into the remaining space, you still need to account for the room you’ll need to exit the vehicle, load your purchases upon your return, and back out of the space.

On the other side of the equation? Remember that checkout lines this time of year are rarely short, with many complicated transactions besides (separate gift receipts, anyone?). Take your time and park with care – it’s one less thing that’ll weigh on the back on your mind if you take longer than expected.

Avoid the Cross-Lot Hustle

“Oh look! Right over there! Two lanes over! I see a spot, honey! PUNCH IT!!!”

NO! WRONG! It’s a mall parking lot. No amount of Ayrton Senna-esque hotshoeing is going to change the fact that there is going to be someone closer to that spot, guaranteed. All you’re going to do by speeding up to get there is increase your chances of an accident involving another vehicle or worse, a pedestrian.

If you’re at your wit’s end looking for a space close to the mall, consider venturing to the outskirts of the parking lot – in the time you spend circling the same three rows (or tailing someone walking back to their vehicle), you could have parked and walked to the mall already. If you notice on your way in that even the outer fringes of the lot are filled up, you may need to try a different location.

The Family-Friendly? Fuggeddaboutit.

You see that image of a baby carriage at the base of that stall at Walmart? What about the sign at the head of the stall, the one that says, “Parking for customer with child.” That’s what it’s there for.

They’re mighty tempting, but even if you’re just quickly popping in to pick up a held item, it’s no excuse. That extra 50 feet you’ll have to walk after parking in an appropriate spot will cost you a grand total of about 30 extra seconds. Same goes for handicap spots and while this applies year-round, it’s especially pertinent during this time of year as the people that actually need those spots are just as tired and stressed out as you are.

“Hey, it’s okay, I have my hazards on.”

Nope. It’s not okay to park on the yellow lines in front of the Canadian Tire, whether it be to run in or to wait for someone to run in, just because you have your hazards on. You’re blocking vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic, as this tends to be where they cross.

Worse still, should someone inside be experiencing your typical holiday-shopping panic attack, the ambulance is going to have to stop much further away than it should.

Just making “a quick stop”? Your best bet is still to find a proper parking space, lest you return to find your vehicle ticketed, towed, or worse.

The Holiday List Stop-and-Check

Yes, the popularization of mobile devices and the various organizational apps on offer means a whole lot can be done from your phone, including the ability to document that you’ve got grandma’s AC/DC album and junior’s Ninjago Lego set.

Please – do it while parked, not as you’re backing out while simultaneously checking that junior is properly buckled in and adjusting your radio because you simply must hear Jingle Bell Rock just one more time.

The ho-ho-NO-YOU-DIH-INT

This, right here, is the big kahuna. The boss. The ultimate holiday parking lot piss-off. Entire families have gone to war over this infraction – you can easily find footage on YouTube. If someone has started to back in to a spot – signal and all – do not, we repeat do not try and torpedo in there nose-first.

No, it’s not that you “didn’t realize what was happening.” You knew exactly what was happening, and you tried to disrupt the natural order by launching your front bumper at the stall as if you were Mike Moffitt trying to steal George Costanza’s spot in “The Parking Space” episode of Seinfeld. Not a chance. Move on.

Someone snipe your spot? Take a deep breath. Maybe a few more. Maybe holler “SERENITY NOW!” Move on.

Assign a Delegate

You’ve circled the entire lot, even gone into the side street beside the mall. You had a good lead early on, following a couple laden down with shopping bags, but they dropped off their purchases at the car and went straight back to the mall. You’re a bundle of frayed nerves; there is simply no parking space to be found. Now what?

Have someone you can trust with your Christmas shopping with you in the car? Drop them off at the mall entrance with the shopping list and promise to keep in touch on the phone, and then – this is the important part – go take a coffee break. Take five minutes to regroup and refuel, maybe sort out dinner plans.

By yourself? Go grab coffee anyway, and use the time to figure out what you need to purchase today in person, and what you can defer. Or, see below.

The Alternative – Just avoid the mall altogether

There’s always Amazon Prime. (And you can watch The Grand Tour on it, to boot.)

But if you really want to go to a proper mall and shop local, we suggest making your trip at off-peak times. Early mornings are often less crowded and stressful, and it’s easier to find good parking spots.

Most of all though, remember: It’s Christmas. A time of peace. Smile, breathe, and wish your fellow shoppers “Happy Holidays” – even when they snipe your parking space.

Merry Christmas!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… 12/18/2017 10:00:00 AM