I chose the photo above for this article for a reason. I think that a lot of us have made that very face while trying to accomplish our holiday shopping around Ocean County.

Yesterday I made a fatal mistake in my holiday shopping strategy.

I ordered something for my baby nieces online and chose the option to pick it up at the store. I figured, hey, I don't have to worry about shipping time or cost, why not?

I have to laugh when I look back at that thought process.

What started out as a "brilliant plan" in my mind turned into an hour long odyssey to only go a few miles down Hooper Ave, waiting in three different lines once I got to the store, and then another battle to get from the store back down Hooper, across 37, and to work.

Now, in my defense, I do most of my holiday shopping online these days. So it didn't even occur to me that the Tuesday before Christmas was not the ideal time to go pick something up at one of the biggest retailers in the country, which just happens to be on one of the busiest roads in Toms River.

So, this is where you come in. What tips would you give someone like me, who isn't a practiced pro at shopping around Ocean County in the heart of the holiday season?

I'm looking for things like which shopping centers are the easiest to get to and from?

When are the best times to go?

What routes take you around the worst of the shopping traffic?

Don't worry, we'll keep it just between us!


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