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Visiting Santa Claus ahead of Christmas has been a tradition for millions of families for generations, but the pandemic threw typical plans out the window in 2020 due to health and safety concerns. Many kids’ conversations with Kris Kringle were held online instead.
Things have slowly started to return to normal as 2022 approaches, but a new wrinkle has threatened the mall Santa experience this holiday season — a Santa shortage! The people that track such things say there are 700 fewer Santa Claus fill-ins compared with last year.
While Santa doesn’t have enough representatives to go around to all the various malls and retailers this holiday season, there are still ways kids of all ages can deliver their Christmas wishes to the Jolly One — no NORAD Santa tracker needed!
1. Sam’s Club members can book an exclusive virtual Santa experience.
Sam’s Club? More like Santa’s Club. The warehouse retailer has a special virtual Santa experience available only to members now through Dec. 24.
The online exclusive was free last year, but this year a personal audience with St. Nick will run you between $40 – $75, depending on the experience you choose.
While you can only do one virtual visit per membership, multiple kiddos can still join in on one call. Live video sessions range from 5 – 7 minutes in length, while personalized videos last up to 3 minutes long.
Check out Santa’s Club to book your child’s personalized virtual Santa experience, but hurry — availability is limited and reservations go fast.
2. Macy’s Santaland is doing free virtual visits again in 2021.
For the first time ever in 2020, Macy’s didn’t have Santa in stores. Although he’s back at select locations in 2021, the Macy’s Santaland at Home experience has returned.
This year, Macy’s Santaland at Home allows families to follow Santa’s Elves on a trip through the North Pole, with activities along the way and chances to visit Santa’s Toy Shop, help the Elves, and even meet Santa Claus himself. The experience — which is totally free for kids of all ages — ends with a virtual selfie with Santa.
For those who live in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, you can also make reservations to meet Santa Claus inside the store by making a reservation online. Both virtual and in-store visits run through Dec. 24.
3. Kids can call the Santa Hotline to leave Santa a message (and their list).
Instead of writing a letter or visiting the mall, the FreeConferenceCall.com Santa Hotline lets your kids leave a voice message for ol’ St. Nick. It’s completely free, and there are dedicated numbers for both English and Spanish languages.
Once you listen to a message from Santa and leave him a voice message of your own, you get a text message back from Santa with a link to your child’s message.
4. Have a safe Santa experience at Cabela’s & Bass Pro Shops.
Lots of malls are creating safe, contact-free Santa experiences, but while some shopping centers are dealing with shortages, Cabela’s & Bass Pro Shops are flush with red-suited helpers.
The outdoor superstores are taking online reservations for their free “Contactless Claus” visits, which have socially distanced benches and plastic partitions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
5. Book a virtual Santa visit for your family with Zuhoo.
If you’re looking for a personal virtual Santa visit, Zuhoo is a great website to try out. Up to three children can join a single live call (and you can add up to two more for an extra $3 per child). These interactive experiences start at $24.95 for Mrs. Claus and $29.95 for Santa. (Mrs. Claus cheaper? RUDE!)
You can modify or cancel your reservation up to one hour before your scheduled visit for a new time slot or a full refund.
Zuhoo’s Santas are diverse and multilingual (including Santa’s helpers who can perform American Sign Language), so every kid can have the ideal holiday experience.
6. Choose a unique Santa video experience with Cameo.
While Cameo is primarily for celebrity and reality-show shout-outs, who’s a bigger star than the big man in red? A simple search on the website, and you can order a video message from puppet Santas, singing Santas, Mrs. Claus, and classic Santas.
It’ll cost you around $30 – $70 for your Santa Cameo video (or you can splurge and pay $175 for Santa Gilbert Gottfried), depending on who you choose. There are a lot of options for every type of Santa enthusiast.
7. Create your own face-to-face online meeting via Chit Chat with Santa
Virtual visits with St. Nick are safe and simple to orchestrate, and Chit Chat with Santa is yet another platform where you can schedule a short online chat between your kids and Kris Kringle himself. Now through Christmas Eve, you can select a 15-minute time block and receive a special call from Santa or Mrs. Claus for $39.
8. Get a personalized call from Santa on a mobile app.
Perhaps the easiest way to get your children in touch with Santa is by downloading an app that lets you receive a personalized phone call from the man himself. There are a few free mobile apps that accomplish this task for both iOS and Android devices, such as:
9. Receive a free call from Santa by entering your phone number at ChristmasDialer.com
This is a simple task. Go to the website, enter your phone number, choose whether you’d like a call from Santa or one of his helpful elves, and click the red “Send a free call now” button. Voila.
You’ll be hearing from Santa shortly — just beware that it shows up as a potential spam call on some phones. You can also upgrade to a “premium” call for a fee (two calls for $1.99, five calls for $3.99, or 15 calls for $9.99).
10. Ask your home’s smart speaker to give Santa Claus a call and watch the magic automatically happen.
If you have an Amazon or Google smart speaker, this is a super-cool feature — you can verbally ask the device to give Santa Claus a call at any time.
With Google Home, simply say, “Hey Google, call Santa,” and an interactive experience will unfold. You can also say, “Hey Google, bring up the Santa Tracker” if you have Google Assistance devices that have screens to see where he might be on the night of Christmas Eve.
For Amazon Alexa users, saying, “Alexa, talk to Santa Claus,” will prompt St. Nick to ask your child to help create a Christmas music playlist,” while “Alexa, start Santa Claus,” will spur a short conversation with Santa about what they might have done this week to get on the nice (or naughty) list.
11. Keep an eye on Santa throughout December by watching a 24-hour-per-day livestream.
What is Santa doing right this instant? Well, thankfully the brass up at Santa’s Toy Shop is embracing 21st-century technology, because they’ve installed a webcam for an all-day livestream channel.
Just go to YouTube and type in “Santa Live Stream.” The camera cycles between different areas, such as the mailroom, the wrapping station, the workshop, Santa’s office, the reindeer pen, and the Claus living room.