It's been more than a decade since I had to track down a Furby, a new toy that had sold out weeks before Christmas. In those days, finding a popular toy meant driving from store to store, hoping to be the lucky mom who snagged one when a new shipment arrived. But today's parents can use an online toy tracker that could save precious gas and holiday spirits.
TrackAToy.com lists the most popular toys of the season, along with where to buy them online (Amazon, Walmart, Target and Toys"R"Us, plus a few websites for certain items), price and whether the item is currently available. If junior's wished-for item isn't available, parents can sign up to receive text message alerts when the toys they're looking for are back in stock.
The website is also useful for aunts, uncles and others who may be unsure what to buy for younger family members.
So what's hot and in short supply this year? It's still Furby, this time the Cotton Candy — a pink, fluffy version of the talking toy that sells for $54. Cotton Candy Furby is currently unavailable on Amazon, but TrackAToy shows it in-stock at three online retailers.
Despite its name, TrackAToy also tracks popular gadgets, including its No. 1-ranked "toy" for the holidays, the Nintento Wii U, and Apple's iPad Mini.
But since the site's toy sources are all online, be aware of shipping deadlines. The USPS said Dec. 14 is the last day to ship via Parcel Post to arrive before Christmas; UPS said Dec. 17, which coincides with Free Shipping Day, an annual promotion when online retailers offer gratis shipping in time for Christmas.