One way to avoid the holiday shopping rush is to avoid the places where people normally do their holiday shopping, like department stores, big-box retailers and malls.
As reported in the National Retail Federation's 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, most shoppers plan to shop at discounters this holiday season. Other stores consumers are likely to visit are department stores, grocery stores, clothing retailers and electronics shops. Instead, try to support local small business owners, craft fairs and thrift stores. You may find the crowds are thinner and the wares more unique.
If you've never heard of the store you're shopping at -- whether on Main Street or on the Internet -- consider checking with the Better Business Bureau. Not only will they give you a report on catalog companies, mail order, TV shopping networks and online retailers, they have good tips for safe shopping.