You want to outwit the official opening of the Christmas hunting season?
Take the advice of veteran shoppers on surviving the Friday after Thanksgiving:
Take surface streets, if possible. Arrive at stores early. Have a clear idea of what you want to buy.
Shoppers earlier this week at Westminster Mall and South Coast Plaza shared their tips on parking, timing and avoiding traffic.
"Get here right when the stores open," advised Genie Emig, 34, of Los Alamitos. "On the day after Thanksgiving people usually don't get up early because they ate too much turkey the night before."
Sharon Hess, 39, of Anaheim concurred. "Forget the afternoons because there's no parking. If you come no later than 10 (a.m.), you can get something (parking) fairly close."
But even good timing can't help the buyer without a shopping list, said Cindy Anderson, 34, of Huntington Beach. "Know what you're looking for. You can go straight for it and then spend the rest of the day shopping for fun."
'Don't Bring Kids'
Added Sherry Vanlandingham, whose 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Jessica, was tugging at her hand in South Coast Plaza: "Don't bring kids."
An exception to the early bird advice came from Josephine King, a 44-year-old media coordinator for a Huntington Beach school district.
"I always come at 4:30 and leave by 7:30 (p.m.) because all the homemakers have gone home to cook dinner and tend to their children and the people who work have yet to arrive," she said. "I can get more done in two hours than if I were to shop from 7:30 (p.m.) until the mall closes."
In general, shoppers preferred surface streets to freeways for easy access to shopping centers.
At Westminster Mall, the crowded Beach Boulevard and Bolsa Avenue off-ramps are to be avoided, they said. But from there opinions tended to diverge.
The best way is to go in the entrance at Springdale Drive south to Bolsa Boulevard and east to the mall, said Diana Mason, 29, of Anaheim. "The traffic is too congested on Beach (Boulevard)."
Marianne Hult, 45, of Westminister proposed another route. "I come in on Edwards (Street)," she said. "I don't come in on Bolsa (Avenue) because of the traffic. It's heavy."
Beating the traffic at South Coast Plaza also involves special maneuvers, shoppers said.
Joanne Eddow, 53, of Huntington Beach will use surface streets: down Beach Boulevard to Talbert Avenue to Bear Street instead of getting off the 405 Freeway at Fairview Road.
Jo Ann Johnson, a 44-year-old data entry operator who lives in Garden Grove, concurred. "I go down Bear (an exit off the 73 Freeway)," she said. "There's no traffic on that street--not yet anyway."
Pamela J. Edwards, 54, of Lakewood said she has shopping at South Coast Plaza down to a science.
"Come in on Bear (Street), use the valet parking, get here early and leave before 4 (p.m.)," she said.
Maura Eggan, director of marketing, meanwhile, advised against the Bristol Street exit of the San Diego Freeway--even if it means taking the Fairview Road exit, immediately to the north.
Officials at both shopping centers said that employees have been instructed to park their cars elsewhere to free up spaces for shoppers.
Newport Center's Fashion Island also has a back door, said Paul Coulter, operations manager.
"The main entry most people come by is Pacific Coast Highway; however, what people don't know is (that) they can slip in on MacArthur (Boulevard) or Jamboree (Road)," he said. "If you were coming in off MacArthur, the easiest thing would be to go west on San Miguel (Drive). If you were coming in on Jamboree, turn east on Santa Barbara (Drive) and follow that to the center."
And in getting to the Laguna Hills Mall, Avenidad de La Carlota is preferable to using Interstate 5, said shopper Jim Patterson, 22, of Laguna Niguel. "I always use the back roads," he said.
At South Coast Plaza, shoppers said, parking structures often have free spots.
"The parking structure for 40 Carrots (restaurant) is best because it takes just a second to get in and out," said Lynn Schakel, a 19-year-old Chino resident, of the plaza's northern parking structure. "There's always a spot on the third floor."
Added Eggan, the marketing director: "There also is a new parking structure that people aren't aware of. It's immediately in front of Bullock's on Bear Street" at the mall's south end.
Valet parking, available at seven different locations for $2, was also a popular suggestion.
"It only costs a couple of bucks," Johnson said.
But Thelma Sanders, manager of Revillon Furs at Saks Fifth Avenue in the South Coast Plaza, had different advice altogether.
"I'm advising all my customers not to come," Sanders said. "It's going to be crazy."