When it comes to Santa Claus, part of every child's worry is whether they made it onto the nice list.
Portable North Pole is a free website and app for iOS and Android that sends a personalized video from Santa. Right now there is a free limited-time offer for a basic video (normally any single personalized video costs $5.99). For this free child's video, enter their name, gender, birthdate (because Santa sends a free video on their birthday too), a photo and what the child does on most days. In just moments, the video is ready to view, share and download. Santa is sitting by the fire, reading a book, and looks up to address the child by name. He opens a big book, finds the child's photo inside and tells them that he's counting on them to do their best every day.
There are three options to upgrade to a premium account and unlock a lot of fun features. For $10.99, users receive unlimited premium videos for unlimited kids, a phone call from Santa during the video, and a reaction recorder on the app. This upgrade uses the front-facing camera to record your child as they hear what Santa has to say to them. A $14.99 upgrade adds HD downloads of the videos and a video call from Santa. There are free videos to watch with elves doing the news, stories to read, quizzes and even recipes. With every purchase on the website or app, the company donates 5 percent to a children's hospital.
Another big worry for many kids is when the family takes a vacation over Christmas. Children wonder how Santa will ever know where to find them. Vacation Rental company HomeAway has launched the website Reroute Santa to quickly and easily help kids share all the travel details. On the site, users enter the child's name, where they are from and where they are going. The letter from Mr. Claus to your child appears on-screen within moments, letting them know that Rudolph has planned the route. The letter lists the vacation destination (and will even use exact addresses if given) with the good news that the location has a great landing strip for Santa's sleigh. You can save the letter from the Santa Claus Post Office or email it.
Maybe you've been tracking Santa's route from your computer or phone on Christmas Eve for a while now. But if you've used NORAD's Santa Tracker in the past, it's time to switch to Google's Santa Tracker using the free Android app, Chrome extension or website. Just type "Santa" in Google's search engine and it'll pop up with vibrant colors and a quirky fun design.
And don't wait until Dec. 24 to use this website, because it's full of activities for kids.
All throughout the month, new features are unlocked, revealing something to play, learn or watch. There's even a whole section dedicated to educators with ways teachers can use the games and activities in their classrooms. Then on Christmas Eve, follow Santa as he circles the globe to see estimations of how many deliveries he's made and how long until he's coming down your chimney.
If you have a Google Assistant smart speaker in your home, just say, "OK Google, call Santa" for a direct dial right to the man with the sleigh. He'll chat with your child, asking them questions and responding according to their answers. It's basically Google's normal AI, but customized so that the voice is that of Kris Kringle instead of Google's usual voice assistant.
If you have a child who needs definitive proof that Santa actually came to your house, use the Santa Spy Cam (free iOS and Android). This app uses augmented reality to catch Santa and his elves on video, with your own home as the background. There's currently only one free video on the app that shows an elf peeking out and jumping up and down. In my video, I positioned him to come out from behind the curtains next to the Christmas tree in my front room. Parents can buy additional videos for 99 cents each, or collections of videos starting at $1.99. And for clever kiddos, moms and dads may also want to pay $1.99 to have the logo removed from the videos to make them more authentic.
When I used a similar (no longer in existence) app with my children, we set out the phone on a tripod to record what happened on Christmas Eve. They couldn't believe it the next morning when they saw the video of Santa walking around our fireplace.