Jump Start Your Morning With Tech

Let the morning rush begin!

With school back in session, many families are once again facing the challenge of getting everyone up and out the door on time. Luckily, this school year, there are some cool ways technology may be able to help your household head off some of the typical snags.

It's obvious that getting up earlier will help everyone be more calm and relaxed in the morning. But that is easier said than done. Lots of families are trying to figure out how best to wake up as the days get shorter. Searches for alarm clocks of every form and function are trending high on Yahoo! right now including online varieties, the Sonic Boom line of products, clocks for kids and even a clock that cooks breakfast for you a-k-a the Wakin' Bacon clock.

A lot of people are simply turning their smart phones into waking devices with free or inexpensive apps that offer both the time and the weather. The Alarm Clock Rio app for iPhone looks like a digital clock and updates the weather conditions in real time, plus it plays your favorite songs to get you up and at 'em.

It's free or $.99 without ads. The $1.79 Alarm Clock Plus for Android operating systems is another good option.

Once everyone is out of bed, the next hurdle is getting ready. One of the biggest headaches for many parents is all the nagging we have to do to motivate kids to brush their teeth, wash their faces and get dressed. Enter the iReward chart app for iPhone and Android. This is a virtual sticker chart that allows you to seamlessly keep track of the morning chores and tasks you want them to complete and offer them prizes for following through. You can quickly assign each action item a points value. At the end of the day, the week or the month, the kids can redeem these points for rewards you choose together. I like using this on my iPad because the kids can interact with the chart and they love the sound effects. My friends at Cool Mom Tech first alerted me to this app and I think it's really helpful. I was fortunate to also have a chance to speak with one of the developers, Satyajit Sahu, who pointed out that even though the app is meant for kids ages 3-13, that many adults are using it to track their own goals. The simple version for one child is free or for $3.99, you get an ad-free chart that can be set up for multiple children.

Next on the agenda: feeding the troops in a timely and efficient manner. The worst thing that can happen is opening up the pantry to find an empty Cheerios box or making sandwiches only to discover you are out of baggies or aluminum foil. There is a website and app that can help you avoid those moments of panic. It's called Alice.com.

Alice is sort of like a personal shopping assistant for household goods like toilet paper, snacks, plastic wrap and detergent. Setting up the account takes a little time. But once you create your shopping list and how often you run out of certain items, the free service will prompt you every few weeks when you are running low on certain staples and remind you to re-order. And when you check out, it looks for the best coupons on the web so that you save money without having to go looking for the latest discounts. When I tried the service, I saved about 5 buck from my order and got free shipping. Those are nice perks. My items arrived on time, neatly packed and just in time - I was on my last roll of paper towels!!

Finally, the lunches are packed, coats are buttoned and the backpacks are zipped. It's time to rush out the door. Now you have to face your commute. Between 6am and 9am, there is a surge of online queries for traffic information. One short cut to find out the latest conditions in real time is to type "traffic" and your city into the Yahoo search engine. You'll get a list of the latest traffic snarls in your area. Or, check out BeatTheTraffic.com and its mobile phone app for iPhone/iPad, HP Touchpad, Blackberry, Android platforms. The app gives you live photos of the intersections and roadways you use most, real time traffic maps and forecasting for 130 cities. There's a $3.99 ad-free version and for a $19.99 annual subscription fee, you can personalize all of your routes and receive email or text updates when there is a delay. Of course, this is an app to use before you leave the house or if you have someone else at the wheel.

Now get going and have a great day!

Do you use technology to get your family out the door? Please share your tips and tricks here.