December 20, 2011 02:00 PM

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Between shopping, traveling and getting-together, the holidays are a hectic time for most families. But they don’t necessarily have to be, says Microsoft‘s Senior Director of Consumer Products, Craig Beilinson (below), who recommends putting technology to work this time of year.

“Technology is just playing more and more of a role in everybody’s lives,” he tells PEOPLE. “It’s not just for the super elite or geeks and nerds anymore. We’re all trying to use technology to help.”

As the father of two young boys, ages 9 and 6, Beilinson himself is no stranger to maneuvering a busy holiday, and below, he outlines his best tips for surviving the season:

Use what you have. Most adults are inseparable from their computers and smartphones, and Beilinson advises taking advantage of that access to ensure a stress-free holiday, whether party-planning or shopping.

“Free recipe sites offer hundreds of holiday cooking ideas which can be stored on your phone for easy reference,” he says. “And you can create e-vites or print place cards and gift tags from your home PC.”

Likewise, “Not only can you shop online from the comfort of your home, but if you’re out and see a gift you want to grab, you can order it straight from your phone and avoid long lines and higher prices.”

Courtesy Microsoft

Make the most of mobile services. Unexpected delays while traveling during the holiday season can often prove a nightmare, but Beilinson says parents can prepare for downtime by planning ahead, especially to keep kids occupied.

“Pre-load the games your kids like, and TV shows and podcasts for you, on your laptop or phone,” he says.

Find a digital solution. With airfare and other traveling options rising in price, it can be difficult to get everyone in the same place at the same time. But that doesn’t mean a family reunion is impossible.

“The good news is that today it’s easy to feel close to family and friends even if they’re far away,” says Beilinson. “With affordable services like Skype, and new ways to stay close, from video-chat options on phones to playing games or watching movies through game consoles, you can connect, face-to-face with the ones you love without breaking the bank.”

Don’t be afraid to dive in. For those tentative to embrace technology, Beilinson encourages turning to the little ones in the household to learn more. “Over half of parents say their kids are helping them to be technologically savvy,” he says, pointing out that technology can bring families together even when used as a teaching tool.

“It’s astounding what you can learn from a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old, trust me. Kids love to share what they know about technology so don’t be afraid to involve them in the conversation!”

To find out about Microsoft’s family-friendly technology products, go to

Kiran Hefa

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