It's a time-honored tradition — standing in line at the mall to see Santa. It can be a pleasant experience — short lines, an engaging Santa and the picture turns out perfect.

Or it can be miserable — kids whine about the long wait, Santa acts like he needs a lunch break and your kids will not sit still for the picture.

This post offers a few tips to avoid the latter and enjoy the former.

1. Ask Your Friends

Have a conversation with your friends about the go-to mall Santas in your area. We all know that some malls have better Santas than others. You know the ones — the Santas that love interacting with kids, that look the part and simply seem like they want to be there. Your friend circle can probably point you in the right direction about which mall Santa is the best to visit.

2. Go on a Weekday

Weekends at the mall at this time of the year are maddening. Parking is limited, the stores are crowded and everyone is trying to cram in a month's worth of shopping in about 5 hours. Give yourself a break and try to get your kids to the mall on a weekday when things aren't so hectic. Go immediately after school when the crowds are still a little thinner, if you cannot go during the morning hours.

3. Check the Times

Before you load up the kids, double check the mall's website or call them to make sure that Santa will be at the mall that day during the scheduled hours. There are few things worse than getting the kids' hopes up to see Santa and having their hopes dashed.

4. Check the Prices

Be prepared for sticker shock on the price of the Santa picture package. Also be prepared to be upsold. Check the prices ahead of time so you know which picture size you want and exactly how much it will cost.

5. Pack Smart

Take an extra shirt in case your child spills food or drink on the one they're wearing. Also, pack snacks, toys and games to pass the time in case you do have to wait awhile to see Santa. Make sure you have room on your smartphone to snap a few quick pictures while your child is interacting with Mr. Claus.

6. Prepare the Kids

Make sure your children know that their time with Santa is limited and that they should know which items they want to ask him for. If you think your child might be nervous about meeting the red-suited big man, prepare them with pictures, books and television shows showing Santa in a positive, fun, family-friendly setting. You might also take them to the mall prior to your visit to let them get a glimpse of Santa and build up some excitement for the big day. You might even practice your ho-ho-ho at home and let the kids do a dry run on your lap before visiting Santa for real.