The most fun I had in 2014? No contest: piloting drones. From tiny Hubsan models to bigger, badder DJI Phantoms, I quickly grew addicted to these flying machines. They're a blast, plain and simple.
And surprisingly affordable. Today, for example, you can get the Syma X5 quad-copter for $53.99 shipped. To my thinking it's the single best entry-level drone you can buy, for reasons I'll explain shortly.
First things first: this is sold on Amazon via Red Rock USA, and I have no idea how much inventory they have. If supplies run out, that link may take you to the same product from another seller, probably with a slightly different price (and with or without free Prime shipping).
Second, this model comes without a camera. If you think half the fun of flying a drone is capturing video from above, well, you're right -- which is why you should also consider the Syma X5C for $62.85 shipped. It comes from a different third-party seller (MakerBest), so same caveat as above.
A couple months back I had the chance to test-fly the X5C (the identical Swann-branded Xtreem) and came away thoroughly impressed. It's fast, easy to maneuver, and about as damage-proof as these things come, although you should definitely install the included blade-guards. I especially like the down-facing LEDs, which make the drone easier to track as you fly it higher.
Battery life is anemic -- about 7-8 minutes, which is typical for drones like this. So consider buying a few extra batteries. Also, the camera on the X5C isn't great, but you can start/stop recording via the remote (!), and you still get the post-flight fun of seeing bird's-eye footage.
Don't take my word for it: the user reviews for both models are through the roof. All I ask is that you exercise caution and common sense, especially if you're giving this to a kid. Drones can be dangerous, what with gravity and razor-sharp spinning blades and all. Study, learn, practice.
Bonus deal: Yesterday's headphone deal was all about tangle-free cords. If you'd prefer to bypass cords altogether, you need a wireless solution. Like this one: for a limited time, Outdoor Tech is offering the Privates Bluetooth headphones for $59.97 shipped. (Once you choose a color and add it to your cart, the coupon code will be applied automatically.) And if you order by tomorrow, the free three-day shipping means the 'phones will arrive by December 24. Ah, but are they any good? Check out the 4.2-star average user rating on Amazon.
Bonus deal No. 2: Reading time! Ending soon, Amazon and Google Play are offering some great deals on some great books, including "American Sniper" for $2.50, "The Boys in the Boat" for $2.99, "Ender's Game" for $2 (the book was way better than the movie), and George R.R. Martin's "A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2" for $2.50. Those links are all to the Kindle versions, but you can find their Android counterparts by searching the Google Play store.
Bonus deal No. 3: Need a kickstand for your phone? One of my favorites is the SlideStand, which sticks to the back of your phone (or, preferably, case) to offer both portrait and landscape propping at a variety of angles. It's already a great deal at $7.99, but if you apply coupon code happyholidays at checkout, you can save 30 percent. You'll still be on the hook for shipping ($4), but at least the code shaves a few bucks. There's no guarantee it'll arrive by Christmas, but it certainly would be a great stocking-stuffer.