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How to track Santa Claus with your kids on your iPhone or iPad

As much of the world counts down the hours until Christmas Day, families can spend time together on their iPhone or iPad with these free apps that track the current location of Santa Claus.

Norad Tracks Santa

Perhaps the best known Santa Claus tracking method is NORAD, which has its own dedicated app available for free, designed for both iPhone and iPad. Upon opening the app, users will be presented with a 3D map featuring a rendering of Santa and his reindeer as they trot across the globe.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has been running the Christmas-themed program since 1955. It began when a Sears department store in Colorado Springs placed an ad in a newspaper telling children to call a number to talk to Santa Claus, but mistakenly printed the number for the Colorado Springs Continental Air Defense Command.

With an influx of calls to his station, Colonel Harry Shoup had his staff check the radar for any signs of Santa traveling south from the North Pole, and provide updates to children. In 1958, CONAD became a part of NORAD, and the tradition continues to this day.

The "NORAD Tracks Santa" app is a native recreation of the event's mobile website. In addition to current location, it features games, videos, music, information about NORAD and its mission, and more.

Google Santa Tracker

Another way to track Santa Claus is the official Google Maps app for iOS. Simply open the app on your iPhone or iPad and search for Santa Claus, and you'll be presented with his location on a map, as well as the option to "visit" that location.

Upon tapping the visit icon in the bottom righthand corner, the Google Maps app opens an in-app Web browser to present information like current distance, gifts delivered, and next stop.

The Google Santa Tracker is also available in Safari on an iPhone, iPad or Mac by opening the Google Maps website and searching for Santa Claus.

For those curious, Apple Maps for iOS and Mac does not provide updates on the current location of Santa Claus. Searching his name simply provides directions to the city of Santa Claus, Ind.

The small town of Santa Claus has the world's only post office to bear the most common name for Kris Kingle, which results in thousands of letters being received there every year. Since at least 1914, volunteers known as "Santa's Elves" ensure that every child who sends a letter receives a response from Santa.