Trick or treat! How to maximize Halloween hauls

It's time to get strategic about trick-or-treating.

With Halloween falling on a school day this year and many towns imposing curfews of 7 or 8 p.m., kids have a short window to make the most of candy collection. Not to mention, show off that expensive costume.

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To improve your odds of a substantial candy haul, pick the right neighborhood. Zillow.com's annual assessment (see graphic below) factors in population density, median home values, walkability and safety. "You want to be able to hit a lot of homes," said Skylar Olsen, a senior economist with Zillow.com. Plus, "large, wealthy homes are the [ones that] can give out those king-sized candy bars."

The lessons translate even if you don't live in a top-ranked city. Ask other parents for tips on best neighborhoods. "Everyone has got their own secrets," Olsen said. "They know the blocks with the haunted houses or the great decorations."

Then get the kids involved. They can learn plenty by strategizing their trick-or-treating route, said Brian Marks, an instructional math coach for Newton Public Schools outside Boston. "It takes kids beyond skill work and engages them in real-life problem solving," said Marks, who is also the creator of resource site YummyMath.com. The site's Halloween lessons include activities to calculate which container will hold the most candy and determine the most efficient path from house to house.

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"You start to think about, how long is this going to take you?" Marks said. "What's the best way to go through the neighborhood?" Kids might find it makes more sense to zig-zag instead of loop down a street, for example, or see on a map which of the good neighborhoods has the smallest lawns—and so, the potential for shorter trips door-to-door, and more candy.