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It's happened to all of us. Despite getting our gift buying done early, spending extra on shipping, or memorizing guaranteed delivery dates, sometimes an order just isn't going to show up on time—and you're left looking as poorly prepared as Santa after the fog rolls in on Rudolph's night off.
The first step is? Don't panic. No matter whether your gift isn't showing up at the giftee's place in time for the holidays, or isn't getting to you in time to bring with you, there's probably nothing you can do about it (except to perhaps cancel the order, if it hasn't shipped yet).
So take a deep breath, let it out slowly... and browse this list of options!
1. Give the gift of an experience
Giving a nicely wrapped gift is great, but only if it's going to show up on time—otherwise, it's just gracing the inside of a shipping box. If you need something that will arrive instantaneously, tickets to a sporting event or concert, a gift certificate for an activity, or anything that exists in a strictly digital capacity is the way to do it.
Try something like Eventbrite or SeatGeek if you're looking for tickets to a concert or event near the person you're gifting. If you gift them two tickets, maybe they'll bring you along! I did that recently, and now I'm soaking in a hot tub for 45 minutes next week.
Using sites like those, you can usually send the tickets directly if you know the recipient's e-mail address, but you can also have them delivered electronically to your own e-mail address so you can decide when to forward them to the giftee or if you'd rather print them out and present them in person.
2. Give them a gift card
Gift cards aren't just a great option when you can't think of what to buy your giftee. Like tickets, they can also be delivered via email (or probably text), meaning you can deliver them instantly.
There is a huge selection of e-Gift or print at home gift cards on Amazon, and it's super easy to punch in your giftee's e-mail address and send them a holiday greeting along with their present. You could even mention they can expect something else from you—the slow-to-arrive gift— sometime after the holidays.
If you have a little more time, you can also get physical gift cards in a decorative box that should arrive from Amazon quite reliably, especially now that the company has extended free shipping and same-day delivery. Plenty of retail and conveninec estores sells gifts cards as well, but your price options may be more limited.
3. Gift a subscription box
If you're not aware of subscription boxes, they're curated packages that arrive every month containing all sorts of neat items, like beauty accessories, hobby peripherals, or even ingredients to cook meals.
The actual box most likely will not arrive for the holidays—you already kind of dropped the ball on that one. But you can give them something to look forward to after the holidays are over. We've got well-researched guides to the best beauty boxes and best meal kits to get you started.
You can also check out a big catch-all like CrateJoy, which has a huge selection of subscription boxes in virtually every category and for every type of person you can think of. Heck, you might end up getting something for yourself while you're at it.
4. Get out there and shop
This one's a bit more specific—and a bit more obvious—but if the gift you shipped to yourself isn't going to arrive before you leave to visit the person you bought it for, you might need to just suck it up and go buy something in person that you can wrap and bring with you.
Don't panic if you don't know what stores are around where you're visiting. It's as simple as opening up Google Maps and—assuming you have location services enabled on your laptop or iPad—typing in "retail shops." You can find something nearby like a novelty shop or specialty store and find something totally unique for your giftee.
Just don't buy anything too bizarre if you're picking something up before you fly to visit family with gifts in tow. Or at least check the TSA's "What Can I Bring?" list first.
5. Give the gift of travel
This might sound crazy expensive at first glance, but, you don't have to buy a fully expensed flight and hotel package to give the gift of travel.
If your giftee's just been looking for a change of pace over the weekend, you could book them a couple nights at a within-driving-distance (but hopefully scenic) location on AirBNB. It's easy to search by town, city, or zip code, and book places enough in advance that you get a good price and they have plenty of time to pack.
If you'd rather avoid the stress of picking a suitable location, but you still want to help a friend get away, you could always take the gift card route and pick up an AirBNB gift card. Alternatively, check out Hotels.com if you're looking to gift a slightly more traditional and amenity-focused getaway.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.