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Help for those last-minute holiday chores

Simple  ideas to help you eliminate  stress and celebrate the season. "Today" guests offer some advice.
/ Source: TODAY

With only one day to go until the holidays are in full swing, you can still create your own family tradition, book a vacation destination, wrap all those presents and even find that last-minute gift, all in or close to your home. In a special five-part series on "Today," guests share some of their ideas on how to tackle last-minute holiday tasks. Learn more about their suggestions.

LAST-MINUTE GIFTS FOR YOUR LOVED ONES:
As the saying goes, it's now or never, but if you’re looking for a last-minute gift, fear not. There’s still hope. You still have time to find something and odds are you won’t have to go far from home. Robyn Spizman, author of “The Giftionary,” shares some quick and easy solutions.

Getting last-minute gifts online:eBay.com: For the first time, eBay gift certificates are available. eBay Gift Certificates can be used as payment towards any item found on eBay where PayPal is accepted as a payment method. You can either send a certificate via e-mail or print it out on the computer.  Denominations start at $25.

Photowow.com: Order the Memory Maker gift certificate and your recipient can have their own favorite non-copyrighted holiday photo transformed into a lasting gift like a photo purse, coasters, mini-canvas, or large piece of art. To order, print a temporary certificate and roll it up with a ribbon. A hard copy of the certificate will be mailed to the recipient in the mail with a 38-page photowow.com catalog.

Shwamy.com: Shwamy Creations E-Certificates is for personalized gifts. Custom kids gift stickers and grown-up personal stationery priced from $12-$40 (shipping and taxes where applicable are extra).

Spafinder.com:Spafinder's E Certificate. Order a Spa Gift Certificate from $25 and up from spafinder.com as late as Christmas day. Within minutes, your recipient is instantly notified with a fun animated, musical E-card It's stress-free gift giving for really last-minute shoppers. No shipping fees on purchases more than $75. Spa Finder Gift Certificate is good toward any spa treatment or product at more than 1,200 of the world's finest spas.

Grab it and go -- neighborhood stores:Fun & games for the family! Target features a Michael Graves, cherry wood with storage Scrabble Game ($49.99). This distinctive edition of the classic word game Scrabble features Michael Graves' Design signature playfulness and style.

Michael Graves Design travel chess/checkers, $24.99: This beautiful Michael Graves Design wood box features a cherry stain and wood veneer finish, and opens to become the playing surface for chess or checkers. 

Or, how about a painter's palette or rainbow of fish nets, socks, stockings, or gloves, scarfs and more. Available at Target or your local department store for everyone on your list. Fill a tool box with gloves for guys or a tray with fish nets for a 'tray chic' friend.

Retro candy: Here's a blast from the past - retro anything! (Pez, nikkos, dots, good & plenty, candy from the past). Add stickers, personalize a name, etc.

Ice bucket: Fill it with golf balls for a gift that's par for the course.

Grab it at your local office supply store:Cross Ion Pens: Cool small pens available in 12 colors for @$25.Fill a mailing tube with Hershey Kisses and decorate the tube in a split second with electrical tape to make a candy cane-like pattern. Slip in the pen and you're ready to go!

Grab it at the drug store:Glamour girls: Create a glamour girl kit with Covergirl & Max Factor makeup, nail polish, lipsticks, etc. and put them in a makeup kit for an instant gift.

Phone cards and an address book:Combine the phone card with an address book and add in the VIP addresses, dates, emergency phone numbers. Pass it around at the family holiday dinner so everyone can add their information.

Grab it at the grocery:Italian dinner in a colander: Grab a colander from the store and add five different-sized packages of pasta and a few jars of sauces.

Instant gift wraps:
Minute-made gift wraps:Giving the gift of wine: Grab a dish towel and wrap it up instantly. Or, pull a sock on the wine bottle and add a bow. Socks also work great for umbrellas and small items.

Bows on the go: Tie a long wool scarf around games for a faux bow you can wear later! Hair ribbons and bows added are cute on packages.

BOOK A LAST-MINUTE HOLIDAY TRIP:
Whether it be by air, sea or land "Today" travel editor, Peter Greenberg offers some hints on finding the best last-minute deals for your holiday getaway.

Last-minute holiday deals from airlines:
Try traveling on Christmas Day when many airlines run special fares, but passengers need to ask about return dates to guarantee the lowest fare. Typically the "low holiday season" is traveling on Dec. 25 and returning Jan. 1-2 and 6, 2004.

Low fares are available by calling the airlines directly or checking out web sites that offer last-minute deals/information. You can also try exploring these sites:

site59.com lastminutetravel.com flyertalk.com air-fare.com quikbook.com

Holiday specials on Amtrak: air travel combination with trains:
Amtrak Air Rail Special:Amtrak and United Airlines have created a partnership so you can experience the adventure of travel and the luxury of getting home quickly. This special combination is available at United Airlines destinations.To learn more you can visit: www.amtrak.com and click on Air/Rail.

Special hotel deals:
1. Las Vegas:
Quikbook.com quotes hotel rooms at hotels such as the Tropicana resort for as low as $35. The New Westin has rooms for $81. Harrahs is offering a $29 special.

2. Skiing in Utah: Snowbird has great skiing and is celebrating with an early ski special package that starts at $95. Guests must stay a minimum of three nights. The package includes lift tickets for three days. Rates start at $95 per person at The Inn. You can learn more by visiting the snowbird Web site.

3. Florida: Head to the Sawgrass Marriott Resort, in Ponte Vedra Beach and you'll find a 30 percent discount for families. The "Stocking Stuffer" special starts at $125 per night, which includes a stocking stuffed with goodies for the kids.

Overseas specials:
Here are two  specials to England. The Radisson Edwardian's 11 boutique hotels in London are offering a room for two from $149, from December 19 to January 11. Full English breakfast is included.  Also, American Airlines and Red Carnation Hotels are offering a three-night getaway that includes air and hotel. Rates from New York start at $816.

A holiday cruise:
Depending upon your availability, cruises might be a good last-minute option. Many cruises are running air/cabin specials. But, check out a quick holiday cruise from December 28 to January 1 on Carnival. The Fantasy has a cabin/air deal for about $1,000 per person.

Donate your miles to our troops:
If you cannot travel, but would like to see one of our troops travel home, you can participate in the "Heromiles" program. Donate your miles and let a soldier fly home. Soldiers will be brought to three U.S. cities, but then they are on their own to reach their final destination. You can donate your extra miles on several airlines and provide a way home for a soldier for Christmas. Learn more by visiting: www.heromiles.org.


MAKE YOUR OWN WRAPPING PAPER AT HOME:
If you're looking for the right wrapping paper and want to avoid another trip to the stores, you can make your own wrapping paper at home. Just take a look at your color printer and find more tips by visiting these Web sites:-www.epson.com
-www.homeandoffice.hp.com

HOW TO START A FAMILY TRADITION:
Family traditions are a great way to get your whole family into the Christmas spirit. Here are three examples of how people are sharing the spirit of the season:

Operation Santa Claus is a tradition that has been at the post office for over 80 years. It is a program that collects "To Santa" letters from needy or disadvantaged children. The public is invited to take a letter home and answer it, either by sending a gift to the child or writing a letter. Seven years ago, Sharon Glassman felt moved to do more than just answer one of the 300,000 letters collected, so she wrote "Love, Santa" a book based on her one-woman show about truly experiencing the spirit of Christmas. Sharon hosts "Love, Santa" parties and distributes these letters to guests. Her dream is to see that all of these letters get answered.To learn more you can visit her site at: www.love-santa.com

Giving to children: At the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Chevy Chase high school senior David Brand donated toys he bought with the $5,000 he raised this summer hosting a benefit concert with his jazz band. David was treated as a young boy with severe ear infections at the hospital, and wants to give back. He feels children in their early teens are often overlooked with toy drives, so he bought toys especially for them. The toys are part of the hospital's Dr. Bear's Toy Chest Drive.

Hosting a "Yankee Swap": This New England tradition is about giving and swapping (exactly what the yankee spirit is about) gifts. J.D. Hale, Jr. is the publisher of Yankee Magazine and he explains how this gift exchange takes place on "Today." Here's how it works:1. Invite every guest to bring a wrapped present2. Make numbered pieces of paper for the total number of guests and mix them in a bowl3. Pass the bowl, each person choosing a number4. Whoever draws #1 chooses gift and opens it5. #2 then chooses and opens a gift and decides either to keep that gift or trade for #1's6. Opening and swapping continues until all gifts are open7. The person who picked first gets to choose from all presents!

HOLIDAY CARDS IN A HURRY:
If you haven’t already started, is there still enough time to create a photo greeting  card? You bet there is. “Today” contributor Paul Hochman offers tips on how you can get those family photo greetings out in time.

Every year, many of us try to get that holiday photo taken during summer vacation, and then get that beautiful personalized card ordered by October and stuffed by early December. We all receive those kinds of cards in the mail, but for those of us who never seem to make the deadline, here are three ways to get it done at the last minute:

1. Digital camera/printer: If you've got one at home then you can create a holiday photo postcard and send it out. It's a good way to send out a few cards.

2. Order on Line: You can go to several sites that will accept last-minute orders for Christmas. You logon, scan in your photo and continue by either choosing a standard holiday card or by creating your own message. They're very easy to follow. Also, don't feel pressure to have a photo, orders are accepted for personalized cards without pictures as well.Here are some sites:-Ofoto.com: offers Federal Express delivery.-Shutterfly.com: suggests overnight shipping, but will address and send your cards if you upload your address book to them (at no extra charge).-Snapfish.com
-AllChristmascards.com: depending on the order will turn orders around in one business day.

Prices vary on each site, but the more cards you order the cheaper the individual cost. For example, on Shutterfly, 50 cards cost $1.43 each but 100 cards cost $1.27 each.

3. Create Your Own Card With Your Printer:
You can make a printable card at home by visiting bluemountain.com. To do this, you need to join BlueMountain for one month which will cost $20.