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December 22, 2010

The 5 best last-minute Christmas gift ideas

Don't panic: there's still time to impress, a bit

By Jason Stamper

Santa Claus

Even if you’re snowed in and won’t be able to get to the nearest petrol station to buy your loved one that ring-bound A-Z or novelty car air freshener they have always wanted, it’s not impossible to get some fantastic gifts organised from the comfort of an armchair.

Simply log on to one of the Christmas crackers below and you could be enjoying the smug glow of appreciation on Christmas day, and you won’t even have to battle the Desperate Dads frantically trying to work out the difference between an E and a Double D in the underwear department at Marks and Sparks on Christmas Eve.

1. The Daily Chic

The brainchild of the glamorous former Apprentice contestant Michelle Dewberry, who is also behind and has been reviewing the news with Eamonn Holmes on Sky News at the crack of dawn of late. This site is perfect for those Desperate Dads as it’s got loads of gifts for the ‘laydees’, with seemingly impressive savings to boot.

For Her: £19 for a wash cut and blow dry, facial and manicure from Mollie Sugden Hairdressing, usually priced at £92.

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For Him: How about a Gentleman’s Grooming Day including cut throat shave, facial, balinese head massage plus a shampoo, cut and blow dry at O Spa for £27 instead of £119?

Weird and Wonderful: £10 for a 30-minute fish pedicure, foot scrub and massage worth £45, plus a glass of bubbly at Bliss Fish – a saving of 78%. Or just buy some tiddlers and chuck them in the bath.

2. Red Letter Days

A wide range of activities (sorry, experiences) sold in voucher form. Set up by former BBC Dragon Rachel Elnaugh, the business hit the rocks as debts mounted in August 2005. It was rescued by two fellow Dragons — Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones, who purchased the company out of administration.

They made the decision to honour an estimated 135,000 Red Letter Days vouchers, to a value of approximately £17m, and the site is now back on track. It’s still offering experiences in voucher form as well as adjacent services such as event planning, incentive programs and team building that they sell to businesses.

Red Letter Days usually sends the voucher in a gift box with all the details but they’ll email you the voucher to present on Christmas Day while you wait for the box to clear Christmas post.

For Her: Introduction to indoor skydiving, £49.

For Him: An Italian cookery master class for £149.

Weird and Wonderful: How about going Segway racing in the country for £30 – just watch out for any steep drops (the owner of Segway accidentally rode his off a cliff in his own back yard).

3. LivingSocial

Similar to The Daily Chic, this one offers daily deals that they’re keen to email you, but you can also go straight to the site and buy a current or past deal near to your location (if they’re not already sold out).

For Her: A range of evening cookery classes including Indian, Thai, and vegetarian at Angela Malik cookery school for £40.

For Him: Two-hour luxury chocolate truffle-making class for one (£24) or two (£47) – everyone’s a winner.

Weird and Wonderful: not much recently, although a night of comedy at Jongleurs in Bristol could be considered weird if you live in Glasgow, say.

4. Groupon MyCityDeal

Choose your city then choose various voucher deals. Simple, though they ask for an email address when you first visit (we gave them a fake one so we could have a poke around – naughty!)

For Her: Get fit for the new year with ten full day passes to SpringHealth Hampstead Gym for £19 instead of £200 – allegedly saving 91%.

For Him: Cellar Master Event for £22 instead of £65: enjoy eight superior fine wines accompanied by cheese, charcuterie, antipasti and market specials with Bedales.

Weird and Wonderful: may have finished now… but £8 to see the animals of London Zoo by night; some might still be awake? But you also get bar entry and a ‘silent disco’. Eh?

5. Firebox

Many websites of course sell vouchers, but if vouchers from Amazon are a little too tame for the loved one in your life, how about buying some vouchers from lesser-known Firebox?

Specialising in gadgets, gizmos and games, there’s something on the site for nearly everyone, though you might perhaps be thinking more stocking filler than ‘main event’, unless the most important person in your life still is, or thinks they are, a teenager.

For Her: a Firebox gift voucher.

For Him: a Firebox gift voucher.

Weird and Wonderful: most things on the site, as it happens. How about a dressing gown/blanket called a Slanket; Red Hot Chilli Jellies; Underwater Disco Lightshow for the bath; Giant Gummi Bears; Chocolate Inhalers or a Bungee Birdfeeder? I know, I know.

But still, it’ll give you something to talk about at Christmas other than the Queen’s Speech or how moist the turkey is.

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