Planning for the holidays can be stressful, especially when last-minute issues pop up. From gift mishaps to travel delays, dealing with unexpected problems can really put a damper on your festive spirit. Fortunately, with some creativity and flexibility, you can find quick solutions to many common holiday headaches. Here are 10 tips to help you solve last-minute holiday problems so you can get back to enjoying the season.

Shopping Solutions

Forgot Someone on Your Gift List?

If you realize at the last minute that you forgot to buy a gift for someone important, don’t panic. Consider giving a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant. Or put together a gift basket with some of their favorite treats, like fancy chocolates, coffee, tea, or baked goods. A subscription service for a monthly food delivery or streaming content can also make a great last-minute gift. The key is getting something you know they’ll appreciate.

Need a Gift Fast? Shop Local.

Skipping the crowded mall and shopping local boutiques, craft fairs, and small businesses can help you find something unique fast. You’ll avoid shipping delays and have lots of one-of-a-kind gift options. Look for locally made food items, art, accessories, and more. Or buy a gift certificate to a local day spa, restaurants, or leisure activity. Supporting local businesses helps the community and leads to meaningful gifts.

Wrapping Disaster? Reimagine the Presentation

If your wrapping job ends up looking like a tangled mess, reconsider how you present the gift. Pop it in a gift bag or tie some ribbon around it for an instant upgrade. Or place the unwrapped gift in a nice basket or gift box. Add a bow or some decorative embellishments to make it looks intentional. For food gifts, arrange baked goods, fruit, or treats artfully on a pretty platter or dish. With a little creativity, you can give an beautifully presented gift, wrapping mishap or not.

Travel Troubleshooting

Flight Delayed? Ask About Alternatives.

If your flight gets delayed, promptly talk to an airline agent about alternative flight options. They may be able to rebook you on an earlier flight or route you through a different city. Getting on standby for earlier flights can also get you to your destination faster. Don’t just sit around! Taking action quickly increases your chances of still making it on time.

Car Trouble on the Way to Holiday Gatherings? Call for Help.

Nothing ruins the holidays like breaking down on the drive to festivities. To avoid a disastrous auto mishap, inspect and service your vehicle before any long trips. Also pack an emergency kit with flares, jumper cables, flashlights, and basic tools. If car problems strike, call for roadside assistance right away. Most insurance providers offer this service. You’ll get expert help to safely resolve the issue or alternative transportation.

Bad Weather Delaying Travel? Research Your Rights.

From blizzards to high winds, Mother Nature can derail the best laid travel plans. If bad weather looks likely to interrupt your holiday voyage, research what compensation or rebooking options are available through the airline, hotel, rental car agency, etc. Rules vary, but most have policies for weather-related delays and trip interruptions. Knowing your rights makes it easier to reschedule with the least headaches.

Holiday Gathering Snafus

Party Guests Cancel Last Minute? Invite Others.

When guests cancel on your holiday gathering at the last minute, fill the gap by inviting other friends and neighbors. Reach out to those you know are alone for the holidays or newly moved to town. Most will appreciate a warm, welcoming invite. For a kids’ party, contact parents of classmates or other school friends. Don’t let last minute cancellations ruin the fun.

Cooking Disaster Before the Party? Order Special Dishes.

Kitchen catastrophes happen, scorching holiday dishes and plans. But don’t cancel your party! Instead, order some special items from your favorite restaurant, deli, or grocery store’s ready-to-serve selections. Get pre-made appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts that just need a quick warming. No one will know you didn’t slave in the kitchen when they taste the delicious food.

Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest Winner Backs Out? Sweeten the Pot.

Did the announced winner of your party’s ugly holiday sweater contest refuse to follow through for the glory photo? Offer a bonus prize as further incentive, like a gift card or fancy baked goods. Or make it a competition for 2nd or 3rd place to claim the title. If no one steps up, be prepared to don the awful apparel yourself for some hilarious holiday memories.

Dealing With Holiday Letdowns

Special Gift You Ordered Not Arrive on Time? Honesty is Best.

If you promised someone a special gift but shipping or inventory issues means it won’t arrive in time, don’t try to fake it. Be honest that their present will be delayed. Offer a printout of the order confirmation as proof it’s coming. And make the delay up to them with a small token gift like a gift card on the actual holiday to show you care.

Holiday Decorations Not Come Together? Focus on the Meaning.

If your decorating plans fizzle out, don’t get down. Remember what matters most about the holidays isn’t perfect ornaments or dazzling light displays. It’s spending meaningful time with loved ones. Keep the focus on making memories and feeling the holiday spirit in your heart.

Bad Weather Ruin Outdoor Holiday Plans? Take the Party Inside.

Gray skies dampening your holiday picnic or ice rink outing? Move the festivities indoors! Bust out board games, play holiday music for a dance party, build gingerbread houses, or have an indoor scavenger hunt. Get cozy with hot chocolate and cookies. The party can go on no matter the weather when you bring the fun inside.

Dealing with unexpected issues around the holidays can really challenge your cheer. But with some creative problem-solving and flexibility, you can find quick solutions to salvage your celebrations. Focus on doing what you can to stay merry and bright. The holiday spirit will shine through no matter what!

Frequently Asked Questions About Last-Minute Holiday Problems

What are some good last-minute local gift ideas?

Some great last-minute local gift ideas include gift certificates to local restaurants, coffee shops, spas, or experiences. You can also give locally made food items like baked goods, jars of jam, honey, or spices. Handcrafted gifts like knitted accessories, art, ceramics, and jewelry also make great local finds.

What if my flight gets cancelled due to weather?

If your flight gets cancelled due to weather, your airline should rebook you on the next available flight at no extra charge. Be flexible about alternate airports and connection cities. Also ask about hotel vouchers if you’re stranded overnight due to a cancellation. Review your airline’s policies online for full details on weather waivers and rebooking options.

What should I do if my car breaks down on the way to holiday events?

First, pull over safely and turn on your hazard lights. Call for roadside assistance if you have it through your insurer or auto club membership. Otherwise, call a towing company for help. They can fix simple issues like jump starts or flat tires roadside or give you a lift to a repair shop if needed. For serious breakdowns, you may need to arrange alternate transportation to make it to your holiday destination.

How can I order special holiday dishes last-minute from a grocery store?

Many grocery stores have holiday meals you can order ahead and pick up on the way to your gathering. Look for ready-made entrees, side dishes, appetizers, and desserts that just need reheating. You can order a full holiday spread and pretend you made it all yourself! Just be sure to place your order at least 48 hours in advance to ensure availability.

What if my online gift order won’t arrive on time for the holidays?

If your online gift order is delayed, let the recipient know as soon as possible it will be late. Provide the order confirmation and estimated delivery date so they know you didn’t forget. You can also give them a small token gift or gift card to open on the actual holiday while they await the main present. Following up with a phone call or card when the gift arrives helps make amends for the shipping delay.


Dealing with last-minute mishaps during the holidays can really dampen your holiday spirit. From shopping snafus to travel delays, unexpected issues always seem to crop up when you least expect them. But with some creative problem-solving, flexibility, and a sense of humor, you can overcome just about any holiday headache. Focus on doing whatever it takes to keep the celebrations going and make the most of the season. With the right attitude and these handy tips, you can solve most holiday headaches that come your way. Here’s to smooth sailing through the season and creating festive memories no matter what surprises arise along the way!