Driving home for Christmas? Top ten panic buys from service stations

You know how it is – December just appears on the calendar and before you know it, the Big Day is looming large and you haven’t bought any presents. Some people cover up their lack of planning by using the whole ‘I love shopping on Christmas Eve, it’s so festive’ explanation whilst others (one in three) get around to it so late they can’t even use that as an excuse and have to resort to buying gifts from service stations.

Now, service stations are good for lots of things, but nothing says ‘I can’t be bothered’ more than a motorway station gift, but sometimes, needs must – so here’s a top ten service station gift guide complete with how to blag it (you can thank us later).

1. USB sticks: These are useful – sell it as ‘it’s so you can charge your phone on the go so we’re never out of touch’. Surely that’s an explanation that’ll melt even the coldest of hearts.

2. Chocolates: Ok, it’s a cliché but sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a service station with an M&S, in which case, they’re not just any old chocolates are they? Just avoid the obvious last-minute boxes of Milk Tray and Turkish Delight.

3. Comedy slippers: Say something along the lines of ‘keeping your feet warm in winter helps prevent colds’ and if you say it with meaning and offer them as if they were a gift you actually meant to buy, then it’ll show you care (make sure you practise your sincere face in the car).

4. Memory foam pillow: This goes for any memory foam type gift and it’s a health sell – ‘It’s so your back/neck/head doesn’t ache when you drive/sit/sleep’ (choose the applicable). It goes well with an extra-large fleecy blanket, so if you can find one of those too, then it’s a winner.

5. De-icer: If you’re unlucky with your service station this might be as good as it gets, so you’ll really need to play the safety card hard on this: ‘I worry about you driving with ice on your windscreen; this is to make sure you stay safe’ – can’t fail.

6. BBQ briquettes: This is not as bad as it first seems and you can work with this one if it’s all you can find. This is a gift to show longevity – ‘these are for the barbecues we’ll have together in the summer’. Hopefully you might even get them discounted (because it is winter, after all) in which case you can stretch the budget and maybe add some ice cube trays too for those ‘cool drinks on summer evenings’ – keep to the theme and you might even convince yourself that it’s a great gift.

7. A foldaway chair: Another summer themed gift and if you buy two (you old romantic) you can talk about ‘how we can sit together and watch the sun setting whilst we sip our drinks using the ice cubes we made in the tray I also just bought you’ – with that kind of story telling you’ll be up for the next Booker Prize.

8. A watch: This is a good gift and the fact that it cost £5 and was from a motorway service station shouldn’t matter – just remove the price tag.

9. Books: Again, another great gift so don’t be embarrassed by this one. Just avoid any self-help or dieting guides!

10. Gift vouchers: A bit of a cop out but nevertheless at least the recipient can get what they like, but with vouchers, you’ll need to stump up to make it worth it. A £5 WH Smith voucher really has no redeemable features even for a master blagger.

Of course, you could avoid the whole last minute panic by being just a teeny bit more organised – because now we’re in the 21st century, there’s a whole new invention called online shopping which could save you a whole heap of time (and trouble) over the festive season. And you know, you could even do a spot of shopping whilst you’re here – because there’s no better way of saying how much you care for someone than by helping them save money (apart from diamonds); so comparethemarket.com and wrap up your advice in a bow - what’s the worst that could happen?