Make room for one more certainty. Despite Ben Franklin's aphorism that "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," you can count on it that if you have relatives in a snowbound state, they will be coming to visit in December. And they will be spending every moment in the money mills south of downtown: theme parks, outlet malls and International Drive. And no doubt, they will be staying in one of the charming holiday hives lining I-4 on the way to Lake Buena Vista, and you will be visiting them there.
So if you make it to Dec. 24 without having bought any gifts for the visiting hordes, have no fear. Of the many Gala gift stores scattered around Vacation Valhalla, there's one that's just unbelievably convenient for a scatterbrained last-ditcher like you. You've seen it from I-4 before. Looming up from the wing of exit 68, the two-story-high eagle festooning its stucco facade beckons the eleventh-hour shopper with the promise of … well, with the promise of cheap consumer goods, available until 11 p.m. Christmas Eve.
1. T-shirts ($9.99-$14.99) Jokey T-shirts are king at Gala, from venerable old classics ("FBI: Female Body Inspector") to just-on-the-edge-of-being-played-out pop-culture tropes ("YOLO") to genius levels of crassitude: A shirt with the caption "My kids think I have money coming out my …" has a cartoon ass with a three-dimensional dollar bill protruding from its anus. Bonus points if little Cousin Skyler manages to rip it off Grandpa's shirt!
2. Assorted bumper stickers ($1.49) There's nothing like a little homespun philosophy, and here in 'Murricah we like to put our words where everyone can see them. If not on our chest, then right next to the exhaust pipe, where everyone behind us in traffic can see how smart we are. If Uncle Todd doesn't want to take the risk of inflaming road rage, a sticker proclaiming "I support single moms" with a picture of a chick on a stripper pole will be equally hilarious pinned up on his cubicle wall back at work.
3. Deck of playing cards ($2.99) Card games always help pass the time on family vacations (for those of the family who disdain electronic games), and Gala has a decent selection of cards emblazoned with Florida-cliché pictures like dolphins, seashells and dogs dressed as lifeguards. Two, though, bear images to strike fear into any beach vacationer's heart: Uncle Eddie will shudder at the sight of a gaping-jawed great white shark or, gasp!, a bikini'd fat woman having fun.
4. Sunblock ($12.99) and aloe gel ($8.49) The best thing you can give your loved ones is high-SPF sunblock and some real talk: No matter how much they want to return to the Midwest flaunting a tan,
basal-cell carcinoma just isn't worth it. Since Aunt Ruth never listens, lidocaine-laced aloe gel makes a good companion.
5. Shell nightlight ($7.99) Grandmas love shell nightlights. It's an indisputable natural law, like gravity or evolution. (Suck it, Kansas.) There are no shells to be found naturally in all of Touristan, but Floridian gift shops are required by law to carry shells, sand dollars, starfish and the like. Fact.
6. Cat-shaped key rack ($13.99) Poor nerdy teen Cousin Amy, so addicted to Internet kitteh videos (though really, who among us isn't?). She'll adore this heavily laminated wood plaque in the shape of a cat, inexplicably labeled "Florida," though what teen has that many keyrings? No matter. The eyes on this fluffy white angel display the sort of insanity that could be the making of a YouTube star; sadly, this cat's immortality will be limited to the background of Amy's many Instagram selfies.
12805 S. Apopka Vineland Road