Commuters heading to Long Island wait out the few Long Island Rail Road trains running at Penn Station in New York, Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, after a fire in a switching tower after a fire in a switching tower near the LIRR's Jamaica station halted all eastbound and westbound service on 10 of the railroad's 11 branches. Limited service was restored later in the day. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Most trains, planes and automobiles had smooth going on Christmas Eve in New York City despite the rush of last-minute shoppers and those still trying to get out of town.
Many travelers were most concerned Friday about keeping themselves on time. Actor Eric Jennings says he stayed up all night rather than rise before dawn for a flight to Oklahoma City. He was waiting early in the morning for his flight out of LaGuardia Airport.
Holiday travel wasn't glitch free for everyone though. Dollena Campbell and Varnel Noel found themselves scrambling to make a flight to Louisville out of the same airport after a communications mixup.
Even for them, things eventually worked out.
For last minute shoppers, things will likely work out, too. Procrastinators shouldn't hit too many snags, if they're open-minded. Macy's and others had plenty of sweaters and other fashions, for example. Store inventories are not as depleted as last year, when merchants scared about having too many leftovers saw some empty shelves near the end of the season.
A sporting goods store she went to was sold out of New York Giants slippers and jerseys she wanted for her brother-in-law.
Shoppers are not seeing the 75-percent-off-everything fire sales that characterized the 2008 holiday. Still, many stores deepened discounts this week. Express's store at the Manhattan Mall in midtown had a huge yellow sign in its storefront window promoting an "end of the season 50 percent sale'' on selected items.
At CVS, there are buy-two-get-one free deals on bath-and-body gift sets and discounts on a 7-inch LCD TV and DVD player combo.
If all else fails, shoppers will fall back on gift cards. Spending on the plastic vouchers is expected to reach nearly $25 billion this holiday season, 5 percent more than last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Retailers say shoppers have mostly stuck to a big lesson taught by the recession: using cash, not credit. Toward the end of the season, they pulled out the plastic a little more often, but that's normal. Overall, analysts consider the increased spending a sign more consumers have paid down debt and have cash to spend.
Besides sales, retailers are finding other ways to accommodate procrastinators.
Many stores, including Best Buy Co., let shoppers order online and then pick up the merchandise at the store. Best Buy's deadline to order on its website is 3 p.m. Christmas Eve, and most stores close at 6 p.m.
Best Buy's store in Union Square in Manhattan had about 300 people in the store Friday morning, said store manager Amy Adoniz. And she said more than 100 online orders are coming in every hour for store pickup. Among the top sellers are e-readers, cameras and video-game systems.
"People are in the holiday spirit. They're feeling more at ease,'' she said.