I had to make about 100 tote bags in a week for a special project for a local nonprofit. They wanted them simple and big enough to hold a notebook. I made up a pattern as I went along, but here's essentially what I did on LazyGirlDeigns's site. I used all sorts of different fabrics, sometimes adding a pocket, sometimes adding binding around the top and sometimes not. This is about the simplest tote around, so you can use it as a faux gift wrap and gift in one. Make them for kids to use as library bags. I would suggest double stitching the seams and/or serging them for strength.
If you like a more "traditional" tote, you can use this pattern from Make It Easy.