Staying Connected to Family Over the Holidays

Use technology to celebrate with loved ones this holiday season

Published on LatinoLA: December 18, 2011

Staying Connected to Family Over the Holidays

Busy schedules, expensive airfare and snow storms are a few of the barriers that might come between you and being home for the holidays. With the click of a button on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, you can be a part of the holiday merriment with family and friends near and far, without even leaving your couch. So hang up the stockings and light up the fire. Let Geek Squad show you how to stay connected with the ones you love this holiday season.

Virtual Get-Togethers

If you can't be there in person, a variety of options can make you feel like part of the holiday magic, so check out these tips for connecting with loved ones from your favorite tech devices:

‘«ů Holiday Hangout: Businesses are constantly perfecting the art of keeping in touch without leaving the office, but with applications like Google+ Hangouts, home users can connect with friends and family near and far all in the name of fun without even leaving their homes. Hangouts let you build social groups called circles, so you can shoot the breeze with whoever's online and available in the circles you choose. Another option is connecting through your gaming console. Most gaming consoles are designed to make it easy to meet up with other players online, but don't forget that if both you and your family have an Xbox 360 with a Kinect, it becomes a very affordable and simple teleconferencing system. If both houses also have Netflix, you can use the Xbox Live party system to watch streaming movies together with voice chat.

‘«ů No Vacancy: It can be difficult fitting ever-growing families in one person's home over the holidays. Sometimes there's just not enough room, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate together! Video conferencing programs like Skype and FaceTime bring people together via the web, so you'll not only hear Grandma's voice, you'll get to see her new 'do as well. If you want to have dinner with the whole family, no additional seating is necessary. If you have a webcam on your computer, tablet, smartphone or MP3 player, just set up your gear in front of a place setting, sign on and start video chatting. If you're at a location without WiFi, don't worry. Some smartphones will let you create your own roaming WiFi signal. Once you are connected on your smartphone, you can pick up the signal on your laptop as well. Not quite sure how?

‘«ů IM Happy to Chat: With so many different devices and apps available, you can reach and locate your friends and family instantly through a number of different channels. Here are some of our favorites:

o Instant Messenger services for home computers have been around for years, but that doesn't mean they should be counted out when it comes to keeping in touch. Free, online messenger services like Meebo let people stay connected to friends and family from their home computer and their mobile devices. The mobile capability is an added bonus to avoid texting overage fees for those without unlimited plans. Instant messaging is perfect when you have just one question about the ingredients in mom's holiday cookies.

o Consider that the average person has three telephone numbers (home, work, mobile). With a free Google Voice account, you create one number that allows friends and family to reach you wherever you are. The service can be setup to ring any of your phones and connect the caller to the first one you pick up. It also includes free services such as forwarding text messages to email and transcribing voice mail to email. You can also download Google Voice apps on your smartphone (Android, iPhone, Blackberry, free).

‘«ů Out of Your Home for the Holidays: Sometimes, "staying connected" just means knowing where your loved ones are. Smartphones are a great help with apps like Find My Friends or Foursquare. Also, don't forget apps that can help keep families connected during emergencies. Life360 can be useful in letting your family know you are okay during the winter storms. When your kids are off doing holiday shopping, Panic Button can instantly send SMS and email to friends and family with Google map links to your GPS location.

Season's E-Greetings!

The holiday season is a time to reach out to loved ones you haven't connected with in a long time. Many people choose to keep postal workers busy by sending cards via snail mail, but with social media, the modern-day family can send their holiday card within seconds. In some cases, these cards can even become a two-way conversation. Here are the Geek Squad's tips for some holiday greetings with a technology twist:

‘«ů #HappyHolidays!: Start a blog, and get your friends and family up to speed on your latest and greatest adventures with one quick post. Open up an account with Facebook or Twitter to stay even more connected. You can even start a common family hashtag on Twitter for a quick and easy way to view all the updates from your family members.

‘«ů A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Want the chance to show off your adorable baby nephew in his warm winter hat or your prize-winningly gorgeous home-style apple pie? Use free photo-sharing tools such as Flickr, Picasa, Snapfish and Shutterfly to flaunt your digital pictures on the web. Most of these websites offer packages for holiday greeting cards and allow you to build your own photo albums ‘«Ű the perfect gift for grandma and grandpa! Want to share instantly? Use camera apps like Instagram and Lightbox to make the photos you capture with your smartphone, look like they were done by a pro.

For help with all your technology needs, call 1.800 GEEK SQUAD to set up an onsite consultation, find an Agent or location near you at www.geeksquad.com, or visit the Geek Squad Precinct at Best Buy and other locations to speak with an Agent directly.

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