Welp, 2020 is coming to an end and I’m not at all mad about it. And although this is going to be a bummer of a holiday season, I’m determined to make the best of it in any way I can… the most important of which is to find ways to stay connected to the friends and family I can’t see in person. All our family is on the east coast, and, like so many of you, we haven’t seen them in months. I used to bellyache about the headaches of LAX and air travel in general— clearly I took all those non-stop flights for granted, and I’ve never felt further away from the people I love as I do now.
If you’re feeling like I do, here are a few ideas for gifts that can help you feel a little closer— if only virtually— and get through this dumpster fire of a holiday season with your sanity and good cheer in tact.
Smart Displays for Easy Video Calls
With a pair of smart displays, hands-free video calls are easier to do— no need to prop your phone up on a book or a mug to chat— and they lend themselves naturally to kitchen counters. Make dinner and have a glass of wine with your mom, or chat with your grandma over breakfast. Oh, and the Portal TV below turns your television into a giant video calling device, making it easy to pile on the couch with all the cousins.
Stay in touch throughout the day
A little-known feature on the Apple Watch is the walkie-talkie one— anyone who has a Series 1 or later can use it… you just have to make sure FaceTime audio calls are set up on your phone, then you can instantly talk to anyone you add to your contacts, so you feel super-close. And the Relay is a wireless walkie-talkie for the pre-smartphone set: Parents, grandparents and your kid’s favorite aunt can use an app to reach the Relay anytime they want to say hi.
Tablets to connect on
Another great way to connect through video calls or app games (my husband has a mean Words with Friends tournament going on with several relatives at all times) is making sure relatives have an updated tablet to use. What a lovely gift for so much more.
Ways to workout together
All of these pieces of smart workout equipment— the rower, both mirrors and the bike— have ways to chat or workout with friends, so you can keep each other motivated and say hello while you’re getting your sweat on.
Have fun playing games
While some of these consoles are hard to find, they all have ways to play multiplayer games with friends and relatives who have the same console, no matter where they are. And the Oculus Quest has apps where you can “hang out” with friends in a virtual environment. Kind of like being right next to them, but without the risky gathering situation.
Whether it’s a tabletop version, or a large-scale digital canvas, these digital picture frames allow you to send photographs to a relative’s frame, instantly updating them on the latest in your household.