5 Tech Hacks for Military Families During the Holidays

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of MSB New Media & on behalf of Dell. The opinions and text are all mine.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Unless, of course, it’s not.

Being a military family often comes with separations that are exacerbated by the emotions of the season. It’s easy to look at the activities, movies, and advertisements of the season with their intact, extended families and feel down. (Been there, done that.) If you have a loved one on deployment, the holidays can often be a time of worry and longing, too. The technology at our fingertips will never replace opening presents together or getting a warm hug from your mom as you walk through the door on Christmas morning, but it can help to close the miles and make our lives more accessible to each other.

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Here are five perfect ways to do that for military families:

1. Live Stream

Christmas Eve is a huge event for my family. We exchange “family” presents (because Santa brings presents in the morning, duh), eat a meal together, and go to a candlelight church service that ends at midnight. It’s always been this way. Until 2013, the first Christmas John and I were married, and the first one that I didn’t come home for because John couldn’t get leave… and had to work the night shift. So I sat on my couch on Christmas Eve, so homesick I didn’t know what to do… until my sister texted me to turn on the service since my home church was streaming it live.

Missing home? The organizations in your area might be live streaming events like Christmas tree lightings, holiday parades, and school/community concerts. Ask around and follow local Facebook groups and Twitter handles for up-to-date information. (Of course, if Grandma wants to live stream baking cookies in her kitchen, do that, too! You don’t have to wait for big organizations to put their holiday activities online!)

2. Use More Than One Video Service

When John was deployed, we could never rely on the internet to support video streaming from day to day (or minute to minute). Sometimes the picture and sound was crystal clear on Google Hangout, other times we had to switch mid-conversation and login to Skype because that service was working better. We learned to hop around on different services until we found one that worked and didn’t make him look like a mud monster. For some reason, Google Hangout usually worked better than Skype (and Facebook’s video chat hardly worked at all). You might also want to try ooVoo or Tango. Keep logins handy and make sure your deployed partner has accounts to for those platforms, too.

3. Digital Picture Frames

Pick up a digital picture frame or two to have around the house. These can display many images and can be comforting, especially to children who are missing their parent. If you’re not dealing with deployment but will be far away from family this year, load photos of Christmases past and feature all members of your  family. This is a great way to help foster connections between your children and relatives they may not see often. (And by the way, you can also buy digital photo tree ornaments, too!)

4. Create Videos

Spend some time recording the sights and sounds of the holidays. When you put up and decorate the tree, record it. If you’re baking Christmas cookies, record it. Lighting the menorah? Record it. Capture the moments that make the holiday special to you and your family. Then load it onto an SD card or USB drive and send it to your deployed spouse or your faraway family.

5. Record Books

If you have young children, ask your relatives and close family friends to record themselves reading holiday books to them. If your spouse will be deployed over the holidays, spend a little bit of time recording him or her reading a few of the kids’ favorite holiday books. Break out the videos during December. If your children are old enough, show them how to play the videos on their own so they can play them when they’re missing the important people in their life.

Need to update your devices for the season? Check out Dell’s Military Discount Program which offers an additional 10% savings on tablets and PCs and global APO/FPO shipping. Take advantage of their specially-crafted-for-Windows-10 devices like the Alienware 15 Gaming Laptop and Inspiron 15 7000 Series 2-in-1 Laptop.

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