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Last updated: 15th December, 2020

Best tips for a long-distance lockdown Christmas

If you can’t travel to physically be with your loved ones this Christmas, here are some ways you can stay connected and celebrate together from afar.

With travel restrictions and social distancing still the norm thanks to the global Covid-19 pandemic, Christmas in 2020 will feel very different to normal – especially for those of us with friends and family overseas. But one silver lining to this very difficult year is the growth of many new ways to keep in touch online.

From group video calls going mainstream to shared online film sessions, there are now many ways you can spend quality time with loved ones, even if you’re on opposite sides of the planet.

Best tips for throwing a virtual Christmas party

Once you’ve chosen your video calling platform of choice, ironed out any tech issues (and picked an appropriate seasonal background), here are some ways to host the perfect festive gathering online.

Sort out the schedule
If you’ve got loved ones around the world, multiple time zones can make scheduling video calls a headache. Luckily, there are a number of great tools available which make planning a long-distance catch up easier. Use a website like everytimezone.com, which gives you a customisable, at-a-glance overview of what time it is in the country of your choice. You could also set up a Doodle poll with a range of time slots, so that everyone can fill in their availability ahead of time.

Prepare the entertainment
Traditional Christmas games like charades still work over video call, or you could opt for an online quiz with an appropriate difficulty level for the whole family. A website like Kahoot is a great way to make a quiz feel more like a video game as everyone answers the questions on their own device and scores are calculated automatically. The Kahoot blog has some handy tips on how to run a family-friendly quiz via video call.

Enjoy your favourite snacks
If you and your loved ones have some favourite festive foods, now’s the time to stock up so that when the party starts, you can eat them together. You could even start your party with a cook-along session. Just send out a shopping list and a simple recipe ahead of time and you can all make your own.

Best tips for Christmas fun with friends

Even if you can’t be together in person, you can still enjoy the festive season with friends thanks to these born-in-2020 tech solutions.

Share some festive tunes
Music streaming service Spotify is currently trialling a group session feature, meaning you and a group of friends can all listen along to the same music in real time. Create the ultimate playlist (or find an existing one) and get down to some present-wrapping or Christmas baking while you listen along with your pals.

Give online karaoke a go
If all those Christmas tunes have you channelling your inner Mariah, why not try out some holiday karaoke from the comfort of your own home. The karaoke chain Lucky Voice have created an online karaoke player, and their website has a step-by-step guide to throwing your own karaoke party over Zoom.

Enjoy a movie night (with no fights over popcorn)
There’s nothing like settling down with a Christmas movie to get in the festive spirit. Whether it’s an old classic or a cheesy modern favourite, you can use Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party) to watch along together with friends. Compatible with on-demand streaming providers such as Netflix and HBO, Teleparty syncs everyone’s video playback and opens a group chat window so you can chime in with commentary while you watch.

Best tips for last-minute, long-distance gifts

If you haven’t yet organised a Secret Santa gift exchange with your nearest and dearest, there’s still time – especially if you choose online-only gifts that don’t need to be sent by post. Use a website like DrawNames.com to automate the process of assigning everyone a gift recipient and make the whole process as smooth as possible.

Whether or not you go down the Secret Santa route, here are some quick ideas for online-only gifts if you’re short on both time and inspiration this year.

● Emailed gift cards or vouchers for their favourite online store. The beauty of these is that they can be ordered at the absolute last minute, and who doesn’t love a voucher?

● Online courses to brush up on their favourite hobby, or to learn something new. Domestika, for example, has a wide range of courses for craft lovers and DIY aficionados – check out their list of popular gift ideas for some inspiration. Other popular sites include Coursera and Masterclass.  

● A delivery subscription for their treat of choice. In Belgium you can choose among Bongo, boncadeau (which promotes local trade), VivaBox (vivabox.be) or Lokado among others. They all offer many possibilities in wellness, relaxing weekends, clothing or jewellery.

● A personalised celebrity greeting. If you’re scratching your head over what to get for your got-all-the-gadgets-already sibling, how about a video message from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniack? If your mum loves an ‘80s sax tune, how about a greeting from Kenny G? Websites like Cameo.com and Thrillz.co.uk offer personalised video messages from celebrities, many of whom donate the fees to worthy causes. For younger family members, there’s always the option of a message from the ultimate Christmas celebrity, Mr Claus himself.

If you just can’t decide, there’s always the reliable option of letting them buy their own gift. International money transfer apps such as PagoFX are a fast, convenient and low-cost option for sending money overseas. What’s more, if you’re a first-time user of PagoFX, you can send up to EUR1,000 with no fees until 28 February 2021 (terms apply).

This article is provided as general information purposes only, and is not intended to cover all aspects of the topic. We recommend that you take professional and specialised advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the content of this publication, as this article is not intended to constitute expert advice. We do not guarantee, explicitly or implicitly, that the content of this article is accurate, complete or up-to-date. The information in this article does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from PagoFX or its affiliates.