5 Ways to Connect with Family Virtually This Thanksgiving

virtual thanksgiving
(Erick Requadt/DVIDS)

Though military families are used to having Thanksgiving away from home, we don't usually celebrate alone. We gather with friends and military families where we are stationed and make the most of it.

This year, things are a little bit harder.

After you've cooked the feast that your toddler probably won't eat and watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, you may be wondering what's next.

How about a video call with family? Sounds like the good old days of Skyping home from Germany and showing off the baby to your relatives.

If you're looking for free and easy options to get the whole family together, look no further. Here are five free ideas to get the gang together virtually this year.

1. Facebook Messenger Calls

If Grandma has figured out Facebook, this may be the easiest way to ask her questions about that recipe you're trying to recreate. Facebook Messenger is great for one-on-one calls and is pretty easy to navigate. It's also a wonderful option for younger kids to chat with family members, use the filters and babble away. Grandma can simply hang up when she's done listening.

2. Go Live on YouTube

If part of your Thanksgiving fun revolves around chaos in the kitchen, share that with the world this year. Livestream your cooking adventures straight onto YouTube and share the link with family and friends. You can keep the link private and send it only to those you want to share with.

If you're not familiar with livestreaming on YouTube, make sure you log in at least a day before and get the specifics sorted out.

3. Zoom

Would we have gotten through this year without Zoom? Surely not, if you ask employers and supervisors. But even those of us with Zoom fatigue may be willing to try again to see Grandma and Grandpa this Thanksgiving.

Zoom announced Nov. 10 that it would temporarily lift its 40-minute limit on all calls starting at midnight Thanksgiving through 6 a.m. the next day. This differs from the free plan, which allows for 40-minute chats when there are more than two people on the call.

4. Microsoft Teams

The military community has been hesitant to use Zoom after security issues earlier this year. But the same program that haunts the dreams of military spouses can also be used to videoconference with, well, anyone.

With Teams' friends and family feature now available via desktop and web, you can create and hold a meeting for up to 300 friends and family that can run all day, for free. While you won't be able to see all 300 people on the screen, you can see up to 49 in gallery view or through the Together Mode feature.

The best part: You don't need a Microsoft account or the Teams app to join calls; you can just use a web browser. So those who aren't familiar with Teams can easily join.

5. Host a Watch Party

For many, the Christmas holidays begin right after Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes, that involves a special movie. Don't miss out on that tradition this year by watching streaming services such as Disney+ GroupWatch, Netflix Teleparty or Hulu Watch Party.

You can invite up to eight people to join you, and if your Netflix account has multiple profiles, users can join via one of them as well. That means your college student who couldn't come home can still join in on the fun.

Thanksgiving is going to look different this year -- there's no way around it. But don't let 2020 take all the fun from your holiday traditions. Connect virtually with family and friends around the globe and make this the best Thanksgiving yet.

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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at rebecca.alwine@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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