Skype began as a program that would let you connect to other users for voice calls (like phone calls but over the internet) and instant messaging. Since then, Skype has added a feature that’s gone on to be its most popular: video chat. Skype itself is free to use, though you’ll have to create an account. Connecting to another Skype user, whether it’s for voice, text or video chatting, is free.
Be aware that there is the option to connect to a traditional phone number that is not free. Skype’s desktop version is compatible with both PC and Mac computers, and there is a Skype app for both iPhone and Android mobile devices.
Though you don’t need them to use Skype, I recommend hooking up an external microphone and using headphones while chatting to help cut down on background noise and to let the person you’re chatting with hear you more clearly.
Tech Ways To Pass The Time
Here are a few apps and websites to keep you and your family entertained during those long stretches of free time during the holidays or anytime of the year! All are free to use and work with just about any computer or mobile device.
Boomerang / GIF makers
- Boomerang is made by the same people as Instagram, so if you have an IG account, using Boomerang is even easier. Boomerang takes short videos and loops them back and forth into fun little clips
- Similar to Boomerang, GIPHY CAM allows you turn videos (or combine photos) into GIFs – short animated clips that are easy to share on social media or via text and email.
Bitmoji / Bitstrips
- Make a custom cartoon version of yourself!
- Bitmoji turns your character into little pictures that are easy to text
- Bitstrips allows you to make comic strips starring you o Art apps
- Brushes Redux (for painting), Keezy & Keezy Drummer (for music)
- Thisissand.com (Go to it on a mobile device to make digital sand art. It uses the touch sensitivity of your smartphone or tablet to create “sand art” with no mess!)
- Learn a new language or practice one you already know with this game and puzzle-like app.
- Desktop & mobile have slightly different options for lessons.
- You can add friends and compare your lessons scores.
- Build and research your family tree
- A lot of their records are available for free, but not everything
- Sometimes there are special free offers around holidays, such as military records around Veterans Day, etc.
- There’s an app version that will connect with your account so you can easily add more information to your tree!
Google Streetview / Scavenger Hunt
- MapCrunch.com – Drops you on a random street view location to explore or to figure out where you are
- Try ‘Street View sightseeing’ – If you know where a special or famous location is, try zooming in on it from the whole-Earth view.
• Staying Connected
- discussed above
- You can create shared folders with friends and family to share pictures, videos and more o What’sApp
- Free messenger app. Very popular with people who have family in other countries
Google – GChat, Google Drive
- If you use a Google account for email, these are other Google services that you can use for free!
Facebook & Messenger
- Facebook has been expanding the features of their Messenger app to allow voice calls and video chat, too.
Group Text / Facetime
- Facetime isn’t an app, but a feature built into most iPhones. Androids have a few options for alternative apps that do the same thing.
- Pretty much any phone can group chat: Just enter multiple contacts into a text message’s “To:” line to start.
- Around the holidays, Snapchat adds special filters
-If you’re traveling, check to see if there are filters specific to your changing location. Even airports have their own filters and stickers!