Whether you’re spending the holiday season with your friends and family or celebrating many miles apart, feeling truly connected can be a challenge. Busy schedules and different interests can make keeping in touch or spending time together difficult. From the latest communication technologies to creative activities, here are 11 better ways to connect with your loved ones this holiday season.

1. VIDEO CHAT WITH FARAWAY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

Video chat is a simple and effective way to keep in touch with loved ones. There are a ton of free video chat services—like Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts—and most will let you talk to a bunch of family members at once.  You can have a mini family reunion right on your computer screen.

2. GET CREATIVE WITH VIDEO HANGOUTS BY PLAYING VIDEO GAMES OR WATCHING A MOVIE.

Sometimes just catching up with faraway friends and family via video chat isn’t enough—what if you want to share new experiences, create new memories? Nowadays, video chat is a pretty versatile tool. Play an online video game with your friends and keep the video screen open so you can see their reactions. Or, press play on a streaming version of your favorite holiday movie while your grandparents pop in their old VHS copy at the same time.

3. GIVE THE GIFT OF SHARED ACTIVITIES …

Whether you’re spending the holidays together or apart, find an activity the whole family can enjoy together in the future and get it in the books. It can be something as elaborate as a shared vacation or cruise, or something as simple as group activity lessons somewhere nearby. Learn pottery together; go skiing. Or, if you can’t arrange to see each other, take calligraphy lessons and send each other beautiful letters. No matter what you choose, an active gift will not only help you connect, but will keep you feeling connected in the future.

4. …OR GIVE THE GIFT OF COMMUNICATION.

If you’re having trouble staying in touch with older relatives, consider purchasing them a laptop or tablet to make communication easier—there are plenty of easy-to-use options out there geared specifically towards beginners. Plus, helping them set up video chat or email is, itself, quality time together.

5. SHARE SPECIAL MOMENTS WITH A PRIVATE PHOTO-SHARING APP.

If you want to share holiday highlights with your family without plastering them all over social media, try out one of the many private photo-sharing apps, like Lifecake, EFAMILY, or Karoo.

6. FOR LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS, TRY A “COUPLES” APP.

There are also plenty of apps designed specifically for couples. Apps like Couple or Avocado have some of the functions of traditional photo-sharing or social media apps, but with special features geared towards people in long distance relationships, like sharing calendars, lists, and digital smooches.

7. MAKE A FAVORITE MEAL TOGETHER—OR SEND FAVORITE FOODS TO FAMILY MEMBERS WHO CAN’T MAKE IT.

Invite everyone over to make your great-grandma’s traditional cookie recipe—or invent a new one of your own. Cooking together as a group will get everyone interacting in a way that just sitting down to dinner might not. Or, if you can’t be with your loved ones, think about sending them a few homemade treats. The USPS allows food-mailing, as long as the goods are packaged correctly and marked perishable.

8. VOLUNTEER TOGETHER.

Give back to the community together as a family this holiday season by participating in a holiday food drive, hosting a party for the community, or volunteering at a shelter or hospice. Look up volunteer opportunities in your community, or see if your favorite charity is looking for help—there are plenty of ways to help others, and grow closer as a family at the same time.

9. GET CREATIVE WITH HOLIDAY CARDS.

Let your imagination run wild while making holiday cards this year. Instead of the traditional “posing in front of holiday decorations” photo, feel free to get creative: Write personal letters to a few loved ones (and encourage them to write back!) or make a neat collage of family photos taken year-round. Try out one of the many mobile card-making apps—like Red Stamp or Sincerely Ink—that will let you create neat designs and send paperless holiday cards.

10. PLAY BOARD GAMES IN PERSON OR ONLINE.

We’re in the midst of a board game renaissance: Nowadays, there are tons of brand new board games for strategists, spelling-lovers, card sharks, and trivia buffs of all ages. Likewise, there are mobile games perfect for everyone, and most classic board games have a mobile counterpart. Apps like Words With Friends or Chess.com let you play games in real time, or over the course of several days. They even have a chat component, so you can gloat when you make a really great move.

11. INVENT A NEW TRADITION.

The holidays are a time to connect with loved ones, but it can be tough to find the time to stick to old school family traditions. So why not invent a new tradition—whether it’s regular Skype calls or a holiday board game night—that works for your family?