How gadgets can save you from your family this Christmas


There's nothing like the enforced fun of spending time with the family at Christmas. We miss them terribly if we're separated from them at yuletide, but get together with them under the same roof and you're craving some time to yourself within five minutes of opening the Quality Street.

So what to do if you like seeing the folks, but just want to be able to escape into a world of your own from time to time? Here are seven ways in which your gadgets can help you make Christmas that little bit more tolerable…

Streaming to distract the kids


Kids can be endearing, but if you don't have any of your own (and even if you do), what are you going to do if you're stuck with the task of entertaining them?

Rather than letting them play with your tablet, phone and other tech stuff – they'll either cover everything you hold dear in a layer of snot or break it – sit them down in front of Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video, both of which are packed with hundreds of hours of kids' shows.

Helpfully, both services offer kid-specific modes with all the grown-up content filtered out, so you can be confident they're more likely to be watching Peppa Pig than Pulp Fiction.

The dedicated Christmas channel


Sitting around the telly watching films together is almost the perfect family activity. You get to be with your family, enjoying a shared experience – but no one has to actually say anything to anyone else.

Helpfully, some broadcasters, including Sky, have dedicated Christmas channels that will be showing family-friendly films around the clock, including the likes of Big Hero 6 and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

And don't worry if you don't have Sky or a satellite dish – you can get Sky movies via Now TV, which is available on an app and for a number of other platforms, including PS4, Xbox 360 and Chromecast.

The social media bubble


You know how it is: just as you're about to tuck into your turkey your uncle decides it's vitally important that he share with the assembled guests his opinions about the Syrian refugee crisis.

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to make him shut up, short of jamming the socks your mum bought you into his mouth – but there is respite to be found in social media.

If you need a breather, head to Facebook or Twitter, where hopefully you'll read the opinions of the like-minded people (although it's always a minefield around the booze-fuelled Christmas period).

Or, for more considered opinions, Flipboard is a great app. This is a service that will aggregate articles on different topics and from different publications, so you're only ever a few taps on the iPad away from endless think-pieces that will confirm your pre-existing opinions.

The only drawback is that you may be told off for using your phone at the table, but it's a small price to pay to stay sane.

Game streaming

Windows Xbox

Can't stomach sitting through Christmas Strictly? Don't worry, as brilliantly, the PS4, Xbox One and even Wii U can all stream games direct to other devices. This means you can keep playing even when the TV is in use.

If you have a PS4, you can use a Sony Xperia phone as your screen, and you can make it work on other Android devices too. Sony has said it will be releasing an app to enable the same functionality on PC and Mac next year – so sadly not in time for this Christmas.

Xbox One game streaming is more advanced: if you have a Windows 10 PC you can stream your game directly over Wi-Fi, using the built-in Xbox app.

The Wii U can also display on the gamepad what you'd see on the TV, so there's no need to have it plugged into a telly.

Oculus Rift / Gear VR


Okay, this is probably the nuclear option: why not cut yourself off from the family completely by putting loud headphones on your ears and literally immersing yourself in another world?

As VR becomes more accessible this will become increasingly feasible, and it could help to put the trials and tribulations of Christmas with the family into perspective – spend some time in the hell of the Normandy beaches in 1944, and suddenly a second helping of sprouts doesn't seem so terrible.

If you can't stretch to an Oculus Rift, then Samsung's Gear VR or Google Cardboard will also enable you to escape the here and now, albeit with a number of slightly ropey VR 'experiences'.

And be warned: do this when there are other people in the room and there will instantly be dozens of pictures of you, gurning and with a mobile phone from 1992 strapped to your face, on social media.

Fake an urgent phone call

Phone call

If you really need to get out of the house in a hurry, then thanks to modern apps, faking an important phone call is fairly straightforward. There are apps available for both iPhone and Android that will make your phone ring at whatever time you like.

Then all you need to do is 'answer' the call, and think of an excuse that's sufficiently important to allow you to get out of Christmas – although bear in mind that it'll be harder to make a story about a suddenly-ailing relative sound convincing if you're talking to your family rather than to your boss.

Fake a partner


OK, before you consider this option you really should think about the long-term game you're going to have to play – and the fact that you'll have to face yourself in the mirror.

When we're single, we all have to endure the same question at family gatherings: when are you going to find a partner and settle down? But now you can follow the plot of your favourite lame rom-com: if you don't have a partner, fake one.

Yep – you will need to find an anonymous stranger to pretend to be that special someone. You're going to have to go there. Amazingly, the website / app Fiverr will hook you up with people who are willing to participate in the charade for just $5.

Enter 'girlfriend' or 'boyfriend' in the search box and you'll find plenty of people who will happily post about how much they love you all over your Facebook or Instagram page.

But please, for the love of all that is good and pure, think about the ramifications. You'll have hired someone to be your significant other – and unlike in the movies there's zero chance they'll realise that they really have been in love with you all along.