Sun, sand and your iPhone in hand, if this is how you spend most of your vacations away then it might be time to change your holiday habits!

When you hop on a plane and take a well deserved family holiday somewhere exotic, do you disconnect from your tech or are you glued to your screen for most of the trip? You may think you unplug from your phones and computers while travelling, but it would amaze you how hard it is to turn off your technology and just enjoy reality.

Intel Security conducted a global study at the beginning of this year to better understand consumers’ digital behaviours while travelling. It revealed that 55 percent of U.S. respondents who planned to disconnect from their tech were unable to do so. Furthermore, 65 percent of U.S. participants claimed their vacation was more enjoyable after unplugging and 51 per cent of those who unplugged reported they connected better with their travel partners.

It takes a combination of planning, tech tricks and self-discipline to leave the technology behind and focus on the trip in front of you. For most us, whether it’s by the poolside or at the beach or camping in a tent, our laptops, tablets and smartphones are faithfully by our sides. We document moments, let others know what we’re constantly doing and reply to work emails so we aren’t left behind. And this doesn’t just happen on holiday, we begin texting and emailing from the airport, in the plane and as soon as we land. The tech addiction is real! Take it from these two families who know first-hand the dependence on technology and how holidaying is documented rather than enjoyed. Both have different views on how devices should be used and the impacts this could have on family time. See if you can spot the similarities on your family getaways!

Gianni Cardamone

How often do you travel and does the technology come with?

I, my wife and my four year old daughter do love our family trips, we usually try to travel two to three times per year and yes, we indeed bring our technology! Our mobile phones and tablets are our weakness and we always try to find somewhere with Wi-Fi so we’re never without internet.

What social media dominates the holiday most?

We usually check Facebook notifications and emails fairly frequently and instead of watching TV in our rooms, we’ll surf the internet. But this usually happens in our downtime when we’re not out and exploring. I’d say one to two hours per day is spent doing these social media activities which isn’t too bad. To break it down, I would usually spend about 10 minutes on my mobile, about one to two hours on the iPad and the other devices would only be used minimally when needed.

Technology usage on holidays

Do you all use technology only at your holiday?

Our technology use starts from the airport where we will muck around on our phones. When we arrive at our destination and waiting for accommodation, we’ll use our tablets instead. I think using technology during a family holiday is actually not a bad thing as long as it doesn’t interfere with the holiday itself. So while we’re waiting around, it’s ok to pass the time on our devices.

Is it ok to be on your device during a family trip?

Sometimes, you usually want a holiday to just relax and unwind so going on your phones and tablets is OK now and again. However, if you want to explore and go out with everyone, then leave the tech at the hotel! Enjoy the scenery and the time you have with each other. Personally, I don’t think I could go on a trip without any technology. It’s such a staple of life these days. Everyone uses their phones and computers more and more these days and that’s just a fact.

Any advice for families taking their tech with them?

I guess do what you want to do on holiday but try not to miss out on what’s right in front of you. Enjoy the view and the family time. I definitely enjoy using my mobile to research the area I’m holidaying at and see where’s good to eat and what sites we should all visit. Then after we’ve had our big adventure for the day, I love to upload pictures directly to Facebook so everyone can see what we’ve been up to.

Abi Bushnell

How often do you travel and does the technology come with?

As a family, we all only travel once a year so it’s quite a big occasion for us when we finally take that big trip together. We took a cruise in January along with my five year old daughter and used absolutely no technology at all (except a little bit of TV watching). If we travel within Australia, then we would use limited iPads and iPhones but if we’re going on an overseas adventure, then we switch everything off. Of course we would use our cameras for taking some snaps but that’s about it. If one of us is travelling without the whole family there, then we would also email and try to Skype every day!

Abi Bushnell and her family on holiday

What technology dominates the holiday most?

We always use as little technology as possible but if we did use any devices, it would be for photos, photos and more photos! It’s always great to document moments together. We also would use email or text to keep in touch with everyone back home and sometimes play games on our phones and iPads during down time. However, we really prefer to focus on enjoying our time together and absorbing the local surroundings and culture. Even though technology can sometimes help to save time on sorting through emails and messages before returning home, spending time together is what matters most. In terms of breaking down the device usage, we would spend maybe an hour at the airport on our tech, 30 minutes on the plane on our iPads and iPhones (to reserve battery) and finally, 30 minutes a day to take photos when on our holiday.

Do you think you could go on a trip without any devices?

I think we could all go on a holiday without using any technology; we’ve done it before in January! I would still want to bring a camera though because I think everyone should take snaps of their trip, it’s important to keep the memories somewhere. I think the only issue not bringing any technology on a holiday would be getting lost and not having anything to help you find your way back. We all have been lost before and had to use the internet to get us back on track. So in that instance, technology was a necessity!

Abi's daughter on a cruise holiday

Any advice for families taking their tech with them?

Limit your use on your devices and screens, immerse yourself instead. Enjoy the moment and the time with your family and the places you visit. You have to be 100% ready to take part in an adventure together and not stay on your tech the whole time. Put down the phone and get involved.

How do you think technology has changed the holiday experience?

I think the extra work created by needing to post every single moment on social media for everyone to see. When I used to go on holidays, family and friends would only see photos weeks later once they had been developed! Nowadays, it’s getting photos and posts up as quickly as possible so everyone knows what you are up to.

After seeing both perspectives of these first-hand accounts, it may be time to reflect on your own tech habits and start unplugging from those devices! Whether you’re planning to disconnect from your devices completely or simply keeping your tech time minimal, you need a clear plan for how you’re going to use your phones/laptops/iPads while in family vacation mode. So begin by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What’s the least amount of connectivity I can get away with? – If ignoring all of your messages and social media notifications gives you anxiety, think about the real reason behind this. Is it because you like to be in touch with everyone? Or you need to know what’s going on back home? Maybe enjoy the place you’re in rather than worry about what others are doing.
  1. What do I still want to use technology for while I’m away? – Start compiling a list of the specific reasons for wanting to use your phone, tablet or computer while on a family vacation. Then start to limit your tech to what’s on the list; no more, no less!
  1. Which accounts will I disconnect from? – It’s sometimes easier to disconnect from entire networks like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to ignore constant notifications and messages that would distract you from your family time. So identify which accounts chew up most of your time while on holiday and either disable that account for the time being or plan when to check messages (e.g. only an hour right at the end of the day).
  1. What do me and my family expect from one another? – Right from the start, clear up with your family and even friends about your technology game plan. Agree when it is and isn’t ok to be on certain devices during the day. Also, inform your friends or work colleagues that you will not be answering messages regularly (if you decide to leave your computer or phone behind). Setting shared expectations about device use is very important for you and your family to maximise holiday experiences.

It’s now up to you and your family to change the holiday habits and make conscious decisions to spend more time off-screen than on. In the end, family holidays are precious and it’s sometimes important to stop, turn off that phone, look up and enjoy the view.


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