You’re going on vacation to get away from it all, but disconnecting from your smartphone, computer, and other digital devices is easier said than done. According to a recent Hotels.com study, only 35 percent of Americans are willing to ditch their mobile devices on vacation, and 56 percent admit to checking and responding to email. So, how can you beat the odds and truly take a break?
1. Leave yourself no choice
The easiest way to ensure you won’t be a slave to technology on your vacation is to simply leave it behind. Don’t bring your laptop, tablet, cellphone, or other device. Or, if you feel you have to bring your technology, vow to keep it in the hotel room or some other (secured) place, so you won't be distracted from each day’s activities. If even that seems too tempting, plan a vacation somewhere with limited or no Internet access, like a cabin in the mountains or countryside villa overseas. You might also consider booking a digital detox vacation if you want to be entirely free of technology.
2. Set limits
You don’t have to banish technology entirely to disconnect; you just need to manage it. Before you go, define how you want to disconnect. Do you want to escape from all email, or would you feel better spending 15 minutes every evening scanning your inbox? Can Facebook wait until you get back, or is part of the fun for you posting images on social media? Determine what the bare minimum amount of time you can spend on the phone, Internet, and social media, and stick to it. Use a timer if necessary.
3. Parent yourself
Speaking of timers, parental controls aren’t just for kids -- you can use them on your own devices. For your smartphone, apps like AppLock, Screen Time Parental Control, and Parental TimeLock limit the amount of time you can use a particular application. When the time is up, a really, really annoying alarm goes off. Of course, you’ll know the code and be able to override yourself, so have someone else set it up for you if you think that'll be a problem. Similarly, time management programs like RescueTime allow you to block "time sucks" like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on your computer.
4. Hide the offenders
Go hardcore and temporarily hide your email, Facebook, and other apps -- theoretically, what you don’t see you won’t miss. If you feel like you need to take even more drastic measures, delete the apps entirely, or even have a trusted friend or family member change the passwords to your accounts while you’re away. At the very least, disable notifications, so you won’t be lured into checking the latest comment your friend made online.
5. Transition to disconnect
Lay the groundwork before you go. Start at work by delegating your responsibilities and by authorizing one -- and only one -- person to call you but only in the event of a business catastrophe. In your personal life, prepare by telling everyone how excited you are to get away. Let them know you won’t be taking phone calls, answering emails, or “liking” their comments on Facebook while you’re gone.
6. Go old school
We make excuses for packing our technology: Our cellphone is our alarm clock, camera, and navigation system; our tablet is our reading material and inflight entertainment. But try to rethink the way you pack. Throw a paperback in your suitcase instead of your tablet, wear a watch, and pick up an actual map from the hotel. You might even consider dusting off your digital camera -- from which you can still get better photographs.
7. Create a support system
Share the limits you’ve set for yourself regarding technology with your fellow travelers, and ask them to hold you accountable. Or, better yet, decide as a group on rules for your technology use. If one person is spending an hour a day on their tablet, it’s tempting for the rest of the group to follow suit, despite whatever goals they may have individually set.