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Staying Present on a Family Vacation

Today we are living in a world immersed in extreme technology use. Look around you when you’re on vacation – in fact, look around you right now – and you’ll find yourself surrounded by masses of smartphones, tablets, cameras, computers, and selfie sticks. We get it; technology is great and often helpful, and the things it enables us to do are seriously impressive.

However, it also has a dark side, as illustrated in recent TV hits such as Black Mirror. It’s easy to get sucked into the digital world, whether through work emails, online games, Netflix or social media, and as a result, you might not be paying much attention to all the amazing things that happen in the real world! You’re not alone in this; many of us are guilty of it, in all generations.

We’re not suggesting you go completely tech-free, but have you ever thought about making a conscious effort to reduce your screen time and become more aware of the here and now? In this week’s article, we’re taking the time to suggest a few things that could help you cut down on your tech use and be more present when you’re on vacation.

Learn to be present in your everyday life

We often find ourselves thinking about things that have happened in the past, or overthinking about things that have yet to happen, instead of just enjoying the time that we’re in now.

Practicing mindfulness as part of our everyday life can offer enormous benefits to our physical and mental health, stress levels, and the quality of our sleep, as well as teaching us how to practice living in this exact moment by taking the time to pause and just be. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be difficult; it’s fast becoming more accessible through apps such as Calm, which offer a ten-minute ‘Daily Calm’ guided meditation that can be easily fitted in at any point in the day. Why don’t you try it out each morning on your next vacation? You’ll likely find that it will smoothly translate to your life back home too.

Lead by example

The teenagers and kids of today are often criticized for their reliance on technology, but older generations are struggling with these issues too. If your kids see you with your nose buried in the email inbox on your smartphone, they’ll likely copy what they see.

Set a good example for your kids and place strong values on tech-free family time. When you leave for vacation, set your email settings to ‘out-of-office’ and let people know that you’re going away and will be harder to reach. 

Low-tech not no-tech

You don’t have to have to leave all your technology at home to take a break from it. In fact, it’s useful to have a phone on holiday for emergency calls or finding each other if you get lost, a tablet can be a savior for in-flight entertainment and long drives with children, and a high-quality camera is the best way to get good photos for the family album! So why don’t you simply try restricting your use – keep your phones in your bags on airplane mode unless you really have to use them, limit yourself to just ten minutes of taking photos at each landmark or viewpoint, and save the tablet for long journeys.

If you’re traveling with kids or teens who typically spend a lot of time with their screens, be sure to plan a vacation that keeps them busy! Explore and learn new things as a family for some real bonding time; take a surf lesson together on Oahu’s North Shore or learn about ancient Mayan culture on a trip to Chichen Itza in Mexico.

Don’t overdo it with the rules; this could cause arguments or tension amongst the family members. Instead, just plan fun or challenging activities, such as a hike to a nearby waterfall, or scuba-diving off the coast of Isla Mujeres, or inspire them to learn a new skill like taking a cooking class with local cuisine. Let your kids Snapchat their friends the impeccable views from Puerto Rico’s Ruta Panoramica, or post an Instagram picture of them swimming in a cenote in Cancun – just encourage them to put the phone away again afterwards.

Visit a destination where WiFi and phone signal are hard to come by

If you have a really hard time keeping the kids – or yourselves – away from tech on vacation, it could be a good idea to plan a holiday where WiFi or phone signal are difficult to reach. You don’t have to go completely off-grid for your whole vacation though.

For instance, perhaps you’ll allow yourselves access to technology and the internet at your vacation rental, but you’ll plan day trips to remote places, where the only screen time you’ll have is taking a few snaps on your camera.

For example if you’re staying in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, spend a day ziplining at Selvatica, or floating down the underground rivers of Rio Secreto. It’ll be hard to find the time to use tech on a busy day at either of these places, and you’ll struggle to find a spot here where you can connect to the internet.

Find tech-alternatives

You don’t have to spend your downtime scrolling through your Twitter feed. Why not buy a book to read on your vacation instead, or keep a travel journal to document your holidays the old-fashioned way?

Writing stuff down for half an hour at the end of each day is a really awesome way to keep in touch with your present experience! If you’re searching for tech alternatives for the little ones, why not bring along some puzzles, or coloring books? Or, if you’re looking for something the whole family can do together during downtime, bring some games that don’t require plugging in, like a pack of cards or a travel-sized board game.

Talk to people

Meeting new people has always been one of the best things about traveling to different places. If you put your phone away when you’re on a long coach or train journey, or out for drinks at a bar, you might meet some amazing people, whether they be other travelers or locals!

Who knows, you might hear some incredible stories, or even meet some friends for life!

Spark all of your senses

Staying present on vacation means engaging all of your senses to notice and appreciate all the tiny details of the world around you! Open yourself up to the true experience of your vacation by slowing down and paying attention to the present, counting one thing you can see, one thing you can smell, one thing you can hear, one thing you can taste, and one thing you can touch.

Enjoy the flavors of local food on a city food tour, visit the hustle and bustle and rich scents of a local market, hike deep into the jungle on a trail and marvel at the lush nature that you find yourself in, or simply sit back and relax to the soundtrack of the ocean crashing on the shore. You’ll be surprised at all the beautiful things you’re surrounded by that you ordinarily don’t allow yourself to observe.

When you use tech on vacation, use it together

When you are using technology on your vacation, make an effort to use it as a whole family, so as to not isolate yourself.

You could teach the kids how to take a great picture with the camera, sit down to watch a movie together one evening, or spend a vacation road trip listening to playlists of your favorite music that you’ve created for each other!

Disconnecting means you’ll actually all be able to relax

If you’re constantly checking work emails or social media when you’re away, it won’t feel like you’ve even had a vacation! By unplugging from all this stuff for a while you can let your mind roam free of distractions and pay attention to your current moment – you’ll be able to take an actual holiday from your regular life!

What’s more, giving yourself and your family this time to slow down, relax, and rejuvenate physically, mentally, and creatively will put you in a far better position to return to your everyday life, work or school, feeling refreshed and recharged.

It may be hard to lower your tech usage to begin with, but it can truly have great results for your personal health, well-being, and relationships, not to mention your vacations! We think that a family vacation is the perfect place to start cutting down on screen time! Disconnecting digitally means you’ll be better able to connect in real life with the people around you, and the place that you’re in. You’ll come away having truly enjoyed your vacation and the company of the people who accompanied you! For more great travel tips, itineraries and more, check out the rest of our blog!

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