How to Unplug When You're on Vacation

Business man sitting on lounge chair while using laptop on the beach
You’ve waited all year long for this vacation and it’s finally here — seven whole days to yourself — no pressure, no meetings, no deadlines, no alarm clocks, no email … Do you think you can handle it? Well, that’s a silly question, isn’t it? Then again, maybe it’s not so silly?

In today’s hyper-connected world, setting boundaries between your work and personal life can be a major challenge. A recent survey by intel found that 55 percent of respondents who intended to unplug from their digital devices while on vacations were unable to stick to their resolutions. And it’s worth noting, “sixty-five percent of U.S. survey participants claimed their vacation was more enjoyable after unplugging. They felt less stress and were able to better absorb their surroundings.”

According to the Project: Time Off Coalition, taking a vacation from your job and the digital baggage that goes along with it is an important part of maintaining your physical and mental health. In addition, they note it will make you a happier and more productive employee when you return to work. With these facts in mind, we’ve come up with some tips to make your digital detox virtually painless.

1. Ease into the tech-free zone

A couple of weeks before you leave for your vacation take some short technology breaks. Try going out on a weekend night without the phone, or leave your device at home when you go to the gym or the grocery store. We know you can do it! This way, when you stop using electronics for a full week, it won’t be such a shock to your system.

2. Create a pre-vacation checklist

The more diligent you are about preparing for your time out of the office, the easier it will be to unplug while you’re away. Lynze Wardle Lenio of The Muse recommends creating a to-do list that includes projects that need to be completed before you head out on vacation as well as those that need to be handled immediately upon your return. She recommends sharing the list with your boss so that he or she is aware of exactly what you are leaving on your plate. 

3. Prepare colleagues for your vacation

Prior to leaving, alert colleagues and clients to your vacation plans. Enlist your manager’s help in delegating any duties that cannot wait until you come back.  Be sure to leave detailed notes and instructions for colleagues who will serve as point persons and provide those colleagues’ phone numbers and email addresses on your outgoing voicemail and out-of-office email messages.

4. Consider choosing a vacation destination without cell phone access

Digital detox vacations have become a popular option, especially for parents striving to get their children to put down their cell phones. Family camps such as Sandy Island, part of the Greater Boston YMCA, are an opportunity for parents and children to spend time together doing outdoor activities in a refreshingly low-tech environment. The Tyler Place Family Resort in Highgate Springs, Vt., another tech-free vacation spot, offers programming for infants, toddlers, children, teens, families and couples, all on the grounds of a beautiful, yet family-friendly all-inclusive resort.

Adults without children seeking an old-fashioned summer camp experience can visit Camp Grounded, with locations in New York, California, North Carolina and Texas. Founded in 2014, this innovative new vacation model purports to be “just like the summer camp you remember from your childhood.”

For those craving a more luxurious break, writes Cecelie Rohwedder for the Wall Street Journal, “The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica sells a ‘Disconnect to Reconnect’ program, where guests hand in their phones in exchange for a list of ‘25 things to do without technology.’”

5. If you absolutely must be online…

While having an entirely unplugged vacation is a worthy aspiration, for some of it may not be in the cards. If you’re unable to commit to a complete digital detox, set some limits with your boss and coworkers and stick to them! Maybe you’ll set aside a half hour each day to read email, only responding to messages that are really important. Better yet, check in twice during the course of the week, and keep the phone turned off and in your hotel room the rest of the time.

Whatever you decide to do, “make sure your out-of-office behavior is consistent with the expectations you set before you leave,” advises Glenn Leibowitz, writing for Inc. “If you're responding to work-related emails while snorkeling with the turtles and whales off Maui, that sends the message that you're available.”

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