Technology is all around us—at work, at home and even on vacation. It is hard to get a break from email, social media and our many devices, but sometimes a break is a good thing and just the thing we need.
Since I was 10 years old, my family has vacationed on the North Shore of Lake Superior for a week every summer. The cabins are quaint and rustic, and right on the lake. They are a family-run business in its third generation and it is one of my favorite places to visit. The cabins have never had TVs or radios—only the basics are provided—so it has always been a great way to let go for a week. They are geographically located in a spot where cell coverage is difficult to receive unless you are out on a rock preforming a dangerous balancing act. So for me, this one week of the year has become a much needed decrease in technology. This year, for a change of pace, my family decided we would make it a technology free vacation and go back to the dreaded “olden days.”
We gave our kids (a 17-year old son and a 14-year old daughter) notice in June that our family vacation in July was going to be technology-free; no phones, iPods, iPads for any of us. My kids were not sure I would be able to go an entire week without checking in with work or looking at my emails, but I told them I could—and I did. I found it a bit odd that they were more concerned I wouldn’t make it through the week. At home, my husband and I spend a lot less time on our devices than both of our children, but typically on vacation, I do need to go “into town” at least twice a week to check emails.
Of course it helps that I have two great business partners who were willing to let me be tech-free for a week and were willing to take on the additional items I would have normally handled. I also needed to mentally “let go” of work, and sometimes that was the harder of the tasks. After the week on vacation, I came back relaxed and rejuvenated.
Below are several tips that helped us enjoy our technology-free vacation:
- We made the decision in advance that this is what we were going to do, so we were all prepared.
- I shut off my email to my phone completely for the week. That way, when I used my phone to take a picture, I wasn’t tempted by that growing number of unread emails. If you just can’t completely turn off the emails, then try to turn off the sound, vibration, notifications while you are on vacation.
- I set an Out Of Office (OOO) automatic reply on my email that clearly stated I would not be checking emails for the week and gave alternate email and phone contacts. These OOO replies can range from very basic to very fun; whichever path you choose make sure that the recipient knows you will not be receiving emails for the duration of your vacation.
- I updated my voicemail message as well stating I would be OOO and not able to check voicemails until my return.
- We put all of our devices out of sight so that they were out of mind. We still use our regular cameras more than our cell phone cameras, so we didn’t need them for pictures.
- We stayed away from social media for the week. We didn’t post on Facebook, send out Tweets, SnapChat with friends, etc.
- We had many other ways to keep busy without the technology. We read books (the paper kind), played board and card games, went for hikes and walks, enjoyed the water—even at a chilling 45 degrees—and enjoyed being outside and together.
- We engaged in great conversation and enjoyed each other’s company.
- We also have a few already established technology-free times in our daily lives (yes, our kids call us “old fashioned”), which I believe helped us have a successful vacation:
- No devices are allowed at the dinner table or in the kitchen during dinner and clean up.
- When we gather with our extended family (example: family birthday party) devices are also not allowed to be out and used. That is a time we have set aside for family, for playing with cousins and being teased by aunts and uncles!
- Last summer we had a daily tech-free time from 6-8 p.m. which reminded us all to get outside and enjoy the evening, the beautiful Minnesota summer and the neighbors.
I believe all of these helped my family be able to enjoy the entire week of vacation technology-free.
This went so well that we will likely make this annual vacation technology-free going forward. There is still a lot of summer left, if you have a vacation planned for the remaining part of summer, I highly recommend giving up technology, if not for the entire vacation, then maybe only for a day or two. Or, if you need to ease into a technology-free vacation, dedicate a small period each day to be free from devices.