How to Literally – and Figuratively – Unplug on Vacation

It may seem hard to believe, but Americans spend upwards of 11 hours a day “plugged in.” That means adults are either watching TV, listening to the radio, or playing on our devices about two-thirds of our waking hours. No wonder we all need a vacation!

Even so, Americans let an astounding 500 million unused vacation days a year expire, to the tune of $52 billion in earned vacation benefits.

So, why are we so afraid to unplug, and how do we do it?

The Need to Unplug

Researchers say that since we now spend more time using electronics than we actually do sleeping, we need to unplug more than ever. Finding a temporary disconnect from media – the sounds, the responsibilities, and the anxiety – creates a less stressful atmosphere. It allows the mind to empty out and better restore itself for the next day. It also creates space for us to more fully enjoy the moment, being present in authentic experiences. No time is this more important than on vacation!
Unfortunately, too many people get caught in the trap of staying “connected,” even on vacation. In a recent survey, 55% of people who say they wanted to disconnect from their devices while traveling were unsuccessful in doing so. This creates a disappointing travel experience and leaves individuals less rejuvenated for “real life” once they return home.

Setting the Stage to Unplug on Vacation

So, you want to better unplug (from work, from extended family, or from social media?) the next time you travel? There are a few things you can do ahead of time to set yourself up for success

Set Limits For Yourself: Maybe your office culture doesn’t allow you to fully unplug. If so, set a number of minutes each day you’ll allow yourself to check and respond to work emails. Before bed is not an ideal time as this can leave your brain spinning with thoughts and concerns.

Decide Which Devices to Leave: It’s easier to unplug when your gadgets are at home! Particularly if you’re traveling with your kids, decide what you’re going to take – like one cell phone each – and what you’ll leave – like the iPad and the handheld game console.

Talk About Expectations: It’s impossible to unplug when everyone around you is plugged in. Discuss your plan to go media-free with your travel companions and help hold each other accountable. If you decide there will be no TV before the trip, it will be easier to uphold once you’re tired and want to veg out later on.

Choose Exclusive Destinations That Encourage Unplugging

Where you travel will make a huge difference. If you decide to visit a large international city, for example, you’re more likely to need various apps and electronic maps, encouraging screen time. Ranch vacations, on the other hand, encourage everyone to spend more time outdoors and allow for authentic experiences with nature. If unplugging is a priority for your next vacation, consider exclusive vacations and resorts you may not have thought of before!

For example, a secluded private island allows families and groups the ultimate in unplugged travel. Private island vacations center around privacy, fishing and thoughtful exploration. Remember that an “unplugged” vacation doesn’t have to mean roughing it; some private island vacations offer majestic guest house accommodations and even a personal chef!

If a private island is a little too off-the-grid for your next vacation, consider a natural resort. Today’s ranch vacations are not what they used to be! The Sierra Grande Resort and Spa in New Mexico offers guests the ability to relax and unplug at amenities like a natural hot spring and nearby Armendaris Ranch, rooms are still outfitted with WiFi and the hotel is close to a town like Truth and Consequences when guests feel the need to plug back in.

Unplugging is relative. To you, it may mean spending less than one hour a day checking email and social media while to someone else, it could mean turning off all electronic devices for a week at a time. Don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable, but do push yourself to both literally and figuratively “unplug” during your next vacation.

You’ll be glad you did.