In today’s uber-connected culture it seems everyone from preschoolers to baby boomers are glued to phones, tablets, laptops, and a whole host of other techno-gadgetry. There’s certainly a place for that in our busy lives –those tools are necessary components of business, school, and maintaining calendars. But when we want to go off the grid and treat ourselves and our families to quality downtime and a much-needed vacation, it’s important to create some guidelines for putting away the electronics and tuning into the conversations, memory-making and fun experiences happening in the moment.
Technology by the numbers: A recent survey by Alamo Rent A Car revealed over 90% of parents allow their children to use electronic devices on vacation, with 53% utilizing them for entertainment during flights or long drives. Dads are more likely to approve the use of electronic devices for their children on vacation than moms (98% vs. 93%), and 6% of parents do not let their children use any electronic devices on vacation at all.
So what’s the right number? How can you find that happy medium between our natural pull toward technology and truly experiencing the family face-time that you want?
Here are some simple ways to get your family to unplug or at least make technology part of your next vacation:
- Set boundaries: Put limits on tech time without banning it completely. Some parents allow technology during car and plane rides only. Others establish specific tech-times during the day – such as when young ones are napping or in the evening when you’re back at the hotel or beach house.
- Lead by example: It’s hard to look your kid in the eye and say “no electronics!” when you’re checking email or taking work calls during family time. Make the family boundaries your boundaries, as well.
- Make technology part of the fun: Put technology to good use by letting kids take charge of mapping out your activities and travel routes ahead of time using theme park apps (which show line waits, etc.) or Google Maps. The Postino app allows you to create and send postcards from the road – no stamps required. Or encourage your kids to make a vacation play list to keep everyone entertained while on the road.
- Go “old school” with games: Board games, cards, or even charades can get your kids engaged in an all-in kind of way. (Who knows - they may become family favorites!)
- Do the things you can’t do while on your phone: Take a go-cart for a spin, go swimming, organize a game of pick-up basketball, try horseback riding, hiking – or even parasailing and zip-lining, if you’re brave enough.
- Let them be snap-happy: Put your kids on a mission to chronicle your family vacation in photographs. Let them use their devices to capture key moments and then upload the photos to a site like SnapFish to create a memory book you’ll cherish.
- Don’t make anything set in stone: In parenting, in life, and especially on vacations – things happen. When we set rules in stone and are unwavering, we can suck the spontaneity out of what should be a “let go and have fun” time. Don’t be so rooted in rules that you miss out on unexpected fun.
Technology can be a great tool to connect us in our everyday lives and as enjoy vacation time with family and friends. With the right mindset, planning, and boundaries, you’ll be off on your next adventure ready to experience a magical, memorable time with your kids. Enjoy!