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7 Tips for Planning the Ultimate Digital Disconnect

A primer on pulling off a tech-free vacation.

U.S. News & World Report

7 Tips for Planning the Ultimate Digital Disconnect

Young woman with backpack sitting on an edge of cliff and looking to the sky.

Enjoy peace, quiet and the chance to unplug and recharge with these tricks. (Getty Images)

Disconnecting during a vacation seems great in theory, but it can be harder to accomplish in practice. According to a study conducted by adventure tour operator Intrepid Travel, 38 percent of participants polled reported missing a major life moment because they were too busy on their phones updating their Instagram profile or filming Snapchat videos. As fun as constant social media sharing may seem, it prevents you from being spontaneous and soaking up the beauty and culture around you. So, instead of keeping your eyes glued to your touchscreen, here are simple strategies to help you turn those devices off and absorb new and exciting environments.

Set Aside Time to Disconnect

Going cold turkey may seem like the most effective way to stop checking your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, but if you're addicted to staying connected, the immediate disconnect may leave you feeling anxious. Instead, disconnect gradually for a smoother transition. It's a smart idea to set daily times to check work emails or social media accounts, but don't bring your phone to bed, and considering leaving your devices in your hotel room during excursions or beach days. Also, plan some Wi-Fi-free hours, such as 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., so you can reconnect with your family – or yourself.

Take a Digital Detox Tour

To get off the grid (and the web) opt for one of Intrepid Travel's new detox-themed tours, which ban cellphones, cameras, laptops and other technological devices throughout the adventure. A trip devoid of a camera may seem strict, but the tours in Ecuador, Thailand, Morocco and India are designed to ensure your time spent with local families is as immersive as possible, with no constant snapping to detach you from engaging conversations and enriching experiences.

Fill the Void

For a successful escape from the stresses of everyday life, you need to fill the time you'd normally spend tweeting, emailing or texting with something equally as rewarding or stimulating. On a wellness vacation, you can achieve this in a variety of ways. Go for a run on the beach, participate in the resort's yoga classes or fitness classes, take a hike, enjoy an expert-led excursion or rejuvenate mind and body with a relaxing spa treatment. Soon enough, you'll forget you're not online.

Leave the Phone at the Reception Desk

Luckily for some, many resorts and destinations offer digital detox programs, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Bhutan. Some properties even request guests to submit their digital devices upon check-in. It's not mandatory to depart ways with your technology, but most guests participate. For those who choose to keep their devices, the lack of Wi-Fi and hefty data fees prevent them staying glued to their smartphones, tablets and laptops anyway.

Ask for a Room Without a TV

Aside from devices with Wi-Fi capabilities, a relaxing technology-free getaway demands time away from all screens. To get away from it all, ask your resort for a room without a TV, DVD player or computer. And instead of watching a movie or a show after dinner, play a board game with the family, read a book, enjoy a rejuvenating facial at the spa, take a meditation class or simply enjoy the sunset from your room with a glass of wine.

Visit Off-the-Grid Places

If you're seeking enlightenment, enrichment and the chance to engage with your surroundings rather than your smartphone, plan a trip to an isolated, digital-free destination. St. Lucia in the Caribbean and a variety of destinations across Mexico and Thailand are widely Wi-Fi free. In addition, many places in the U.S., such as remote national parks and deserts in California don't have a strong Wi-Fi or data connections, leaving you free to soak up breathtaking landscapes without disruption.

Skip Investing in an International Phone Plan

If your travels are taking you abroad, the easiest way to avoid connecting constantly is to skip purchasing a data plan. This will keep you from paying steep roaming fees to surf the internet and scan emails while you're exploring the sights, whether it's a food tour of London or an epic bike ride through the streets of Bangkok. Not having access to Wi-Fi when you're on the road will make it easier to free yourself from the web, and embrace the natural surroundings, cultures and landmarks around you.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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