For most people, spending time on social media, checking emails or replying to texts isn’t exactly mood-boosting. If anything, it can feel like wasted time or even a disruption during social events. What’s more, when you’re on a vacation, whether solo, with friends or with family, time spent on your phone is even more of a waste.
In fact, Ulko-Tammio, a Finnish island, announced that it’s a “phone-free island” for the summer months, according to CNN. The move is meant to help people make the most of their vacation.
“We want to urge holidaymakers to switch off their smart devices and to stop and genuinely enjoy the islands,” Mats Selin, an expert in island tourism at Visit Kotka-Hamina, which encompasses the area of the island, said in a June press release published on the Visit Kotka-Hamina website.
Experts say this small island is getting at something that’s actually really important: Our phones have the potential to totally take away from a trip.
“If we’re just completely consumed by our device, then we’re not really being present. We’re somewhere else, you know ... we’re having a virtual conversation with our friends, and we’re back in that drama, or, we’re just constantly being pulled back with work email,” Hilda Burke a psychotherapist based in London and author of “The Phone Addiction Workbook,” told HuffPost.
“We’re not getting that really vital change of scene and different stimuli that I think is really the whole purpose of a holiday,” Burke said.
You’re also not getting the part of a vacation that makes it refreshing, exciting and rejuvenating. “The whole purpose of changing our environment is to be exposed to something new, something different and to have those different neural pathways engaged,” she added.
Instead, you’re stuck in your non-vacation life pattern. Carder Stout, a psychologist based in Los Angeles and the author of “We Are All Addicts,” stressed that the entire point of a vacation is to experience something new.
If people are glued to their phones, “then it’s really just confirming that we don’t have the ability to expand ourselves and evolve and grow and have a new experience,” Strout told HuffPost. “And, also, the experience of being on vacation is really about enjoying one another, enjoying the experience.”
But just because we know that being glued to our phone isn’t great, doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult to ditch it altogether. To help with that, the experts shared some tips for reducing your phone use on your next trip:
You can still go on your phone on your vacation (it may be really stressful for you to totally turn it off), but using it less will help you have a more enjoyable trip.
For example, Burke said instead of checking your phone first thing in the morning like you probably do on a regular weekday, simply check your phone a little later.
“Have breakfast before you check your phone,” Burke suggested. Or power it down a few hours before bed instead of once you’re in bed.
Behaviors like this can help create a vacation habit that maybe even spills into your day-to-day life, too.
If you’re willing to spend even more time without your phone, Burke said you can try spending a day or afternoon away from your phone, like during a tour or on an excursion. Stout added that you can also set designated times for phone use, like checking it in the beginning of the day or at a certain time in the afternoon. This way, you’ll know you aren’t missing any important updates from family back home.
Decouple the camera function from your phone.
If you’re like most people, you rely on your smartphone for its camera during vacations, whether you’re snapping photos of your kids, your parents, attractions or yourself.
This makes it hard to just leave your phone at your hotel on a trip. Stout said you can turn your phone on airplane mode when you go out, which will still give you access to your camera but will turn off those incoming messages and alerts. This way, you won’t be tempted to check texts or emails but can still snap photos of your family in a new place. (And, if you do end up needing your phone for directions or a translation app, you can toggle off airplane mode.)
What’s more, Burke said those who have a physical camera can rely on that during their trip.
“My cousin actually does this. If she goes on an excursion for a day, she will lock her phone up in the hotel lockbox and use a camera so that she can be really, really present,” Burke said. “So, decoupling the camera function I think from the phone can be really, really helpful.”
Designate one person in your group as the ‘phone person’ for the day.
Stout said between him and his wife, just one of them will bring their phone out for the day (and the phone is still switched on airplane mode).
This can help reduce the risk of two people feeling pressure to check their phones and will also get rid of the potential of everyone in a group being stuck to their phones.
Additionally, if you’re feeling anxious about getting lost without your maps app on a trip, this method allows you to still have access to a phone for any logistical needs.
Put your phone out of sight.
The adage “out of sight, out of mind” exists for a reason. Stout suggests putting your phone in a bag during times that should be designated for conversation, like during meals.
“If phones are visible, there’s always the tendency to want to pick them up and look at them and, play with them, check social media,” Stout said.
“If they’re not visible and they’re in a bag sort of locked away under the table during mealtime ... that’s a great way to be able to enjoy conversation at lunch or at the dinner table,” he noted.
Choose a lock screen that encourages you to put down your phone.
According to Burke, you can use your lock screen as a reminder to limit your screen time.
“The image on your lock screen, you use that like it’s advertising real estate to give yourself a message to remind yourself of what you’d rather be doing than being on your phone,” said Burke.
That could be a picture of your family, a quote reminding you to be mindful or even a picture of an actual stop sign. Burke said it should be an image that makes you stop in your tracks and think about what you’re doing.
“You may still go on your phone, but at least you’re making it conscious rather than kind of just scrolling mindlessly, just picking up your phone, not even being aware of what you’re doing, which is typical of addictive behavior,” Burke said.
Additionally, this tactic harnesses the reality that you likely do frequently look at your phone but uses that reality in a productive and constructive way to try to limit phone use, she added.
Consider turning off the Wi-Fi.
This isn’t always an option — you can’t just turn off the Wi-Fi in a hotel, for instance — but, when possible, Stout said he recommends that you turn off the Wi-Fi at a set time — mainly if you’re staying at an Airbnb or similar home rental company.
Stout said in his family, they turn off the Wi-Fi around 8 p.m. “So that sort of disables all of the screens in the environment, computers, even the television and our phones, and, at that time we put our phones away,” Stout said.
After 8 p.m., they’ll enjoy the environment they’re in or have dinner. “We have a rule that we’re just not going to have screens be a part of the experience for us,” he said.
Stout said if you have resistance from certain family members, like kids, for example, establish this rule ahead of time so they’re aware of the kind of vacation they’re about to embark on.
Here’s why doing this is so important.
“It’s very hard for anyone to be present when they have their phone and they’re focused on their phone,” Stout said. “And I’m sure that you’ve had the experience where you’ve been at a table and instead of people conversing with one another, they’re texting their friends on their phone.”
Plus, when you’re on vacation and scrolling through photos, news and posts, you’re not allowing yourself to be present during a time that has likely cost you considerable money.
“A change is as good as a break,” Burke said. “I think on holidays we’re not getting that change because it’s so similar — what we’re hearing and seeing and what we’re touching.”
“If our senses are really being engaged by our smartphone and we’re not looking, we’re not smelling the amazing food, the smell of the flowers, the feel of the sand. If we’re not really engaging our senses, then we’re not present,” Burke continued. “You know? So, we may as well be at home if we’re just looking at the same stuff.”
And, do you really want to be home instead of on your European vacation or cross-country road trip? No, probably not.