Skift Take

Everybody needs to take time to unplug from the constant communication made possible with mobile devices, but that requires consciously setting aside time for meditation and adventure -- not chaining ourselves to a regressive view of technology.

It’s time to stop feeling guilty about bringing mobile devices on vacation.

Although it is a great idea to unplug, soak up the outdoors , enjoy the company of our loved ones, and force ourselves to detach from the 24-hour work cycle, it’s time to stop acting surprised about the importance we place on the devices — especially when on the road.

An InterContinental Hotels survey of more than 10,000 travelers across 13 countries, released this week, found that 40 percent of travelers worldwide agree that their smartphone is the most important item that they take on vacation. More than two thirds, 67 percent, report using their devices every day.

TripAdvisor found an even greater affinity for devices in its April 2014 survey of more than 50,000 TripAdvisor users. Almost every traveler it surveyed, 91 percent, reported using their smartphone on vacation. 

While the IHG survey found checking work emails was the most common smartphone activity, the next nine most common activities are all associated with navigating directions, taking and sharing trip photos, and communicating with friends.

In addition to these social activities, MMGY Global’s comprehensive 2014 Portrait of American Travelers found that looking up reviews, monitoring flight schedules and using mobile boarding passes also fell within the top ten most common travel activities done with a smartphone.

These are all actions that either make the logistical element of travel easier or allow us to share special moments with people back home. Who doesn’t love “Liking” a photo of their niece on the beach or brother on his honeymoon?

There are even times when more mindless smartphone usage can come in handy. Verizon Wireless is, of course, eager to point out the benefits of mobile devices on family trips, but its 2013 blog post on the topic contains several valid points including the ability to entertain children in transit with videos and apps.

In a perfect world, we’d like to completely unplug from our responsibilities  — a survey found only 35 percent of Americans would refuse to ditch their devices on vacation — but in reality, devices give many people the opportunity to take vacation time they might otherwise be unable to take if they had to stay in their office for every call or email.

Smartphones are the tools we turn to first thing upon waking for everything from the time to daily mantras, the assistants we rely on for multiple reminders and Google searches throughout the day, and the place we go to relax on social media before bed.

Of course, we take our phones when traveling. They’re our best friends who become even more helpful when away from home and possibly outside of our comfort zone.

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Tags: smartphones

Photo credit: A man looks at his phone on the beach. Mike Cogh / Flickr

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