Top Tips for an Almost Tech-Free Vacation

You pictured that family vacation as a time to unwind and connect with your kids. After exploring beaches or museums by day, you’d share stories over dinner and perhaps a game of cards.

But in reality, are your tweens or teens more likely to be hooked on their smartphones or watching movies alone on their laptops? And parents can be just as guilty. Who can resist a sneaky peek at email, or sharing photos with Facebook friends?

In our hyper-connected world, going cold turkey on vacation can seem a step too far. But setting limits can give everyone a much-needed break and help you enjoy that precious time together.

Here are a few tips for an almost tech-free vacation:

Don’t ban them, but set limits
Smartphones, tablets or laptops can be great for warding off boredom on a long car or plane journey, or finding directions to local restaurants. But they’re less welcome at the dinner table or on the beach. Before you go, agree on some limits and an appropriate time and place for screens.

Switch off outside
One way to limit screen time is to agree to leave electronic devices in the hotel room or apartment and only use them in the evening. Daytime should be a chance to explore, play, chat, and spend time as a family.

Share the fun!
Instead of each family member zoning out with their own Spotify playlist, encourage everyone to share their music. Kids and parents can download their choice of songs to play in the car or vacation home. You never know, you might discover a new love for Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift while your kids are rocking to your old favorites.

Enjoy a movie together
TV and movies can also be more fun when they’re shared. Instead of watching films on separate devices with headphones, why not plan a family outing to a local movie theater? Or choose some DVDs to take with you.

Get off the phone
If you feel naked leaving the house without your smartphone, then agree on a few ground rules. For example, “no texting during outings” or “use phones only for pictures before 6pm” can be a good compromise. If you’re traveling abroad, remember that switching your phone to airplane mode will prevent an unpleasant surprise when you get your bill. Hunt for WiFi zones if you really need to text or email home.

Stay social!
Kids will inevitably miss their friends when they’re away. Respect their need to stay in touch, whether that’s sending Snapchat photos, chatting on Facebook, or logging onto Skype. Agree on an acceptable time for this — perhaps after dinner or when everyone is relaxing by the pool. Explain to them that texting during mealtimes or on family outings shows a lack of courtesy to those around them and takes away from the group experience.

Pack low-tech games
A vacation is the perfect time to rediscover classic games such as Apples to Apples, Scrabble or Monopoly. A pack of cards is especially handy for fitting in a suitcase, while Charades doesn’t need any equipment at all. If you’re going on a road trip, try Mad Libs or Car Bingo as an alternative to staring at screens.

How does your family unplug and unwind on vacation? Please share your tips!

Previously published at, a social startup that helps parents unplug kids from technology and reconnect with them by sharing real-world experiences. is the all-in-one solution for parents: from articles on parenting and education from renowned institutions, to local family activities, to connecting and meeting like-minded parents.

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