Put Down the Phone!: The Unplugged Vacation

Put Down the Phone!: The Unplugged Vacation

unplugged vacationDoes this sound like your family? Each night, you gather around the dinner table. You have worked hard tonight, you avoided the bagged salad and hand-chopped all those carrots. You set the plates on the table, and immediately your kids say, “I want to eat at the coffee table. Can I watch YouTube?”

Maybe your husband works long hours like mine, and enjoys flipping through photos on the Chive to relax. Even during hours when he is supposed to be watching the kids. I am guilty, too, though. I check social media and the New York Times while I build play dough animals for my daughter’s tea parties.

Last year, around this time and after a similar evening spent glued to screens, I decided to enforce an unplugged vacation. We needed time away, I reasoned. My daughter was two, did she really need to watch Baby Einstein for the 700th time?

After I decided to start looking, though, I realized what a challenge I faced. Do you know how ubiquitous WiFi is? Here are some tips I collected that I hope will help you as well.


OK, so technically you can buy WiFi packages onboard ships. They are terribly expensive, though, and you cannot stream video or music with any of them. So, really, cruising makes a lot of sense when you want to unplug.

I ended up booking us on a Disney cruise. I would like to say we had no screen time, but let’s be honest. I had downloaded some videos to an old iphone so my daughter could watch movies while we ate dinner. Not so unplugged, I guess, but we had a lot more interpersonal discussions without a WiFi package.

carnival inspiration
cruising for unplugged vacation


It is more and more challenging to unplug on an international trip. When I was a teenager and travelled to Europe, our option to call home involved a pay phone and a international calling card. I know, I’m old. Nowadays you can pre-pay for an international data plan from several different providers, or even purchase a local pre-paid phone at your destination. Several years ago when my husband and I volunteered in Tanzania, we bought pre-paid cell phones and they worked quite well. Again, you would think you could escape technology, but they have internet cafes everywhere. I would say our phones did not work everywhere we went (like when we camped on our safari trek), but we were never terribly far from the real world.

This past year, we tried Vienna as an unplugged vacation. We had the same phone with downloaded videos and games for our daughter, but otherwise I used the wifi at the hotel. My husband bought an international data plan but it never quite seemed to work. At least we didn’t find a phone bill of $1000 for roaming charges.

Still, I think we made it work as best we could, and you could certainly go full analog with guidebooks and maps. Lonely Planet for the win.


Ah, nature. Trees, birds, lakes…if you don’t have a bathroom, you can’t possibly have LTE, right? Well, it depends. I looked at several glamping spots that offered wifi. And we are not really the “shovel and bag” kind of camping family. If you are, though, this also seems a viable option for an unplugged vacation.

Other Thoughts

In retrospect, going screen-less starts at home. I’ve learned my lesson. Just like with everything in travel, you cannot escape your problems just by going somewhere new. I suppose I need to go back to the drawing board to find new ideas for unplugged vacations.

Do you have any suggestions? Where have you gone to turn off the cell phones and actually enjoy one another’s company?


Related posts:

Leave a Reply

21 thoughts on “Put Down the Phone!: The Unplugged Vacation

  1. Camping- especially miles and miles away from the nearest town – is our very favorite kind of unplugged vacation. We do bring the iPad with some shows downloaded (just in case), but we’ve never once had to use it. Our kiddo absolutely loves nature, and so do we, so it’s an easy way to unplug and recharge.

    Plus when we’re off grid, neither of us can be reached by work 😉

  2. Great post! We try and stay unplugged on holiday too but the reality of being self employed/a blogger/ Virtual Assistant means being plugged in even on holiday is a necessity. Although we did set cut off times, so as soon as dinner was served all tech got switched off so we could enjoy the evening together, plus we didn’t need phones to take photos etc. It’s all about finding the right balance I think – if there is such a thing! Great post x

  3. I really enjoyed this article! I truly believe that leaving the WiFi behind every once in a while and living in the now is so, so important! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Great post! The Internet is so accessible it’s easy to get caught up in screen time. We keep mealtimes screen free and put our devices away for chunks of time during the weekend when we get out the Lego/ Brio/ board games or go for a long walk and just spend proper time together. It is really refreshing when we manage it! Thank you for sharing with #Blogstravaganza 🙂

    1. Christmas is almost too busy a time to be online. I’d love to ramble in Wales–it looks so beautiful. Happy new year!

  5. I’ve been trying to make an effort to have less screen time. It’s difficult as my job revolves so much around social media, but it’s so nice to switch off sometimes! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

  6. Really enjoyed this. Meal times are screen free in our house, but we make an effort to have proper time away from various devices too, especially during the weekend. It’s so important! Thank you for sharing with #Blogstravaganza 🙂

  7. I love this! we stayed in a cabin for our first close vacation recently and I picked a spot with no wifi (whoops) on purpose. Everyone is so connected to their phones, myself included, the lack of ability to get on the phone took away the temptation. We spent such great quality time together!

    1. Definitely! Sometimes I think we forget how actually to talk to one another. Every so often my husband and I go on a date where we both agree not to check our phones at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: