Study: Want an Epic Family Vacation this Year? Unplug!

Unplug family vacationEveryone talks about it but, c’mon, who really completely unplugs from tech completely on vacation? According to a recent study released by McAfee, while most people still fear going off the digital grid, those who do are reaping big rewards.

According to the study of nearly 14,000 men and women worldwide ages 21-54, more than 55 percent of participants who intended to unplug while on vacation, simply couldn’t do it. However, the 65 percent who did unplug say it made the difference in the quality of their vacation.

Smartphones have become as intrinsic to family travel as suitcases. Parents and kids alike depend on their smartphones to take pictures, access bank accounts, stay connected with friends, watch movies, read, and play games. So, is putting away your family’s go-to source of fun really a practical option on vacation?

You bet. But the example to unplug has to start at the top, with you, parent (the survey also showed those in their 40s and 50s having the toughest time unplugging). See graphic (right) for surprising survey stats.

Start by asking yourself:

  • I’ve invested time and money into this trip, what do I hope the return on that investment will be? 
  • As a family, what are our goals for this vacation? Is our technology getting in the way of those goals?
  • Am I modeling healthy priorities to my kids?
  • Am I teaching my kids the value of unplugging?
  • Am I willing to truly step away from work and relax?

While most of us fear unplugging would bring on disconnection anxiety, think again. Participants of the study who braved up and unplugged reaped huge rewards, including:

  • Vacay-Zen: 65 percent of participants reported a more enjoyable vacation.
  • Work Time-Out: 53 percent of participants felt less stress.
  • You are Here: 51 percent of participants felt more connected to the people they were with.
  • Security: Not oversharing while on vacation helps increase security as criminals scan consumers’ social information and updates to monitor when you’re away and at your weakest point to defend against an attack.

Let’s be real. Talking about disconnecting and actually disconnecting are two different concepts entirely, right? Not to worry, here are some tips to get your whole family started:

Tips to help your family unplug:

  1. Unplug in chunks. Determine to take the unplug challenge one day at a time. Rather than mandating your kids unplug for the entire week, start by asking them to unplug for one day and work up from there. You might get a little more enthusiasm from your kids and boost everyone’s sense of achievement.
  2. Make it fun. It’s tough to go cold turkey and put the tech away completely. So, make it a game. Challenge — even dare — your kids to unplug for a day or two. Reward them for sticking to your family’s unplug goals. For example, unplugging for a whole day gets rewarded with an hour of “catch up” time later via a secure wifi.
  3. Plan ahead. Busy hands rarely reach for a device. Spend extra time planning your day so the entire family stays engaged in the experience and enjoying one another’s company.
  4. Leave devices behind. Remove temptation to plug in by leaving devices behind in your hotel room (in the safe) or in the car (in the trunk). You’ll be amazed how easily your kids find other things to do if any down time between activities comes up.
  5. Stay upbeat. Set the tone of the vacation. It’s important your kids see unplugging as a healthy habit and not a punishment. Explain the physical and emotional benefit of decompressing from technology and experiencing life in the moment. Keep the conversation positive and fun.
  6. Recap. Once home from vacation, be sure to recap the benefits of unplugging. Share a story about what you learned and encourage your kids to do the same. It’s an achievement to unplug in today’s streaming world so taking time to recognize the success is a great motivation for your kids to repeat the practice on their own.

On the safety side:

  • Limit usage. The more often you (and your kids) use your phone on vacation, the greater the risk to your cybersecurity. Cybercriminals like fake Wi-Fi networks that target tourists. If possible, reduce connecting if you can’t unplug altogether.
  • Lock down devices. Use a strong password, PIN, and biometric locks. If you absolutely must plug in on vacation, be sure your device is locked down. Have a strong password and PIN. Add an extra layer of security with biometric authentication, such as a fingerprint. For mobile banking, set strong security parameters within the apps themselves.
  • Backup your data. It’s important to keep crucial documents, photos, and other sensitive information in another place other than your phone. Use a cloud-based service, or use an additional device or external hard drive for backup. That way, if your phone is lost or stolen on vacation, you’ve got Plan B in place for recovering data.
  • Install a phone finder. Phone locating apps will save you. These applications use a smartphone’s GPS that will track a lost or stolen phone.




Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family

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