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Is Your Smartphone Spoiling Your Vacations?

If the aim of taking a hard-earned, long-awaited personal vacation truly is to “get away from it all”, detach from the daily grind, get some in R&R, etc., why do we keep ourselves tethered by our smartphones? The whole point is to take a break from the beatdown of work and social pressures, get back in touch with ourselves, and recharge our mental, emotional and physical batteries so that we can return to our daily lives refreshed.

Yet, in the information age, modern-day travelers across the board seem to be sabotaging themselves with technology. And, while now-ubiquitous smartphones are undeniably useful tools, they can also hijack your holiday by keeping you plugged in.

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A recent study conducted by Passport Photo Online polled over 1,000 Americans about their use of smartphones while on vacation. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that most US travelers can’t disconnect from the mobile devices that we carry on us at all times.

In fact, as the world has migrated more and more services to digital platforms and contactless experiences during the pandemic, it has become even harder to leave your cell phone in your pocket while taking a trip.

Are Americans Smartphone Addicts?

Here’s a starting survey finding to start with: asked whether they used smartphones during their most recent vacation, a full 97 percent of Americans said “yes”, and consistently so across all major demographics.

Gene Zers (25 or younger): 99 percent

millennials (26–38): 97%

Gene Xers (39–54): 98 percent

Baby Boomers (55 or older): 93 percent

That’s right, even your grandmother can’t seem to step away from the screen. The majority (75 percent) of Americans surveyed agreed that they consider their smartphone to be their number-one travel accessory. The next questions naturally become how often we’re using our phones and what we’re using them for—work, emails, social media, etc.

Asked how frequently they check their cell phones, most respondents (71 percent) said between two and five times an hour. Assuming we’re awake for 16 hours of the day, this translates to most travelers checking their phones 32-80 times each day. Ten percent admitted sneaking a peek more than 10 times hourly, translating to more than 160 times a day.

It makes sense, then, that 58 percent of study participants said they regret overusing their phones on their latest vacation.

Social media loves travel.
PHOTO: Social media loves travel. (Photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/Sasin Paraksa)

Social Media’s Influence

Undeniably, and increasingly, social media has a stark influence on all of society these days, particularly the younger generations. Shockingly (or, perhaps, not so much), based on Schofields’ recent study, 40 percent of Millennials actually choose their vacation destinations based on how “Instagrammable” the photos will be.

Fully 89 percent of US vacationers said they used their smartphones to check social media channels during their most recent trip. Asked how much time they felt they averaged on social media sites each day of their travels, the majority (55 percent) reported spending 30 minutes and 2 hours daily. Here’s the detailed breakdown:

1–2 hours: 31%

30–60 minutes: 24%

2–3 hours: 20%

less than 30 minutes: 14%

3–4 hours: 6%

4–5 hours: 3%

6 hours or more: 2%

Close to half of respondents (46 percent) admitted spending those hours on social media because they wanted to make followers jealous of their travel experience. This supports eHotelie’s research, which found that 50 percent of travelers upload travel photos to their social media accounts purely to show off.

Man, travelers, laptop, work, workcation, bleisure, tropics, tropical, island
Americans struggle to unplug during the era of flexible work arrangements. (photo courtesy of Expedia)

Working on Vacation

A few decades ago, working while on vacation would have seemed to be defeating the purpose. But, in today’s hustle culture, it feels much like an expectation. Many Americans routinely attend to work-related tasks on weekends or during our “off” time, and the remote working trend has only further contributed to blurring the lines between work and personal time, and discouraged many of us from ever really relaxing.

When asked if they used mobile devices for work-related purposes while on their most recent vacation, nearly seven in ten (68 percent) Americans said “yes.” Here’s how their responses broke down generationally:

Gene Zers (25 or younger): 78 percent

millennials (26–38): 71 percent

Gene Xers (39–54): 66 percent

Baby Boomers (55 or older): 48 percent

As a result of feeling like we must work around the clock in pursuit of our career goals, plenty of Americans are paying a price. The survey found that:

— Roughly 62 percent of US travelers agreed or strongly agreed that using a cell phone for work while on vacation rendered them unable to relax and recharge their batteries.

— Around 60 percent said that using a smartphone for work-related purposes caused them to change their vacation schedule.

bleisure, digital nomad, remote working, laptop, beach, sunset
Man working remotely with a laptop on a beach at sunset. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/anyaberkut)

Over half (55 percent) of American workers feel pressure to respond to work emails or messages while they’re on vacation, even if the employer doesn’t specifically require it. However, it isn’t merely the employees who are to blame for working while they’re technically “off the clock”. A whopping 60 percent of survey respondents said that their bosses expect them to stay connected and attend to work demands while they’re on vacation.

As a result of this always-on culture that robs us of our well-deserved “down time”, 66 percent of survey-takers said that they wish they’d been unreachable by employers and colleagues during their most recent leisure trip.


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