Disconnected or plugged in? Do you need your phone when on holiday?

Disconnected or plugged in? Do you need your phone when on holiday?


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Whilst many of us are currently ‘unplugged’ on a well earned summer break, some of our daily habits can never be ‘disconnected’. When computer screens might be switched off in quiet offices, smartphones are always on buzzing in holidaymakers pockets.

Has tech, digital and mobile transformed our ‘away’ time? Has innovation helped or damaged travel industry? Is it possible to have a disconnected holiday? Do you actually need to change location to take a break?

Virtual holidays

Tourism has been transformed by changing lifestyles as well as internet, digital and tech. When our parents might have been chatting away on the phone with their trusted travel agent discussing their next trip, younger generations might not have ever experienced that. Booking hotels, buying plane tickets, currency exchange can nowadays be done with a few clicks or even with one app. And who needs neighbours recommendation when all of this can be found online?

A well known British Travel company Thomas Cook made a bold innovation statement. By using VR (Virtual Reality) headset with immersive 360 films “Try before you buy”, they help their customers experience holidays and excursions before they jet off. They decided that most optimal sells technique is to offer a close to real flavour of the holiday destination to help sun seekers make their booking. In their words: “It’s a 3D HD immersive world that is extremely relevant to the customer.” {Source: Factor Tech}.

Google took a step further using virtual reality to provide translation. Their project ‘Captioning on Glass’ has been designed to avoid being ‘lost in translation’. Google Glass wearers use their smartphones as microphones before displaying what is said into them as text on the lenses. What a great way to travel without knowing a word in natives’ language.

Travelling without moving  

Has mixing tech and travel paid off for the tourism industry though? Some argue that innovation might replace a week in the sun, making world exploration easier, less hassle free and cheaper! What a tempting idea for those willing to avoid busy airports and always crowded sun loungers. It might also appeal to green friendly groups willing to reduce impact on the environment.

The Guided Meditation app allows users to experience the sensation of sunbathing – complete with the sound of waves lapping the shore.

A company in the US came up with a programme for NASA allowing astronauts experience virtual break while they’re in space. It offers a virtual world where people can interact with family members, go to a club, walk through beautiful countryside and even dive a coral reef.

Holidaymakers internet stats and must have apps

But what about those backpackers who decided to leave their homes, switching neatly all the electronic equipment inside? Do they manage to press the off buttons on their mobile gadgets when away from civilization?

The latest research from Ipsos and VINCI Autoroutes (France, July 2016), reveals that nearly all smartphone and most tablet owners take their devices with them when they go away.

  • 98% of holidaymakers pack smartphones with them
  • 7 in 10 tablet owners do not jet set without their gadgets
  • 60% of internet users take advantage of their devices when on vacation

But what are mobiles and tablets used for when sunning away?

A mini survey in our office shows that we’re a truly ‘connected’ crowd who cannot imagine ‘internet free’ holidays. Below are the most popular apps we cannot live without.

  • Google Maps – to find your way in unknown locations
  • Trip Advisor – seeking for recommendations and real accommodation photos
  • Airbnb – for best value beds all over the world
  • Trainline – when searching for a last minute train journey
  • Skyscanner – missed a plane, quickly compare routes and prices available
  • PokemonGo – a bit of fun when off work
  • NYT news – trying to keep up to date despite of holiday mood
  • Mobiliytrip – for best online travel journals
  • WindGuru – for sailing fans
  • Splitwise – hassle free dining (when it comes to paying a bill)

Is it possible to experience disconnected holiday then?

A quick Google search brings up numerous ‘internet detox’ options. The ‘disconnected’ industry seems to be booming. The choices are endless:

  • digital detox holidays and hotels directories
  • expert tips and tricks on how to unplug from the internet
  • 5 best mobile apps to disconnect

But is it possible? Or even better for wellbeing and mental health?

“I don’t think I ever want to take another ‘break away’ without decent internet connectivity. I can manage it, but I won’t enjoy it as much.”  {Mobile Industry Review}
“This resorts location is the selling point but really needs all areas WiFi” {Trip Advisor}