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Tech Free Vacation: Two Ways to Tame Technology on Family Vacations

Thinking about leaving the gadgets at home on your next family vacation? Think again. It has become almost impossible to ban them outright. And you may also need them for practical reasons—to look up admission prices, consult maps, keep in touch with the office, or send photos to grandma to assure her that everyone is okay.

The idea of a tech free vacation may be impossible. “The thought of an unplugged vacation has gone the way of the dodo,” says Kyle McCarthy, co-founder and editor of the website Family Travel Forum. “Parents, too, are not always able to unplug.”

Tech Free Vacation

Still, you can tame technology so that it works to your family’s advantage. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started on the off-the-grid vacation.

1. Set time limits.

The trick is to limit everyone’s time on the devices. Otherwise, “you could actually have a kid on vacation who is spending more time texting people that they’re on vacation than actually experiencing the vacation,” says Dr. Frances E. Jensen, author of The Teenage Brain. “They are not even enjoying or experiencing the place.”

Some families organize a daily time to plug in, or limit it to taking and downloading photos, no texting allowed. Don’t spring this on your teenager. Agree on a plan in advance and explain your motivations for implementing one.

2. Pick a no WiFi zone (yes, they do exist).

One way to reconnect as a family is to pick a place with no WiFi, such as Yellowstone National Park, or a family lodge like Strathcona Park Lodge & Outdoor Education Centre on Vancouver Island. There, all manner of angst should fade away as you and your teens paddle canoes, roast marshmallows, dive into a lake after a beach sauna, and walk high up amongst the branches of the giant Douglas fir trees. By the end of the trip, they may have even forgotten the allure of their phones—if only for a second.

Bon voyage!

Kate Pocock

Kate Pocock is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada. Read more of her work—including for National Geographic, Fodors, and others — at familytravelink.com.