Don’t Leave Home Without It? How Americans Really Feel About Taking a Smartphone on Vacation

Passport, smartphone and sunscreen are the top three items in order of importance Americans say they pack when they go on vacation. (Travel insurance comes in at the bottom of the list.)

But given a choice, a majority of Americans say their preference is to holiday without a mobile device, according to’s Global Disconnect Survey of 2,495 respondents from 28 countries. Indeed, just 35 percent of Americans said they were unwilling to ditch their electronic devices on a vacation.

At the opposite end of the smartphone spectrum are travelers from Thailand, where 85 percent of respondents said they were not prepared to vacation without a mobile device. Clutching smartphones and laptops right behind them were travelers from Korea (78 percent), Japan (69 percent) and China (67 percent). In contrast, just 20 percent of respondents from India said they were hesitant to vacation without plugging in.

Mobile devices perform myriad tasks, of course, and how travelers choose to use them determines just how relaxing the trip is. Having the weather forecast or a map to the beach or museum at your fingertips can drain away travel anxiety. But poring over office e-mail at every opportunity? Some vacation.

There’s no one-size-fits all approach to using a smartphone on a holiday, says Meris Powell, a New York-based psychotherapist. “People need to use their judgment with regards to what they should look at when they’re on vacation and when they should avoid looking.”

Dialing back on the amount of time spent consulting work-related e-mail can often be more beneficial than quitting cold, especially if it means missing out on decision making or  scrambling to catch up once you’re back in the office.

Still, everyone needs an opportunity to give the mind a rest, says Powell, who suggests vacationers cut back on social media, turn off all electronic devices, including television, one hour before going to bed and read books on paper instead of on an LED screen at bedtime. Novels are better than nonfiction for rebooting the brain, she adds. “People have been telling stories for millennia to counteract the cold.”

Smartphones are high on American travelers’ must-take list for a reason. Two-thirds of Americans said they spent some time on social media while on holiday, with 28 percent saying they clocked in an hour or more each day, the survey found.

A majority of Americans (66 percent) also admitted to spending some time checking or responding to work email while on vacation. Of those 36 percent said they spent less than an hour a day.

And how do American travelers feel about all this? Pretty good, it seems. Some 72 percent said they come home with no regrets about vacation time spent on mobile devices.




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