It may be the National Day of Unplugging, but odds are, most Americans will be resistant — we are a nation hooked on devices in our working hours, our leisure hours and even during our vacation hours. In fact, according to Project Time Off, nearly eight out of 10 employees say they are more comfortable taking time off if they know they can stay connected to work.
But research supports the value of a true unplug and now, hotels and resorts are aiming to help their guests do just that. Packages are aimed both at individuals and at families. Delaney Ruston, MD, the filmmaker behind Screenagers, says that carving out untethered family time is critical. “Kids spend less time than ever with their parents today,” she says. “It’s so important to find time to reunite.”
I think when you have no choice but to unplug, you just relax. You exhale.
Susan Capelli, a Pennsylvania mother of two, has managed this dedicated, unplugged vacation time with her family for the past six years, but admits the idea was a tough sell for at first. “We decided to try a resort in the mountains of New York with no electricity and no connectivity,” she says. “My husband thought there was no way he could do it; that he would have to drive into town every day to call his office.”
But within just a few days time, all four of the family members were happy with the lack of connectivity to the outside world. “I think when you have no choice but to unplug, you just relax,” says Capelli. “You exhale.”
Katie Denis, vice president and lead researcher at Project Time Off, says that in order to truly “sink into” uplugged time, it helps if employers send the right message to their staff, and vice versa. “If you want to disconnect from work, have a conversation with your boss and establish clear expectations,” she says. “Otherwise, unplugging can actually lead to more stress because you worry your effort isn’t supported.”
Once you’ve got the green light, however, taking the extra step to find a true unplugged experience should be next. These five hotels and resorts are there to help you:
- Wyndham Grand — With its new Reconnected program, Wyndham is targeting five locations (Charleston, Orland, Chicago, Gaveston, Tex., and Clearwater, Fla.) to roll out an unplugged experience. Upon check in, guests lock box their devices so that they can resist the temptation to pull them out. In exchange, Wyndham provides families with a variety of options for shared time. From blanket fort kits to s’mores, snacks and cocktail ingredients, and sets of books for all ages, Wyndham’s program aims to facilitate face-to-face time over face-to-screen time. Guests taking the hotel chain up on the idea get a five percent discount by participating in the program through the end of April.
- Timberlock Adirondack Resort — This is the family camp that Capelli’s family has returned to for six years running. Located along the shores of Indian Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, this old-fashioned camp has been hosting families for decades in its 23 cozy and comfortable cabins. Swimming, hiking, horseback riding, boating and so much more ensure that families are never without an activity, although plenty are content to simply sit, read and gaze out at the blue water. The host family serves three meals each day and when coupled with the lack of screen time, guests have the opportunity to truly reconnect with each other.
- The Element Boston Seaport — Guests who sign up for the Element’s special unplugging experience sign on for 24 hours without their screens and in return, gain a voucher for a future night’s free stay. Guests lock down their devices upon check in and enjoy amenities like free breakfast, an evening reception, and access to the fitness center and spa. The hotel is located in the hub of Boston, so the city’s historic and cultural attractions are within easy walking distance for exploring while away from devices.
- Under Canvas — If you want to be near one of the national parks disconnect all at once, glamping via the Under Canvas organization is the way to go. Located in striking distance to parks like Yellowstone, Zion, Glacier or the Great Smokey Mountains, guests stay in upscale tents, some complete with indoor plumbing and wood-burning stoves. Packages can include guided hikes, yoga and meals, all in an unplugged environment that allows guests to connect with nature and each other.
- Rancho La Puerta — One of the oldest fitness and spa retreats, Ranch La Puerta, in Baja California, offers guests a wide variety of activities including hikes, art and cooking classes, mindfulness and yoga sessions and more. Guests may bring their devices but they must limit them to their private rooms, and connectivity is spotty. With so much to do outside of the rooms, however, odds are your only time inside them will be dedicated to sleeping and showering.
After that first year at Timberlock, Capelli discovered the unplugged vacation was the one her kids asked for above all others. The down time has become so special to them, in fact, that both children — now teenagers — hope to work at the resort this summer, giving up their devices even longer than their standard one-week vacation.
Ruston says that if you and your family want to ditch the devices and spend quality time together, the best approach is to pick a spot that facilitates it, or have a plan in advance. “Once family members go through the process of unplugging for the first time, it gets easier and the anxiety over disconnecting diminishes,” she says. “Afterward, most kids and parents will say they are happy they did it.”