European Hotels Offer 'Digital Detoxes' for a Smartphone-Free Vacation



by Katie Wong /  / Updated 

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Can you really appreciate Big Ben’s clock face with your nose buried in your iPhone?

A number of hotels in Ireland and the United Kingdom think not, and are offering “digital detox” packages to help guests ditch the iPhone and take in the sights.

The practice of “digital detoxing” -– abandoning smartphones, tablets, the Internet, and other electronic distractions for a period of time –- has gained in popularity in recent years, as the average U.S. consumer now spends 60 hours a week consuming content across devices, according to a 2014 Nielsen study.

And when those consumers travel, their devices come with them.

Retreats dedicated to helping frayed professionals set aside their email, Snapchat and Candy Crush addictions have sprung up in the U.S., Japan and even the Caribbean, but now short retreats across the Pond have become increasingly popular, and even life-changing for some.

At the Westin Hotel Dublin, guests can purchase a "digital detox package.” All electronic devices are handed over to employees at the front desk, and guests are given a "survival kit": everything they’ll need to appreciate James Joyce’s home town, with none of the angst that comes with one-upping your friends’ Instagram vacation photos.

Pauline Corcoran, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, tells NBC News the package is particularly popular with couples.

About an hour’s drive outside London, the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire promotes a “digital detox spa retreat” that started as a one-day promotion, but proved so popular that the hotel made it a seasonal spa offering.

Read More: Connected Travelers Seek Out Digital Detox on Vacation

And then there’s Scotland. The number one complaint among tourists there is the lack of Internet connectivity and cell service. So tourism promoters began marketing their offerings as ways to disconnect from the digital firehose.

“We noticed hostels, camping providers, hotels and guest houses were already doing a range of things,” said Chris Greenwood, senior tourism insight manager for Visit Scotland. “We don’t have mobile phone signal, so do come here.”

So, is a break from the dull glow of your screens as good as it sounds? And when we’re all surrounded by computers all the time, how is a person supposed to know if he or she is an addict, anyway?

The key to knowing if you’re really hooked is how bad it makes you feel to go cold turkey, said Peter Andrews, a digital marketing and social media specialist at Hull University Business School. If hiding your Apple Watch away for 48 hours gives you the heebie jeebies, that’s a bad sign.

“Do you take your device to bed? Do you check your device before you get out of bed? Is your device next to you during breakfast, lunch and dinner? Can you not go two hours without checking your phone? If your answer is yes to these questions, you could potentially be addicted,” Andrews said.

Read More: Need a Digital Detox? Try the 'Facebook Diet'

Lucy Pearson, co-founder of Unplugged Weekend based in London where she teaches serious digital detoxers how to unplug, tells NBC News that, “We’re not anti-technology, but we believe there should be a balance."

Rebecca Jones, a 20-year-old from Wales who embarked on an Unplugged Weekend retreat in the Welsh countryside with her family, says her mother who was addicted to Candy Crush got home and deleted the app. Feeling transformed. Jones said, “You remember how much better you can communicate with someone when you’re physically with them rather than when you’re starring at a screen… the screen can’t come out and give you a hug.”



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