Americans don't know how to 'unplug' on vacation, study finds

Many Americans admit to checking their phones 80 times a day while on vacation, with some checking their devices more than 300 times each day, according to new research.

A study of 2,000 Americans found that while we want to relax and get away from our daily routine, we don’t seem to want a break from our phones. Whether on a beach, by the pool or in a museum, results showed the average American checks their phone five times an hour, or once every 12 minutes, while on vacation.

And nearly 10 percent said they check their phones more than 20 times an hour.

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The study, by global tech services company Asurion, found we might like to relax on vacation but we certainly aren’t looking for a digital detox — 53 percent of Americans have NEVER unplugged or reduced their phone time while away.

Asurion’s 2018 study, conducted by OnePoll, shows that we are on our phones during vacation as much as our regular day-to-day life and check our devices up 80 times a day.

(Asurion)

So how long can we stand to be away from our phones while indulging in some R&R? Four hours is the average.

“The results reveal that while people enjoy taking a vacation from everyday life, they don’t necessarily want to take a full break from their phone.

"It still serves as their main connection to friends and family, and is a practical tool to help get around when travelling.

“At Asurion, we help people get the most out of their tech devices, including tips for how to achieve a healthy phone-life balance, whether at home or travelling on vacation," said Asurion spokesperson Bettie Colombo.

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So, what’s driving our phone attachment on vacation?

Friends and family are the biggest factor, with more than 46 percent saying they want to stay connected with friends and family, or to share their experiences. In second place, nearly 20 percent said that their phones help them to be a smart tourist and get around unfamiliar locations.

Mentally, it can be difficult to take a break from social media even while lounging poolside, and Americans agree — 68 percent admitted they check social media when on vacation.

Americans will also go to extreme lengths to get cell phone reception or squeeze in more screen time.

In fact, Americans are so dependent on their phones that one in four said they’ve either climbed a tree, hiked to the top of a hill, or canoed to the middle of a lake just to get cell phone reception during vacation.

Nearly half of respondents also reported tripping or bumping into things on vacation because they were too distracted with their phones. And more than 10 percent reported missing their vacation destination while travelling because they were focused on their phone screens.

(Asurion)

So, for those looking to just catch a break from their phone while on vacation, Asurion tech experts offer the following suggestions to help find life-phone balance while staying connected:

  • Set your phone on "Do Not Disturb" for select hours when you don’t want to be contacted. This allows you to use your phone when you really need to, while blocking calls that distract you from your vacation. (This can be done on iPhone by going to Settings > Do Not Disturb. Android users can activate Do Not Disturb by going to Settings > Sounds and Vibration > Do Not Disturb. From there, you can pre-schedule how long you want the DND setting in effect, and allow repeat callers to get through (in case of emergency).
  • You can also block out everyone while still allowing for crucial calls and texts from your closest friends and family. Under the Do Not Disturb setting, iPhone users can allow their “Favorites” list to get through. Android users can create a custom list of friends and family who can reach them.

Need extra help weening yourself from checking your phone too often? There are many apps available to help users break their screen dependency and reduce distractions.

The Forest app (available for both the iPhone and Android) uses gamification to help you break the screen habit by setting a timeframe (up to two hours) when you don't want to use your phone.

During that time, the Forest app plants a digital seedling that slowly grows into a tree on your phone screen. The tree withers if you check your phone before your time is up.

The Flipd app removes your phone distractions by locking you out of your phone apps during a timeframe that you designate. Or, it can also do a “light lock,” which encourages you to stay off your phone, but still allows you to use it if you want to.

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You can also manually move all your phone apps into one digital folder on your phone — because by not seeing the apps, you’ll be less distracted and tempted to use them, but will still be able to use them if you need to.