Fewer va­ca­tion­ers are plan­ning to un­plug as they un­wind.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - El­liott is a con­sumer ad­vo­cate, jour­nal­ist and co-founder of the ad­vo­cacy group Trav­el­ers United. Email him at chris@el­liott.org. CHRISTO­PHER EL­LIOTT

If you’re plan­ning to leave your smart­phone or lap­top at home when you go on va­ca­tion this month, you might want to think again. The un­plugged get­away is so last year. More than 62 per­cent of trav­el­ers say they plan to check their work-re­lated email and voice mail, ac­cord­ing to a new poll by the travel agency net­work Travel Lead­ers Group. Just 37 per­cent of re­spon­dents say they un­plug, a pre­cip­i­tous drop from three years ago, when more than half of trav­el­ers said that they would go de­vice­less while they were away.

Dis­con­nect­ing is passé, which is bad — and good. It’s bad in the sense that peo­ple re­ally need a break. In fact, the right to dis­con­nect is rec­og­nized by some for­ward-look­ing em­ploy­ers, in­clud­ing Mercedes-Benz. Ear­lier this year, France en­acted a law that re­quired com­pa­nies with more than 50 work­ers to set hours when em­ploy­ees are not sup­posed to send or an­swer emails. But it’s good in the sense that a con­nec­tion can be a pow­er­ful tool that can im­prove your va­ca­tion.

Jes­sica Tsukimura can’t do with­out her con­nec­tions be­cause of the un­avoid­able re­al­ity that the world doesn’t stop when you’re away. Tsukimura, who just re­turned from Italy with her hus­band, says they both work in jobs where they must be reach­able, “no mat­ter what.” She’s the head of the New York of­fice of a global brand­ing and de­sign agency; he works for a hedge fund.

“We brought one com­pany phone and a per­sonal phone,” she says. If there hadn’t been talk of a lap­top ban, they would have taken their com­puter, too.

“We both checked emails once daily and texted col­leagues as nec­es­sary,” she says. “But then we shut down our busi­ness com­mu­ni­ca­tions. This en­sured the va­ca­tion re­mained a va­ca­tion.”

That’s the in­ter­est­ing thing about dis­con­nect­ing in 2017: Peo­ple say they want to do it. A re­cent Hil­ton Ho­tels & Re­sorts sur­vey found that 77 per­cent of trav­el­ers say they pre­fer a va­ca­tion where they are able to un­plug from their life. But, ul­ti­mately, they don’t. And when they fail, only 10 per­cent say they’re em­bar­rassed about ob­ses­sively check­ing their smart­phones and lap­tops.

That’s not a real va­ca­tion, says Sa­man­tha Et­tus, au­thor of “The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe For Suc­cess and Sat­is­fac­tion.”

“Just like you recharge your phone, you need to recharge your own bat­tery with a real tech break,” says Et­tus, who spe­cial­izes in of­fer­ing cor­po­ra­tions ad­vice on work-life bal­ance. “But you can’t rely on your com­pany or col­leagues to set your boundaries for you. “That’s your job.”

Yet even Et­tus ac­knowl­edges that a com­plete dis­con­nect — say, leav­ing the phone home — may not be pos­si­ble in 2017. In­stead, she ad­vises choos­ing a time of day to check email and mes­sages and then clos­ing your lap­top for the evening. Keep the of­fice work con­tained where pos­si­ble.

In a per­fect world, you wouldn’t check mes­sages at all. Con­sider what hap­pened to Anna Bey­der, who works for an At­lanta-based tech­nol­ogy com­pany. On a re­cent va­ca­tion, she de­cided to log into her email ac­count — and re­grets it.

“I opened an email that I thought was to­tally harm­less only to find out that it said that my of­fice was re­lo­cat­ing to another city and I was be­ing as­signed to a new man­ager,” she says. Al­though it didn’t ruin her va­ca­tion, “I wish I hadn’t opened it,” she says.

But it’s far from a per­fect world. In a sense, leisure trav­el­ers like Bey­der and Tsukimura are be­com­ing more like busi­ness trav­el­ers, who don’t even go to the bath­room with­out a de­vice. I’m not mak­ing that up. A new Sky­roam sur­vey says that 98 per­cent of road war­riors use a smart­phone “at all times.” Nearly 60 per­cent use a tablet com­puter and 70 per­cent carry a lap­top com­puter.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing un­re­al­is­tic, un­plugged va­ca­tions de­prive trav­el­ers of a valu­able tool: Your de­vice can help you re­solve prob­lems quickly and get bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing un­re­al­is­tic, un­plugged va­ca­tions de­prive trav­el­ers of a valu­able tool: Your de­vice can help you re­solve prob­lems quickly and get bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice.

Laura Barta says she uses her phone to get di­rec­tions when she’s on va­ca­tion. Un­plug­ging would mean leav­ing Google Maps at home. And be­cause she’s gone for two weeks at a time, it also helps to keep a smart­phone if “any­thing re­ally ur­gent” comes along, says Barta, who runs a toy com­pany in Her­shey, Pa.

Per­haps the best rea­son to carry a de­vice, even on va­ca­tion, is that it can quickly rem­edy a cus­tomer-ser­vice prob­lem. Travel-in­dus­try em­ploy­ees — par­tic­u­larly air­line work­ers — some­times re­coil in fear when you point a cell­phone cam­era at them. The last thing they want is for their of­ten rude be­hav­ior to be cap­tured on video and dis­trib­uted via so­cial me­dia. And a Face­book or Twit­ter post is of­ten enough to get a ser­vice prob­lem re­solved in real time.

Of course, I don’t rec­om­mend try­ing this ev­ery time an air­line or ho­tel em­ployee gives you an an­swer you don’t like. But isn’t it nice to know you can record an in­ci­dent if it hap­pens?

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