The One Unexpected Reason You Should Turn Your Phone Off While You’re On Vacation

by James Hale

With spring break approaching and summer not far behind it, we're well into vacation-planning season — which means you're likely to see a bunch of thinkpieces about how millennials should put down their phones for once and take in the beauty of tourism spots most of us can't afford. Don't worry — this isn't one of those. Instead, this is about the actual, scientific reasons you should turn your phone off on vacation, including one you may not expect: The fear of missing out on what's going on at home.

There's no denying phones are super convenient, and for lots of people, they're an everyday necessity. But they also tie us on a virtually constant basis to Facebook updates from friends and family, to work emails, and to a news cycle that simultaneously feels three minutes and three decades long. We use our cell phones to stay informed, and that is a good thing, but it also exposes us to potential information overload. And since the whole point of vacation is to get away from the stress and tasks of everyday life, it stands to reason that cutting off the tool that allows us 24/7 access to tons of stressors would help us relax more on vacation.

In fact, dealing with stress on vacation can mean your vacation doesn't feel like a vacation at all. A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that vacation-related stress caused folks to feel like they had lower energy at work after returning from their supposedly relaxing vacation. And since vacations are already ripe for stress-inducing situations like missed flights and lost baggage, making sure you're stepping away from the extra stress caused by daily activities.

But the weirdest potential side effect about having our phones on vacation may not be that we're overwhelmed by things going on back at home, but that we miss things going on back at home. Natalie Paris writing for The Telegraph made the point that the fear of missing out (aka, good old FOMO) on things friends are up to while we're gone may sap enjoyment from our time away.

A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that focusing on other people's social lives (which researchers found are often carefully curated to look peachier than they actually are) can affect our well-being. So when we're on our cell phones on vacation, where we're supposed to be enjoying ourselves, it can be easy to fall into the trap of wondering why we're seemingly not having as much fun as people on social media.

Plus, as a frequent sufferer of travel-related homesickness, I can tell you that when I'm traveling alone and my partner sends me cute selfies and photos of our pets, it's nice, but often only makes me miss home more. Even if you're a fan of the staycation like I am, though, the same benefits apply when it comes to minimizing your cell phone time.

Of course, there are plenty of valid reasons not to turn your phone off completely while you're OOO — like having handy access to Google Translate or, heck, a map — you have lots of options for minimizing your time scrolling. Enforcing strict time limits on yourself is one, if you have a job that requires you to go on social media. My preferred method for minimizing cell phone time is deleting apps; when I travel, I delete Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram from my phone altogether, leaving me with just my Kindle app and daily medication tracker.

You can also consider a solution like the one from tech site Rick's Daily Tips, which suggests you get a cheap prepaid phone for vacation that will let you make an emergency call or text, but will separate you from stressors that may be present on your regular phone.

For plenty of folks, it's unrealistic to ask for a complete absence from their phone during vacations. But knowing what aspects of cell phone use can disrupt your vacations can help you craft a plan to get the most out of your time away.