February 07, 2014

It seems like every family has their “rules” or habits when they travel. Some people take pictures of their car in a parking spot at the airport, so they can find it on the return – I like that but never remember to do it in the hustle to get inside. I know some people who take a photo of all of their bags together before they leave their house, so they always have the same number of bags – again, a good idea that I never think about until I am standing at the baggage carousel trying to recall if I packed in a black bag or a red one.

For my small family, we have a “no phone” rule. Yes, you heard that right. I work for Sprint, and I even work in wireless device PR, but I don’t believe in carrying my phone on vacations. Sure, I like having it in the airport and when we land. But once we are settled in our hotel room or a cabin on a cruise ship, the phones go in the safe. My husband and I have done this since our first vacation together as boyfriend and girlfriend. We just decided back then that the most important people for us to connect with the people we were already with on the trip. Vacation is really our time to enjoy being a family. My preschooler knows she has our full attention all day without any phones to distract us from the fun. We might check email and voicemail for a short bit at the end of the day, but we do try to even limit that unless something is pressing.

We go to Disney World quite often. But here is the thing – we almost never bring our phones into the parks. We don’t separate far enough to need to call each other. And we don’t feel the need to post photos with Mickey on Facebook until long after we return home. We also like to take cruise vacations and follow the same rule. Does the guy who just got on the ship need to tell his friends back home what the menu will be in the formal dining room? And do your friends who are stuck in the freezing cold need a play-by-play of the spa and pools before you set sail? As soon as we are cleared with our paperwork and ready to board the ship, the phones go off. It is a very freeing feeling. Okay, to be honest, it feels a bit weird, but it starts to feel good in a short time. Kind of like getting dental work. You know it needs to be done, and it will feel better once you do it.

So here is the bad news…The “no phone” thing is getting a bit harder lately as more hotels, resorts and attractions are enabling smartphone technology to help guests make dinner reservations, find fun things to do and get around easier. Now I can actually stand in front of Cinderella’s castle and check on my reservations for a meal with Mickey Mouse later in the week. I hear this technology or something like it is rolling out now at several all-inclusive Caribbean hot spots. I just wonder if anyone really asked for this extra convenience. And if they did, are they regretting it now?

Michelle Leff Mermelstein manages wireless device communications at Sprint. She is based in the Washington, DC area. She is knowledgeable on Sprint’s overall device PR strategy and takes the lead on launching Apple devices. Michelle can be reached at michelle.leff@sprint.com.