We went on a family vacation… Without any screens

Mother and daughter happily making snow angels in the snow

2017 was an insane year for our family of four, so my husband and I decided to start the New Year off by taking the kids for a local getaway. I’m talking a small hotel room with a kitchenette for five nights and six days. And no screens.

When I told friends about our plan, the first question was a befuddled “WHY?!”

The truth is that I felt like my smartphone, while being the most convenient, time-saving, life-altering, amazing helper to me, was stressing me out.

Every email ping, text and social media notification was starting to weigh me down. I had already unsubscribed to most email lists and put the phone away when I got home from work, but it still didn’t seem like enough. My mind was still filled with what I needed to text back to someone, a plan to be figured out, and things I needed to get done. Once my kids were in bed, I would clean the kitchen and make lunches with phone in hand – everything taking twice as long as it should. Then I would stay up late watching so-called “life-altering” videos that I didn’t need to see.

Five nights and six days without a phone was freeing. I mean a true vacation. I had nowhere else to be and nothing else to think about except for what was in front of me, the things that really mattered; my kids and my husband.

As for my kids, I wanted them to get away from the buzz of the screens and just enjoy life. This trip was about re-connecting as a family and not about them sitting in front of a screen while Mommy and Daddy relaxed or did chores.

We told the kids the TV in the room was broken and simply left the tablet at home. The car ride was a bit boring for them but they played with their toys and we all survived (remember car trips when we were young?!) The kids asked for TV in the room but got over it quickly when we got down and played with them. We brought building sets, board games, activity books, colouring books, cards, and books to read galore. We played outside in the snow and used the hotel swimming pool.Family playing with dominoes

Sure it wasn’t all mindless and easy. Before the trip we let a few key people know that we’d be unreachable, and to get a hold of us by calling the hotel in an emergency. We found out the weather by <gasp> stepping outside, and read a newspaper to find out what happened in the world. Anytime we split into two different activities we made plans to meet at a central location at a certain time because we couldn’t text each other.  Shockingly easy and so old school!

A really cool thing happened. My kids’ buckets were full. Our buckets were full. Even the tantrums took a vacation and we all had a great time.

My phone did not explode in my absence; in fact it was eerily quiet except for the few email listservs I subscribe to.

When we got home, it took a full 24 hours before the kids asked to watch TV. Once we brought the TV back, it all became very clear to me: my kids are far happier, cooperative, creative and tantrum-free when they haven’t been sitting in front of a screen.

And the same goes for me. If my phone is unreachable, I can truly relax and focus on what’s important to me.

We’ll be making some changes in our house around screen time, and you can bet we’ll be doing another screen-free vacation.

What are your thoughts? Would you take a vacation without your phones and other screens?

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you'll find me on Facebook, Twitter and on this blog, writing about all things parenting. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to write about! :)
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5 Responses to We went on a family vacation… Without any screens

  1. Pingback: Who’s the boss? You or your phone? | HaltonParents

  2. Jana says:

    We enjoyed an almost screen free vacation because one phone fell and broke, another only worked on WiFi which wasn’t always working in BnBs. It was refreshing!

    • Andrea Scott RN says:

      I love it, thanks for sharing! Glad it ended up being a positive thing for you to break a phone 😉 ~Andrea

  3. Pingback: Summer fun and electronics; can there be a happy medium? | HaltonParents

  4. Pingback: Teens and screens: the science you need to know | HaltonParents

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