August 27, 2010 / 10:05 AM / 7 years ago

When getting away means staying in touch

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - People used to go on holiday to unplug. Now they’re demanding to be plugged in.

<p>A passenger makes a phone call in front of the information board at Sofia airport, April 16, 2010. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov</p>

That secluded, desert island-type getaway may soon be as dated as the post-vacation slide show as more travelers use e-mails, Facebook and Twitter to nurture the ties that bind even while they get away from it all.

“For many travelers figuring out how to stay connected is as integral to the travel process as packing sun lotion and swimwear,” said Amelie Hurst of travel website TripAdvisor.

“In times gone by this just wasn’t an option. Traveling went hand in hand with being disconnected,” she said.

Hurst said clients planning their trips routinely factor in the best means of staying in contact.

“Travelers ask the quality of cell phone service, international data plans. Staying connected can offer travelers a real comfort,” she explained.

A recent survey of 2000 travelers by American Express found that 77 per cent of Americans intend to stay connected while on vacation via Internet, phone, social media and other channels.

The motivation is social, not business. Only 14 per cent said they would stay connected for work.

“Eighty-nine percent of people want to talk to family and friends, to be very connected in real time,” said Audrey Hendley of American Express Travel. “Even five years ago that wasn’t the case.”

Connectivity means more than just checking e-mail.

“Sharing information, sharing photos, it’s a change in lifestyle, it’s ‘Now I want to tell you about me,'” she said.

The poll revealed that 20 percent updated their social media sites while on vacation.

“Today’s travelers want to check their e-mails, even on cruises,” she said, and no matter how far-flung their journeys.

Bhutan, landlocked between India and Tibet, is one of the most isolated nations in the world. Hendley said in the country’s Amankora lodges there are no TVs, no radios, but if a guest needs it you can get high-speed internet access.

Travelers view connectivity as a right, not an amenity.

“Sixty-five percent expect conductivity but weren’t willing to pay extra for it,” she said.

Travel agents are hopping on the connectivity bandwagon. John T. Peters, of travel referral service Tripology, said when informally polled over 85 percent of his agents said they were getting more involved in social media to stay in touch with clients during their trip.

“For me, being connected doesn’t mean I‘m not relaxing,” Peters said. “Recently, on a family trip to the North Woods of Wisconsin, I found myself updating my Facebook status, loading pictures and conversing with friends about my vacation while I was on vacation.”

Some, however, remain unconvinced.

“My wife found the whole ‘being connected’ aspect of my posting ridiculous,” Peters confessed. “Vacation, to her, means unplugged -- completely. Her exact quote was ‘You could just as easily post those pictures when we get home.'”

But if you intend to keep the home fires fanned during your holiday, Hurst suggested doing research.

”Before you take your trip, check your cell phone plan and the cost of internet connections at your hotel.

“When you return from your dream vacation you don’t want to be hit with the phone bill from hell,” she said.

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