• SmartMoney

Can You Save By Taking a Gadget-Free Vacation?

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Hotels are starting to offer packages and specials targeted to travelers who want a vacation from their smartphones, laptop computers and other gadgets. But taking advantage could cost you — and we’re not just talking about the repercussions of a missed, urgent work email.

“Digital detox” and “unplugged” offers that urge guests to turn off or turn in gadgets when they arrive are one of the latest hooks to reel in guests, reports The Wall Street Journal. In exchange for doing so, you might get a 15% discount, a massage or a kayaking lesson. Dig deeper, however, and the deals aren’t all that enticing.

The typical 15% off is a pretty slim discount compared with broader hotel sales — up to 45% off at Travelocity right now, for example, or up to 30% via Orbitz. Many of the promotions are packages, which actually means you’re paying extra for the privilege of being tech-free. For $20 more per night than the standard room rate, the Renaissance Pittsburgh will replace your room TV and phone with books, take custody of your personal gadgets, and give you a kayak lesson. (The hotel did not respond to requests for comment.) Leaving your gadgets at the front desk for a “technology break” at Hotel Monaco Chicago if only available to those who book the hotel’s most expensive suite, which has a starting rate of $389 per night; $70 to $100 more expensive than the starting rates of other rooms. “We don’t really have the capability to check electronics for the whole hotel,” says a spokeswoman for parent company Kimpton Hotels.

Travelers may encounter other financial losses from unplugging, says Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. With your phone under lock and key with the concierge, there’s no chance of immediate discounts on social networking app Foursquare or picking up a half-priced restaurant Groupon to use during your trip. On a recent vacation to Kauai, Rosen posted pictures on Facebook, and got fast feedback from friends who had visited the island on what attractions he should see next.

To be sure, it’s a smart idea to take a break. Technology brings out obsessive behaviors, and studies have shown just 15 minutes of disconnect out in nature can reset your brain, Rosen says. To disconnect in a way that’ll save your sanity and your wallet, set limits — say, you can only check email once a day — instead of going cold turkey, which can be stress-inducing. “It’s less about whether we carry a phone or put it away, and more about our choices on when we use it,” he says.

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