Internet Etiquette for Vacationers

My boyfriend Shane and I recently went on vacation with my parents. It was a laid-back camping trip in Quebec, Canada.  We were 20 minutes outside of Quebec City, rife with campfires and Scrabble matches.

Incidentally, Shane doesn’t go anywhere without his MacBook and iPhone, and a family vacation was no exception to the rule–no matter what my parents thought.

Shane and I both work in the media and are constantly online. I use Twitter at weddings and business functions and Shane is forever updating his Facebook page and looking out for the coolest new app for his iPhone—be it a new game or barcode scanner.

My parents don’t get this. They don’t have Facebook pages and don’t understand the need (though my mother loves looking over the shoulder at mine). I usually go to bed before Shane does, and more than once I have woken up in the wee hours of the morning, turned towards Shane, and found him holding his iPhone inches from his face and furiously poking the screen with his finger playing a game.

While I am used to unplugging on vacations with my family, Shane is not. While my mother and I worked on knitting hats around the campfire and my dad set up for making s’mores, Shane was reading the news using the campground’s wifi. My father was stunned and, I think, a little put out. Instead of enjoying the picturesque surroundings, Shane was engrossed in something on his computer screen.

When we got home and I was alone with my dad he complained about Shane’s constant Internet use.

“He’s addicted,” my dad said. “Completely addicted.”

The more I listened to my dad the more I began to agree with him. Instead of enjoying the gorgeous countryside of Ile d’Orleans where we were staying, he was reading CNN on his iPhone. It was only when Shane was driving did he notice the world around him. And that’s no way to spend a glorious week on a quaint island on the St. John River.

Honestly, I had never thought about Internet etiquette before my dad complained about Shane’s behavior. But I saw his point. If my parents didn’t know him better, they could have taken Shane’s actions to mean that he wasn’t interested in spending time with them or that their company was boring. Luckily, they do know Shane well and didn’t feel disrespected.

Prompted by my dad’s comments I began to think about the “dos and don’ts” of Internet use while on vacation with others. Here is a list of my tips for vacationers who have a hard time unplugging around other people.

Mimic the actions of others.

Are the people you’re on vacation with playing a board game? Preparing dinner? Pitching horseshoes? Cross country skiing? Join in. If your friends and family are sitting around talking or taking part in some activity, you can instantly alienate yourself by opening up your laptop and tuning out. However, if other people are surfing the web, reading a book, or taking a nap, feel free to get online.

Check to make sure wifi access is free.

If someone else is footing the bill for your vacation (thanks Mom and Dad) and you’re using wifi—best to make sure there aren’t any hidden charges. And if it’s not free, and you use it, make sure you cover the costs.

Don’t hog your computer.

If you’re going to open Pandora’s Box, you should be willing to share it with others. It’s only fair – and makes you look like less of a schmuck.

Be aware of others.

Pay attention. If you sense that someone is offended or annoyed with your incessant Internet use, do the right thing and put your computer away—especially if you want to make a good impression.

Don’t make people wait.

If you’re reading ESPN and everyone is heading out the door for dinner, don’t make them wait for you.

Don’t forget—you ARE supposed to be on vacation.

If you expect to get a lot of emails while you are gone, put an away message on your email service to let people know who email you that you are away from the office. If you can’t go a whole day without reading the news, get on your computer first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed as those are probably the easiest times to avoid other people.

I could tell that Shane’s behavior was upsetting my parents. And since they were footing the bill for most of our vacation, it would have been nice if Shane had caught the signs and acted accordingly. But no one is perfect and not everyone can catch my father’s oozing subtleness. So pay attention to the people you’re with. Not everyone is as plugged in as you are. For some of them, a vacation means a break from the everyday—including the World Wide Web.

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Melanie Brooks has written for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and websites from Maine to New Jersey. She currently works as an editor for Bangor Metro and Maine Ahead magazines.


  1. Hi,

    I can so resonate with this article. I think this has become quite a bit of a problem for the ‘internet addicted’ and for others dealing with this person.

    I am also quite an internet addict, but I would never do this on a beautiful vacation to a beautiful ‘quaint island on the St. John River.’ It is just not worth it to ditch the beautiful nature for the computer screen.

    We get enough of this screen on a daily basis, so continuing to worry about the screen, and not enjoying the vacation/nature, would be a huge mistake.


  2. Carl Natale on the 22nd August

    Luckily my family takes a lot of time to check their smart phones for messages and alerts. I fit right in.

    But my wife and I spent a lot of time drawing boundaries for Internet use for everyday life. Those boundaries worked very well while on vacation.

    There was an exception or two. I did take my laptop on vacation. But I never used it. I just didn’t feel like. Yes I did use the phone occasionally to check email and RSS feeds. I wanted to have fun.

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