Used to be that vacation planning had a lot to do with how long you were taking off and where you were going. These days, a big part of the vacation calculus has to do with plotting how available you’re going to be to your workplace.
The biggest question is how responsive you plan to be to your work email. One of the worst parts about going on vacation for many of us is the prospect of returning after a week to find an inbox overflowing with requests, important messages and desperate follow ups to inquire why you haven’t responded to the requests and important messages.
And then there are the acres of spam and other junk you’ll have to root through. If I skip a day of answering e-mail, I pay for it with hours of inbox organization the next day.
It’s no wonder that more and more people opt to keep themselves plugged in, not only when they leave on vacation, but even when they’re not on the clock. The expectation is that we are always reachable by email, no matter what. And worse now, people expect us to be instantly available in other ways, through Twitter and Facebook. Who has the time to check Facebook every five minutes?
I like technology and spend a great deal of time with it. But one thing I have, so far, refused to do is join the approximately 35 percent of Americans who own smart phones. Even though I am in a profession that would seem to demand it, I’ve resisted the urge to go and sink two years of money and commitment to a shiny new smart- phone.
The first reason is practical: smartphone plans are ridiculously expensive. I refuse to believe that turning on 3G data should cost me twice as much as my current mobile plan. There’s no way providing that service costs what AT&T and Verizon say it does.
Second is, I don’t want to have email and the whole web at my fingertips everywhere. As compelling as that is, I know I would abuse it. I’d be one of those guys checking my email at the park bench, the family barbecue, etc. I already spend too much time with online services. A little self-imposed limitation is not so bad.
It’s for this very reason that I’ve never signed up for MLB TV. If I had access to every baseball game televised, I’d never get off the couch. It’s important to know your limits when it comes to self-control.
My solution is an iPod Touch that I’ve used as a mobile computer (what a smartphone really is) for about six months now. I pay nothing for a plan. When I need to check email, I just find a wi-fi hot spot (at every coffee shop, library, and fast food joint in the country these days) and check. I’ve even set up the iPod to make voice calls over wi-fi using Google Voice. It’s not great, but it’s not far off from the call quality I get right now with AT&T.
For anyone else on the fence, I’d recommend the iPod route. I’ve got off-line calendar sync, voice recording, note taking and it makes a reliable HD video recorder. It’s just not a good point-and-shoot camera. My dream is an unlocked, affordable Android device that I could put a data plan without voice. But with mobile companies raking in the dough on the smartphone boom, I don’t think I’ll see anything like that on the market anytime soon.
So I’m going to continue to hold out and leave the iPhones to everybody else. In the meantime, I’ll return that email, but it just might take a while.