Eli Orzessek is Travel's Digital Content Producer.

Phones outrank humans as travel companions

Many would rather travel alone than be without mobile devices. Photo / iStock
Many would rather travel alone than be without mobile devices. Photo / iStock

If ever there was proof that we're too attached to our smartphones, this is it.

A recent survey by Hotels.com found 73 per cent of Kiwis considered their mobile device to be their most important travel accessory - even preferable to a human companion.

In comparison, only 46 per cent said they would rather travel with a loved one than a smartphone.

Relationships expert Jill Goldson of The Family Matters Centre said it was a give-in that people had developed a dependence on smartphones and other digital devices, but it was important to prevent them standing in the way of holiday enjoyment.

"We all know that by stealth we've become incredibly uncomfortable to be without our screens," she said.

"For the sake of the relationship and the opportunity to really enjoy each other in an unpressed environment,it would be a very good idea to have an agreement, not an assumption, about having screen free time while you're on holiday together.

"People shouldn't look at it as a binary, where they either take their mobiles or don't, but talk to each other about the opportunity to spend time with each other."

While the use of such devices while travelling isn't necessarily anti-social - nearly half of 18-29 (47 per cent) and 30-39-year-olds (43 per cent) used them to show off holiday snaps to friends back home - excessive use of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can also be distracting.

"[Travellers should] guard against the need to be constantly experiencing a holiday in order to feed in back onto social media, because I think that kind of gets in the way of spontaneous enjoyment as well," Ms Goldson said.

Other solo travellers used dating and "hook-up" apps like Tinder and Grindr to meet people on their journeys and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Kiwi men were seven times more likely to make use of these services than women.

Thirty-one-year-old Darren said he had used Tinder to try and meet people while travelling solo through the United States after a break-up.

While it was originally designed as a "hook-up" app, women in the United States were more likely to use Tinder to find long-term dating and relationships.

"I found that in the States, lots of girls - as soon as they heard you were travelling - they weren't that interested," he said.

While he had more success meeting people through the app in Europe, he still found it easier to find friends the old-fashioned way.

"I'd stay at hostels, you'd meet people that way in common areas. And of course, bars, places like that."

He suggested apps like Couchsurfing were better for those looking for friendship, rather than dates.

Overall, he had found mobile devices to be essential while travelling.

"I was on Vodafone roaming, so that was pretty good. I own my own business so I'm happy to pay $5 a day, but some people aren't.

"I've travelled before without even having a smartphone, so it's amazing how much you end up needing it to be able to book stuff."

- nzherald.co.nz

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