Last month Marriott and Renaissance began testing "Braincation Zones" at eight hotels across the Caribbean and Mexico, providing guests with designated tech-free areas. The Braincation Zones differ between properties, but all are located in quiet areas with beverages, technology-free games and stress-free tips for guests to take home with them.
The zones, the hotel says, were created in response to a survey of over 1,000 people, half of whom said staying connected to work added to their stress while vacationing. Fifty percent also said they checked their emails and voicemails several times per day while on vacation.
"We saw people on the beach with their laptops," said Michelle Bozoki, director of marketing and e-commerce for Marriott Resorts in the Caribbean and Latin America. "We encourage guests to sit in the areas, play games, read. It's great to see kids with their parents and no one is attached to their phone."
The program has been a success so far, said Bozoki, and may become a permanent fixture. "We think this is less about a trend and more about a real need for people to unwind," she said.
Some hotels take tech-free one step further, actually taking away guests' gadgets -- with their permission, of course.
At the Four Seasons Costa Rica, the "Disconnect to Reconnect" program takes away guests' iPhones for a minimum of 24 hours and keeps them in a safe deposit box. When the phone is returned, it comes with a new case from the iPhone case company Uncommon. When the phone is checked, guests receive a guide, listing things they can do without technology -- like stand-up paddle boarding, spa treatments and more.
The River Place Hotel in Portland, Oregon, has developed a package designed to get guests to stop focusing on their devices and start focusing on each other. The hotel will keep all your personal electronics in a secure office safe while guests enjoy tech-free time. The deal, designed for couples, includes sparkling wine, truffles and a private bath butler.
In Lake Placid, N.Y,. the Lake Placid Lodge offers a "Check-In to Check-Out" package. Upon arrival, participating guests check all electronic devices. It includes two nights in a guest room or cabin, a one-hour cooking class, complimentary hiking, boating, yoga and fishing and a choice of a current New York Times Bestseller. Hard copy, of course.
Wendy Parker Price, from Castle Pines, Colo., said giving up your gadgets to the care of the lodge is "freeing." She and her husband enjoyed a tech-free getaway.
"We have five kids between us," she said. "We both work from home and find ourselves emailing and texting each other throughout the day instead of talking. It's great to give it up. We talk to each other, it's a way for us to completely get away. If there's an emergency, we can be reached through the lodge."
The only issue, she said, was that she uses her iPhone as a camera. How would she take photos? Turns out the Lake Placid Lodge not only loaned her a 35mm camera, but developed all her photos for her.
"Now I look forward to handing it all over," Price, who is a repeat guest at the Lake Placid Lodge, said. "I've become a slave to my devices. Even if it was in my suitcase, I'd still be thinking about it. This pushes you immediately into the sense of a vacation."