Are holidays becoming a time to show off rather than switch off?

Survey finds 30% of people book trips to induce envy in others. Is that good for your head?

Are you more interested in showing off or switching off on holidays? In a recent travel trends survey, almost half of the respondents (47 per cent) said social media is driving up the need to experience "more" on holidays, with almost a third (30 per cent) booking trips based on whether they think the destination or activity will impress on social media. The survey, carried out by online travel company Travelzoo, also found that travellers are conflicted about whether to show off or switch off while on holidays, with many desiring to be disconnected from the digital world.

"With newsfeeds full of envy-inducing photos, it is no wonder that travellers feel torn between their desire to post their Instagrammable vacation experiences while also stepping away from it all," said Mike Stitt of Travelzoo.

One in six people said they feel compelled to be more adventurous than they really are while on holidays

When it comes to showing off and impressing people with wanderlust, 53 per cent of those surveyed said they feel pressure to book unique or exotic trips. However, sun-kissed #hotdoglegs photographs – you know the ones, the photographs of tanned legs in the sun (an Instagram filter is a must for this shot) – are no longer enough to impress. For the ultimate bragging rights, "adventure" is required and 40 per cent of respondents said they now feel pressure to take "more adventurous" holidays. One in six people said they feel compelled to be more adventurous than they really are while on holidays, while one in three (34 per cent) said they feel a holiday is actually wasted without adventurous experiences.

The trend is not surprising according to Dr Malie Coyne, clinical psychologist and NUI Galway lecturer. It goes back to Leon Festinger's "social comparison theory", she explains. This says we determine our own social and personal worth based on the comparisons we routinely make with others. "With the recent social media explosion and the shiny image many of us choose to portray of ourselves, especially when on holidays, there can be a lot of pressure to have the most adventurous or exotic holiday," says Coyne.


Alongside the need to impress others with travel experiences, the survey also showed travellers have a desire to disconnect from all things digital while on holidays. Half of the 1,000 respondents said cutting digital ties enhances the appeal of a trip. The reasons for seeking out digital blackspots included feeling they check email too often (28 per cent); being jaded by the news cycle (27 per cent); and feeling too “tied” to a phone (22 per cent).

Being disconnected might not be the new adventure just yet, but adventure travel companies aren't taking any chances – Intrepid Travel recently launched detox trips that require travellers to swear off devices in order to better see the souqs in Marrakech or Jaipur's bazaars. For a luxury approach, Time to Log Off hosts digitally disconnected retreats at an English farmhouse or on an Italian estate. Closer to home, guests can hand over their phones for safekeeping as they check-in to Monart in Co Wexford – the spa is strictly a "tech-free zone" and even newspapers are confined to the drawing rooms and lounges in the old house.

According to Dr Coyne, prioritising time to switch off and to disconnect while on holidays is essential to overall wellbeing. "It provides us with much needed 'down' time and creates the essential balance of work and play which we all benefit from, no matter what age we are," she says.

Being online constantly during holidays significantly hinders this essential process

As well as helping us to fully switch off, this down time can also assist us to get a better perspective on our lives going forward, she says. And, it encourages boredom, which is not a bad thing. “From boredom springs creativity and possibilities,” she explains. “Being online constantly during holidays significantly hinders this essential process.”

Thankfully even DIY staycations can offer the opportunity to disconnect, especially in Ireland where numerous holiday and scenic spots excel when it comes to a lack of mobile phone coverage.

For your own detox, head for Donegal's Slieve League peninsula for stunning views without any mobile interference; lunch in Brook Lodge Hotel in Co Wicklow; walk the Erris Head loop walk in Co Mayo; tackle the steps to Mizen Head lighthouse in West Cork; or simply visit many of our islands, including easily-accessible Achill Island.

If you do continue to have a pesky bar of coverage, simply flick your phone to flight mode for the day (unless you are taking to the mountains, where safety trumps tranquillity) or give in to temptation and share a snap of the scenery to induce the Fomo (fear of missing out) in your friends.