Unplugging: A dad shares his family’s experience

What happens when you replace your kids’ electronic gadgets with bingo night, singing, pirates, bonfires, and Ping-Pong®?

By Josh Briggs

Do you remember when family game night meant playing actual board games? When arts and crafts didn’t require some sort of printout from your laptop? How about the days when you could have a family dinner and not have every member of your gang staring at a glowing screen? Well, this year our family decided to take an unplugged vacation at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont.

I bet you can imagine the look on my 12-year-old son’s face when I told him we were leaving the iPod® AND the laptop home for this trip. Not to mention the utter despair in my 8-year-old’s voice when he realized that the Nintendo DS™ was also going to sit out for this journey. I have to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure that my wife and I would make it through the weekend without checking email at least once. With a little hesitation we piled in the car, packed up like we were going on a vacation in 1978, and headed north to Smugglers’.

It only took a few minutes in the car to realize this trip was going to be different. Instead of the barely audible thumping of the latest teen pop song humming through headphones, there was some actual conversation. “Hey Dad, isn’t that the same car you used to have?” “Mom, when was the first time you went skiing?” So cool.

Once we arrived at Smugglers’ the real fun began. In a matter of minutes we were safely loaded into our condo right on the slopes, changed into our bathing suits (and parkas) and on the shuttle to the indoor pool. We quickly found our way into a game of water volleyball (our team won!) and took a relaxing dip in the kid friendly hot tub. Not a single word about a video game in five hours.


After dinner we headed down to the FunZone and had a family Ping-Pong tournament. It was so nice to hear each of my family members tell me how much fun they were having, just playing Ping-Pong. After a quick sing/dance along with Goodtime Charlie, we went back to the room to call it a night.

The next day started with some fantastic skiing up to lunch time, when we were serenaded by Rockin’ Ron the Friendly Pirate. Now, I was pretty certain that the kids were going to think that the singing pirate was a bit too much, but half way through the first song the whole family was laughing and singing along. I really couldn’t believe it: our experiment was working!

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Prior to our trip, we decided that we would all take some ski lessons, and the boys were pretty vocal about NOT wanting to. “It’s like going to school while we are on vacation,” they told us. Despite their protests, we met our instructors and hit the slopes. The kids went their way and we went ours. When we met back up later that afternoon the kids were transformed! They had such a great time in their lesson and couldn’t wait to do it again the next day. They had made a connection with the instructor and had improved their abilities tenfold. What else can you ask for?

We remained unplugged for the remainder of our visit to Smugglers’. In fact, we didn’t miss the electronics at all. My family has been talking about our amazing adventure ever since and can’t wait for our summer getaway later this year. We’ve decided to make it a bi-annual family tradition and have already planned our hiking excursion. If someone told me last year that my kids would be anxiously awaiting our next Ping-Pong tournament, I probably would have laughed. Now, I have to tell you, I can’t wait to get back up there either. If you are like me and are getting tired of seeing your gang zombie-eyed staring at those flickering screens, unplug. I promise you won’t regret it.


Josh Briggs and his family are from Massachusetts. They have enjoyed two family vacations at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

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