For many people these days, getting away from it all means getting away from their gadgets.

Not for me. But I am aiming for a "tech-lite" vacation.

I love my gadgets, particularly my smartphone. On our travels, you can guarantee that I'm taking it as well as at least one digital camera, a tablet and probably a laptop too.

Whether for taking pictures, contacting friends and relations, finding the best places to eat or shop or keeping the kids entertained on long flights, gadgets can be invaluable vacation aids.

But I'm well aware that gadgets aren't always great to have around. With them often comes unwanted stress. They can provide a window into all the work that's awaiting you back at the office -- and tempt you to get some of it out of the way now. And when they don't function correctly, you can end up spending valuable time trying to fix them instead of enjoying your time off.

I once spent several hours on a short trip to Rome working on a story, instead of touring around the city. And my wife often spends a good chunk of our vacations trying to stay on top of her email and work projects.

When we head out on vacation this year, I'm hoping we strike a better balance than we have in the past. We're going to take our gadgets with us and use them when we need to. But I'm hoping we can put them aside most of the time and focus on our family and the world around us.


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That may be easier said than done. We're heading to my parents' house in San Antonio, where they have fast home Internet service and ample cellphone coverage. We're likely to be touring around town and almost certainly will want to use our smartphones to navigate. And we'll want to be able to contact friends and family to make plans as we travel around.

Things were much easier last year when we visited Lassen Volcanic National Park. Most of the tech gear I took with us wasn't usable because we were completely out of cellphone range and didn't have consistent access to power. We still took lots of pictures with our digital cameras, but we were able to disconnect from Facebook, our work email and all the other online distractions.

But as idyllic as that might sound, we were more disconnected than I would have liked. My parents worried when they couldn't reach us, as did our cat sitter.

It would be nice if our gadgets themselves could help us strike the balance, maybe with a "vacation" button that would impose time limits or block access to work communications. Or it could shut off access to certain apps except during particular times of the day.

In the meantime, we'll have to work on self-control. It's easy to get sucked into the vortex, to go from simply trying to find the nearest local taco stand to checking the score of the game to getting caught up in the latest email thread at work or catching up on your news feeds on Facebook and Twitter.

But that's not what vacation's all about. It doesn't have to be tech-free, but it can't be tech-centric.

So I'm resolving to set down my gadgets when I can and enjoy the world around me, not just the screens in front of me. I'll let you know how it all turned out when we return.

Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285 or twolverton@mercurynews.com. Follow him at www.mercurynews.com/troy-wolverton or Twitter.com/troywolv.