On Vacation, But Not a Moment 'Off the Grid'
Families visiting Newport say they find it difficult to leave technology at home.
Candence Croucher is the first to admit that she's addicted to her cell phone.
"If I'm not eating, I'm texting," said the 13-year-old North Carolina teen, who was shopping one recent afternoon with her mother at Brick Market.
Ask any parent about their children's phone, video game and computer usage, and the response is almost universal. Most let out a muffled "ha" under their breath, followed by an accusing stare in their teen's direction.
Vacations are meant to be about letting go and getting away, and thousands flock to our city each year seeking both. But despite Newport's scenic views and impressive historic attractions, it's been hard to miss the tourists walking around this summer, eyes glued to their cell phone screens. For families like the Crouchers, who come to Newport every summer, these trips are becoming more and more a battle between staying connected and cutting off.
Laura Croucher, Candence's mother, says she's tried to regulate her daughter's usage some by simply putting the phone away.
"We take it away from her," she said. "At home, she is not allowed to use it after 9 p.m., around the family or at school."
Limiting her children's access to the digital world may be doable, but regulating her spouse's connectivity is another matter entirely.
While the rest of the family browsed the stores at Brick Market, father Nic Croucher could be found nearby, hunched over his phone poking at the touch screen.
"Right now I am paying a bill, but I always have it with me for work," he said, confessing that he's also brought a laptop on the family vacation.
"It's tough with us because it's not like I can take it away from him like I do with the kids," his wife said. "I think there are good things about the technology, but sometimes it separates us from reality."
Newport hotels are working to keep up with the trend. Years ago, a television, air conditioning and complimentary terrycloth slippers made tourists flock to certain hotels and resorts. Today, room amenities have broadened, to host not only travelers looking to get away from a hectic lifestyle, but also those wanting to go on vacation without taking a day off work.
Hotels like the Newport Mariott and the Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina are just two of many that offer high speed Internet. The Hotel Viking offers a 24-hour business center, and patrons of the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa can flip through the hundreds of channels on satellite television. Many hotels also offer DVD players and video game consoles in their rooms. For those who crave a real technology fix, though, the new Forty 1 North Marina Resort on Thames Street is top of the line. Not only does the resort offer high speed wireless Internet, but each room is also equipped with a 40" flat screen LED television, an iPod integrated HD video and music system, and, best of all, the new iPad.
Some tourists say they welcome the chance to have these tools at their disposal while in Newport, even if it means having the family divided while they're here.
Christina Leary, 17, and her mother, Charlene Leary, of New Jersey, talked and laughed as they strolled through downtown Newport together one recent weekday. Although on vacation as well, Charlene's 21-year-old son, Richard, was nowhere to be seen.
"My son is at my mother-in-law's house over on Broadway, probably on the computer," she said. "He has a degree in computer technology, so he is very into all of that stuff."
"He is on the computer for a good portion of the time," added his sister, who approximated that her brother spends eight hours each day going on Facebook, playing World of Warcraft and socializing online.
Unlike many parents who have become frustrated, however, Charlene Leary has a more positive outlook on the situation.
"As long as they are not up until 3 a.m. doing it, I do not find it being a really big problem," she said. "It is how they communicate with their friends back home."
Indeed, in this tech-centered age, many have made these devices a required tool for daily life and activities, no matter where they are. Mike Harrison of Connecticut shared his enthusiasm over hotels offering the new age incentives.
"I think it is great that they put iPads in the rooms," he said of Forty 1 North, while slipping his cell phone into his pocket. "It means that is one less thing I have to worry about bringing on vacation with me."