What Not To Do In Paradise

You’ve traveled somewhere between 24 and 36 hours, taken three or four flights across a minimum of two airlines, and finally made it to your remote island destination by boat.

You’re sitting by the beach at sunset.

Do you breath a sigh while looking wistfully out at the ocean, sipping a cocktail?

Or do you…

The choice is yours.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Option C: Instead of enjoying the Sunset, take pictures of others browsing their iphones.

  2. Perhaps they’re just notifying hotel security about the middle-aged man taking creepshots of honeymooners?

  3. We just got back from there and commented about how all the younger couples were on their phones instead of connecting with each other. It was constant all day but the worst was at dinner.

  4. Facetime? With your mother? LOL. Take it from someone who knows this, if you’re mother (or mother in law) is still breathing and you aren’t sitting across the table from her on Mother’s day ( if it is at all practical, yes if you’re a foreign emissary and duty does not allow you to leave your post then fine) , then you are wasting what few moments you may actually have in life. My mother passed relatively young, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to sit across from her this sunday. Luckily my wife’s mother is still with us.

  5. Unsolicited caption contest entry that Gary might appreciate: “I can’t believe how much better the 4G coverage is here at Hadahaa than it is in DC!”

  6. While at the Conrad Koh Samui, my wife and I were blown away by the number of couples constantly on their devices while sitting in such a scenic setting. Additionally, the lively art of spousal conversation seems to be dead. They ignored each other more than they ignored the views…so strange!

  7. They were probably texting each other, about how much fun they are having and how beautiful the resort is.

  8. What if we allowed people to enjoy their time how they please, and not sit high on our horse declaring their decision to be inferior?

    That might be good thing to do when in paradise.

  9. We’ve gotten to the point where the “retellability” of something is more important than the actual experience. I even had a young candidate for a job check his messages during the interview. He didn’t get the position. Staring at a screen for most of your life isn’t living.

  10. While I know it is most likely not true, how do we know these people aren’t simply reading a BOOK or a MAGAZINE online? Would this picture have the same relevance if these people were siting there with TIME or the latest Daniel Steele novel in their hands – probably not.

    Sure, they are probably just on FACEBOOK or something equally banal, but it COULD be something more enriching. Personally, I read the paper (WSJ, NYT, sfgate) WHEREVER I am in the world, on vacation or not and for the most part those papers are magically brought to me on my ipad or iphone.

  11. Wow Gary. A new low. And I thought you could sink no lower. Now you’re stalking people on vacation. Who are you to tell people how to spend their vacation they paid for? Not so libertarian now, are you?

  12. @Haldami

    It looks like Gary and Ben (onemileatatime) have now become the vacation police. No one is safe! Be it on a plane or relaxing at your hotel be prepared for a blogger to put you on blast for doing things they feel is improper while on vacation.

    Gary, you should be prepared. With the influx of bloggers telling people how to obtain aspirational airline and hotel awards you will start to see people in first class cabins and high end resorts who may have never even been on a vacation or airplane before. A prime example would be Scott over at Milevalue getting picked up by the Emirates chauffeur from his hostel and then wearing shorts and flip flops in the first class suite.

  13. @Brent:

    It’s that kind of crap that Scott pulls that results in first class mileage going up or availablity removed. If I’m on a paid first class ticket, I don’t want to see some college junior snapping photos the entire trip, much less looking or smelling like he’s just been brought in from some flea-infested hostal.

  14. @ Andrew

    I don’t think that is the reason first class award availability gets decreased or the number of miles for redemption goes up, but him dressing like that kind of takes away from the atmosphere. Yes, you no longer have to wear a suit when traveling in international first class but the outfits he wears are a little out of place. Though, I’m not exactly posting photos of him so that hundreds if not a few thousand people can read about me judging him. Would you have a different opinion of people who put their feet on the wall if they paid $5-10k for that ticket?

  15. @Brent

    No I wouldn’t. The pictures Gary referenced the other day of feet on the wall I found offensive culturally. Even though I am an American I have spent substantial time in Muslim cultures. Putting your feet up like that is a huge cultural no-no, especially on that Ethiad flight. If I saw that I would call them out publically and I have done so in the past, gently of course! 🙂

    This issue of lowering societal norms and standards is infuriating because, according to the offender “It’s all about ME! ME! ME! and I can do what I want” and I can’t stand narrow-minded selfishness, which is what all this comes down to.

  16. I don’t say this very often, but you’re wrong, Gary – this is exactly what to do on vacation. Do what you want to do with the one you love.

    I thought the primary purpose of a vacation was getting to do what you wanted to do, when you wanted to do it, without being constrained by the protocols of others.

    Honestly, these pictures look pretty healthy. You have two couples relaxing together on vacation. So they’re on their devices. Who cares? At least they’re both doing the same thing together.


  17. Geez Gary, you’ve done it again. Well done. You just have no clue when you’re being a jerk do you? You would do well to learn to leave people alone and not take unconsolidated photographs of them like some government agency. So stop being a jerk.

  18. Not a big deal at all. I see this all the time. I think it is better than getting drunk. I read newspapers and magazines on my ipad on vacation.

  19. funny – looks like the gal in the lower photo was actually taking a picture of you to post on her own blog with the caption “can you believe this man was doing/wearing/picking this?……”

  20. Wondering what an “unconsolidated photograph” is…

    There is some irony in using your smartphone to take pictures of people using their smartphones.

    That said, I guess it’s good that we honeymooned in 2003, well before the smartphone boom. I’m pretty sure our rudimentary phones (Samsung SPH-A460, probably) didn’t even work in Tahiti back then, and that we probably relied on calling cards to get in touch with our loved ones. We did meet a ton of other honeymooners, including a girl with whom I had a couple of classes in college (based on major, concentration, classes, graduation date), another alumnus of my university, and a couple who happened to live 20 minutes away from us in the States. Go figure.

  21. Eh – you don’t know what they are doing on their phone. I can think of any number of valid reasons they would be looking at their phone many of which have been mentioned.

    An old lady came up to my wife and myself at a restaurant while we were on vacation and admonished us for being buried in our phones all meal instead of interacting. Our plans had suddenly changed so we were making reservations while investigating travel routes, sites, menus etc. Excuse us for spending 40 minutes making sure the rest of our 3 day trip was what we wanted to make of it.

  22. What is it with that going on at this place? I saw the exact same thing repeatedly a few months ago when I was there. I mean, some of them never left the bar area at all. Didn’t matter what time it was, day or night. They’d always be camped out right in that same area.

    Hope you’re enjoying your stay, Gary.

  23. I thought this was kind of funny — it’s a reminder that I could occasionally use myself (not only, even primarily, when I’m on vacation).

    Yes, Gary can often be the all-too-common type of libertarian who wants to replace (often imaginary) government influence over people’s lives with societal pressure for people to hew to behavior he finds less “footy” but hey — everyone’s entitled to their opinion, including about other people’s behavior.

    I feel the same way, to some extent, about people who travel to exotic countries and then lock themselves up in some western resort with pinched service and an extremely filtered view of their surroundings.

  24. @Andrew: I have in my possession a memo circulated among most of the major airlines that makes clear that it’s the preponderance of poor spellers in first class that generally triggers decreased first class award availability.

  25. Well, I guess I am confused… wouldn’t be the first time. The title of the post is: “What Not To Do In Paradise” but at the end of the post Gary says: “The choice is yours.” So, which is it?

  26. @LarryInNYC: not sure if you really have such memo but you are right. First class used to be a place wheree people that have money pay top dollars to have privacy and rest. It is also a high end place in the plane and that is why it is called first class. Now when some non classy guy gets tons of miles by applying for credit cards and use those miles to redeem a first class ticket so he can take pictures of everything, order everything from the menu and travel on shorts and flip flops is the beggining of the end of those redemptions. Don’t get me wrong people can wear whatever they want as long as the attire is appropriate for that occasion. Thus, if I am paying top dollars for privacy I don’t want a someone messing that up. That is when airlines will act since they do not want to lose that business of someone that pays that much money for that seat. I guess that some airlines will basicaly not allow first class redemptions anymore. Period!!!!

  27. I watched the NCAA March Madness Sweet Sixteen games in my beach bungalow in the Maldives because my favorite team had made it.

  28. If that were my wife and I, it would be us reassuring her parents we actually got there. I remember placing a $15.00 one minute phone call on our honeymoon cruising the Caribbean.

  29. I think the point of Gary’s post is that people spend far too much time on their phones while surrounded by very nice surroundings and…I know its boring…but people they are supposed to be interacting with.

    I find it amusing, all the people getting defensive about the amount of time they are spending on their phones. Its obviously not the occasional use that he is poking fun at, but never unglueing your face from that damn little screen.

    And yes, I see it all the time in places like dinner and resorts. Its silly and a bit sad, like it used to be watching families gathering around the old TV for hours at a time like they did many years ago.

  30. I thought Gary was making a simple point, which I happen to agree with.

    But I agree with Greg, it looks like the couple is enjoying themselves, so more power to them.

    I bet many of us check up on miles and points news while on vacation (I am one of them). Some even have blog articles to write. *wink to Gary*. That’s also missed opportunity to enjoy the place, so we’re all guilty one way or another.

  31. As far as writing blog posts, I tend to do that ahead. I wake up early in the morning in paradise before my wife gets up (different sleep patterns) and then turn off for most of the day. We all have different schedules and preferences which is cool, it just struck me seeing two couples sitting next to each other feet apart, all four on their phones for half an hour each, and was striking. They should of course do what they want, it’s a choice, and there are tradeoffs no matter what you choose 🙂

  32. What an awful empty post. Had they been reading a book on paper instead of one on their device would have you objected?


  33. @LarryInNYC

    Mercy! They certainly should ban me from up front for that! I need to stop posting on Gary’s page after taking my meds.

  34. I have to agree with Gary. It’s sad how unconnected people can be to their surroundings and how we’ve lost the ability to have intelligent and thoughtful conversations. I love my smart phone. It’s a great tool, but occasionally you have to look up and appreciate the world and the people around you, otherwise the only memories you’ll have is what you saw on your smart phone or read on your Kindle. The best travel memories I have are things I did and the places I saw and smelled and heard. Not even my most beloved book or best Facebook post can beat those memories. Hopefully, these people are checking their travel schedule before they go out an make more great memories.

  35. I think people are missing the bigger picture/message here.

    No one is here to tell anyone what to do on their vacation. Nor is it an assumption/post about the specific people in the post.

    But what is it, then? It’s a challenge of self reflection. It’s to ask yourself — and maybe the people with you — are we spending more time connected to a device or are we taking advantage of our environment?

    Only you can answer that question. If your idea of a relaxing vacation is being removed and reading a book on your Kindle, all the power to you.

    But have that moment of self reflection and honesty with yourself. I have a feeling more people are cheating themselves than realize.

    Happy travels!

  36. There are bugs in paradise. Maybe they got ringworm walking around barefoot, or stepped on a sea urchin or got stung by a jellyfish and are looking up self treatment online for their ailments. If you live and work in paradise, one sunset is pretty much like all the rest, and traveling 24 hours to get to see one isn’t just banal it is peculiar. My conclusion in looking at these pics is you can’t much from them really, anymore than you can tell a sunset picture from a sunrise unless you know what direction the camera was pointing. Can we get some pictures of bloggers taking pictures of their plates please?

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