Try a Digital-Free Day Trip and Escape to the Outdoors

Digital Free Day Trip: Matt Holland Photography

26 Apr Try a Digital-Free Day Trip and Escape to the Outdoors

If we were to find ourselves without our phones unexpectedly most of us would feel very vulnerable and lost. It’s become all too easy to become over-reliant on the tools on our smartphones, leaving us seriously doubting our ability to cope without them.

But combatting digital dependence is easy and can be fun, educational, and offer a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. Have you ever tried a digital free day trip without your smartphone to navigate?

A digital detox day trip

A great way to enjoy a digital detox is to plan and go out for a digital free day on a pre-planned route using a traditional map or rough location guides – and without relying on your smartphone*.

Within the Scouting movement and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme this skill is specifically taught to the children I lead in expeditions. They typically venture to areas with little or no phone signal, so being reliant on their smartphones as a means of navigation is simply impossible – not to mention the inevitable problems around battery life. Most of them find themselves enjoying the lack of phones and engage more in conversations, singing and having fun with each other exploring.

Having your own digital detox trip doesn’t have to involve going to the same lengths as a DofE expedition, just getting off the grid for one day or even a morning can improve your wellbeing and improve health and it’s simpler than it sounds.

Queue for Durdle - Matt Holland Photography

Setting out on your digital free day

Find an area you wish to explore or visit, for example a popular national nature spot, or alternatively choose something closer to home like a local canal route to cycle or walk along.

Plan the route to get to the destination and set off and enjoy your day just using physical maps. The challenge is to not use your smartphone at all throughout the day. This is a great challenge to get the whole family involved in too, teaching your kids about nature, navigation and time together away from screens and game consoles.

Set yourself a creative challenge

Why not turn your digital free day into a creative challenge too? Bring a camera and photograph the trip. Not only are you learning to navigate the old fashioned way, but you’re relaxing by doing something creative at the same time. Or you could just bring a picnic, football or frisbee to enjoy. Anything that keeps you busy and not thinking about your phone is the trick.

Recent excursions I’ve enjoyed in this fashion were my trips to Durdle Door, the Reading to Newbury canal path, Oxford, Longleat Zoo and even to London. Most were well signed and marked out, making it easy to navigate without the use of maps at all.


Canal routes are a great choice as they are safe and popular and often have cafes or picnic spots to enjoy en route. The larger tourist hot spots are the easiest destinations for digital free day trips as you always can rely on crowds to lead the way if you’re not that confident about your map reading.

If you want to photograph the memories of visiting a location, why not try using a film camera or small compact camera and print them and create a digital free scrap book?

Learning to read a traditional paper map is a great skill to learn and a very good way to get you off grid. To greater advance your navigation skills try using a compass or time cards which describe your route and how long each leg or distance is. Each variation can help develop and strengthen time management skills and organisation.

Lush Lunch - Matt Holland Photography

*For safety always pack your phone or a sat nav as a means of communication or for emergencies.  A great alternative to OS maps is ViewRanger or Google Maps which both can run with just location data and require no internet to track you. You can pre-plan routes and download to your phone. Both are available to download on Android and Apple OS so you can still enjoy a digital free day and build up your confidence in navigation if you lack experience with map reading. 

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