We’re all guilty of neglecting loved ones in favor of sending an email or text message. On vacations, when disconnected from the office, unwinding and putting the cell phone away can be even harder. Seeing guests experience the same issues over and over again, Wyndham Grand Hotels has developed a program called Reconnected that encourages guests to lock their phones away and be more present.
Noelle Nicolai, Wyndham Grand’s “Resident Reconnector,” experienced this firsthand when her four-year-old asked her to put her phone away. From that, Nicolai and Wyndham Grand designed a program meant to bring kids and their parents together. “We wanted to create an environment where everybody could just have fun and there were no digital distractions, a throwback to that analog childhood and creative play. We created this entire experience on-property for families to just connect,” Nicolai says.
When guests who book the Reconnected package arrive at the hotel, they receive a backpack filled with essentials: a flashlight, instant film, a shadow-puppet book, coloring tools, and more. Once they arrive in the room, the surprises are revealed: an Instax Polaroid camera, all the materials necessary to build blanket forts, and a copy of The Nocturnals, a novel following the adventures of a trio of nocturnal animal friends by Tracey Hecht.
And, perhaps most importantly, the Reconnected package includes a lockbox with a timer in which parents can drop their phones, preventing them from even sneaking a bit of phone time. The program isn’t contingent on the lockbox, but Nicolai says that it really helps parents connect with their kids. “It’s a reminder that you can and to be present and in the moment,” she adds.
Wyndham Grand partnered with a number of professionals to make the program a success. To create the framework for the forts, Wyndham tapped Ben Pell and Tate Overton of PellOverton Architects. Together, the architects created the blueprints for what could be blanket castles, schools, or caves. Chef Duff Goldman from the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes created a family-friendly menu that includes s’mores jars for the kids and campfire inspired cocktails for parents.
The partnership with Hecht also proved to be a great fit for the program. The author of The Nocturnals develops her characters by watching videos of nocturnal creatures in their natural habitat and bases her characters on their movements and personalities. “I was really excited to work with Wyndham on a family-focused program. It was a natural partnership right from the beginning because we have the same shared goals,” Hecht says.
The program is piloting at five hotels—Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek, Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront, Hotel Galvez, a Wyndham Grand Hotel, and The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel—and will be available at every Wyndham Grand starting tomorrow, February 23.
Nicolai says, “At Wyndham Grand, we know all about vacations and we know that vacations are about spending time with people who matter most to us. We designed this program to invite people to really unplug, come together, and reconnect.”