Remote work may seem more enticing with a beach view, but is a work-cation worth the risks?

By Lisa Milbrand
July 15, 2020

If you’ve been working from home for the past few months, no matter how gorgeous your home office is or how many upgrades you’ve made to your backyard, you might be really (really!) eager for a change of scenery.

Enter the work-cation: a trip where you travel to a new destination and work from there for at least part of your stay. It’s not quite a vacation, because you will still be working, but it does offer a change of scenery and the chance to relax away from home outside working hours.

While the idea of the work-cation popped up long before the coronavirus pandemic, it’s especially doable for the whole family now that more people are working remotely and more and more school districts are opting for virtual learning instead of in-person classes as the school year begins. A work-cation could let you spend more time visiting family members or travel to a destination that hasn’t been in the cards for you before—if you’re careful.

For those interested in a work-cation, there are several hotels and destinations eager to help you set up a (very) extended stay at their spot. The newly reopened St. Regis Aspen is marketing itself as a perfect work-cation destination, with deals on extended stays and strict attention to social distancing and health department cleanliness guidelines to make any visit a safe-cation. Barbados plans to welcome remote workers with 12-month visas to allow them to work and play on the Caribbean island. And clearly, some people are settling in for extended stays: The average occupancy of extended stay hotels in May was 74 percent, while standard hotels saw their occupancies drop to 33 percent.

But does it make sense to head out on a work-cation this summer? It depends: You definitely want to take a few things into consideration first.

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Be careful about where you’re coming from and where you’re going

If your area is experiencing a spike in cases or you’re planning to head to a hotspot, be mindful of how fluid the situation is—and what could happen as a result. You might arrive to find the destination has shuttered the restaurants and other businesses you planned on visiting, or that you develop coronavirus symptoms not long after you check into your destination—and unintentionally spread the disease during your travels.

With 14-day quarantines required in many of the international destinations still allowing American travelers and even in several states, a work-cation might be the best way for you to go somewhere new without eating up your paid time off. You can get your work done during the two weeks while you’re quarantining and then spend a week or two in a more traditional summer vacation. (Just know that you’ll be paying for a weeks-long hotel stay.)

Plan your trip carefully

“Most of these decisions should be about how you decide to travel and how well you decide to protect yourself,” says lifestyle and travel expert Francesca Page of Miss Travel Guru. “A road trip within the U.S. with your close family is going to put you at much lower risk than taking a trip overseas via plane right now. In terms of what you decide to do on a trip, any activity that is mostly outdoors and is able to limit the number of visitors who can enter will be on the safer side, as less people is definitely safer than more people.”

You’ll also want to research healthcare options at your destination and find out how taxed their healthcare system currently is. “You should take note of the nearest testing facilities and medical facilities that you know will be able to see you if you have any emergency,” Page says. If nearby facilities are scarce or small, consider picking another destination—you don’t want to contribute to potential hospital overloading, which can happen in small resort towns or destinations.

Consider quarantining and testing before you travel

If you’re traveling to visit or stay with other family members, you may want to quarantine for two weeks prior to the work-cation to reduce the chances of spreading the disease and get tested to ensure you’re not an asymptomatic carrier.

Of course, keep in mind that even if you test negative before you travel, you could end up contracting COVID-19 from someone you meet along the way.

Opt for the safest accommodations

While hotels have really stepped up their cleanliness game, an Airbnb or other rental may be the best option—especially as it will offer more room to roam if you’re quarantining when you arrive. “You can control your environment better than any other kind of long-term vacation stay,” Page says. “You can clean it yourself, choose who stays with you and who you are exposed to, and still get ‘away.’”

Make sure that the destination offers everything you need to get work done

That gorgeous beachside Caribbean resort may be WiFi-free—which could make it impossible for you to get your work done. Always on phone calls? Make sure you get good service at your destination of choice.

Pack for safety

That stockpile of Clorox wipes you’ve got? Pack them. You’ll want to make sure that you have plenty of face coverings (including extras if you need to switch mid-flight), disposable gloves, disinfecting wipes, and cleaning supplies.

Follow local rules

You know the old saying about when in Rome: If your work-cation destination requires masks or social distancing, follow suit. And if all this sounds like too much for a getaway, long or short, consider a staycation instead.