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Are you looking to take a vacation, but don’t have enough time saved up to really do what you want to do? Do you have a favorite place in the world that you want to go back to and spend more time? The answer to these two problems may be a “workcation,” and there may never be a better time to take one than now.
What is a Workcation?
Starting with what the name implies, it’s a vacation where you are also doing some work. And while you could add work to a traditional style vacation, the advantage of a true workcation is that you can expand your trip to include an extended time at a single place.
For example, I’m writing this from a house that I rented in rural Italy, about two hours drive from Milan, and about 45 minutes from the city of Parma, which many people consider to be the food capital of the world. A typical day begins with a quick breakfast followed by a challenging bicycle ride through the hills with my 14-year-old daughter, while my wife sleeps in along with our 9-year-old daughter and her 6-year-old brother. By midmorning, we’ve returned from our bike ride and are ready for a shower and a lunch of home-cooked Italian food, of course.
After lunch, we explore the region’s attractions including vineyards, castles and the dairies where the famous Parmesan cheese is produced. We break up our routine with day trips to the beach, to the ancient city of Bologna and to tour the Ferrari museum in nearby Modena. In the evenings, we either go out or dine in al fresco on food we prepared from fresh Italian ingredients. Then, I sit down to get some work in, including both writing and conference calls. It’s quite convenient as we’re six hours ahead of the east coast of the United States, and nine hours ahead of the west coast.
During our month abroad, we’re even squeezing in a weekend trip to Paris, just over an hour’s flight away on a very low cost carrier ($50 each, round-trip!). And to our surprise, we are being visited by numerous friends and family members from both the United States and Europe during our stay.
The Advantages of a Workcation
There are numerous reasons that a workcation makes a ton of sense. First of all, you get to explore a region in depth. During a typical overseas vacation, most Americans will constantly travel from place to place, trying to see as much as possible in the very limited amount of time that they have off of work. But during a workcation, you can have several weeks or even longer to stay put and get to know a particular place. You can take advantage of the weather rather than just hope for the best. For example, we like to visit castles and museums when it’s raining, and take hikes and bike rides when the weather is clear.
A workcation can also be an incredible value compared to a standard vacation, as it allows you to maximize your vacation time while minimizing your expenses. We are spending just over a month in Italy, but renting the home costs a mere $2,000, or about $60 a day. This is far less than almost any roadside motel that I would ever consider staying at. But in contrast, we have a 2 bedroom townhouse with a kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a washing machine. We even have a loft with four additional single beds for guests. But most importantly, we have peace, quiet and some incredible views of the countryside. And our costs are far lower than sending kids to summer camps, where an overnight session runs about $100 per child, per day.
Figuring Out the Logistics
When it comes to luggage, we took only a week’s worth of clothes, and are relying on our rental’s washing machine. But because we’re traveling light and only staying in a single place, we decided to also take two bicycles, which most airlines will now transport in place of a single bag, at no additional cost.
As for food, we try to eat out just once a day, at most, to minimize both time and expense. Thankfully, there are numerous grocery stores in the area that offer fresh, locally grown food at very affordable prices. In fact, most things are less expensive in the countryside than in a major city.
And while we saved money by using our credit card reward points for our flights here, we are enjoying 33 days abroad for the cost of a single flight, two or three times the length of a typical vacation. Furthermore, we are only consuming one travel day coming and one going, rather than the numerous travel days on the traditional whirlwind tours of Europe. And after the first few days, we are fully recovered from jetlag and have an entire month to enjoy, rather than just another week or two.
In fact, we were able to transfer points from our Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards cards to the Emirates Skywards program. Emirates offered very reasonably priced business class awards on its flight from JFK to Milan (that continues on to Dubai). We also transferred American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles for the positioning flight from Denver to JFK, and transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest for the return flight, this time from LaGuardia, to Denver. We’re even staying the night near LaGuardia by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt.
While renting a car is a significant cost, there are several ways to minimize that expense [link to my article on rental car savings] if you're staying somewhere without significant public transportation.
Why Now is the Time for a Workcation
Obviously, most people are pretty exhausted from the pandemic, and have a lot of vacation time to make up.
The last two years have also shown many employers that employees can be quite productive outside of the office, and your employer may be perfectly happy to let you work from an alternate location. Furthermore, employees are at an unprecedented advantage when it comes to dictating the terms of their employment. Employers know that it’s become incredibly hard to hire new people, and any smart boss will gladly let you take a workcation rather than try to replace you. Also, consider bookending your workcation with some scheduled days off, to make the trip more enjoyable.
And if your employer is less enlightened, or it's impossible to work offsite, then you may decide to schedule your extended vacation between jobs, as it’s not uncommon to accept a new job offer with a scheduled start date that’s several weeks out.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, Americans are rethinking many different aspects of their lives, and you should certainly reconsider how you take your vacations. Now may be the time to abandon your traditional desire to see as many places as possible in the shortest amount of time, and try to get to know a single place for as long as practical. Taking a workcation can be surprisingly affordable, and an incredibly relaxing opportunity that’s ideally suited to this moment in history.