Travel

Workcations are the new vacations. Here’s how to pull one off.

Bryan Conzone didn’t expect to take a workcation when he rented an apartment last year. He just thought he and his family would relocate from Salt Lake City to somewhere in Texas.

Through an online search, Conzone found a company called Landing that offers apartments in Austin,Texas and Dallas and decided to try it. His two-bedroom unit came with everything he needed for work, plus a full kitchen and laundry facilities. And at $1,800 per month - about the same as he would pay for a week in a vacation rental - the price was right.

“We ended up liking it so much, and the idea of exploring new cities for two months led to three, to four, and at this point, we’ve just crossed our one-year anniversary with Landing,” says Conzone, a revenue manager for a data science and software engineering firm in Salt Lake City.

Your summer vacation doesn’t have to end if you don’t want to. Mixing business and pleasure with a long-term stay, also known as a workcation, is one of the hottest travel trends today. But renting long-term accommodations requires attention to detail and a little knowledge of the destination.

There have always been working vacations. But during the pandemic, as more people began to work remotely, they realized they could combine the best elements of a leisure vacation with their regular office jobs. Vacations evolved into extended stays that allowed people to combine work and play. The result was a new kind of extended stay called a workcation.

Bill Smith, chief executive of Landing, says flexible living was already popular before the pandemic. But the coronavirus took it to a new level.

“Demand has exploded with the onset of remote work,” he says.

Flexible living options vary. Landing, which launched in late 2019, operates in more than 80 markets and offers more than 10,000 apartments, is among the largest. It sells annual memberships for $199 that allow customers to choose any of the locations. Its fully furnished apartments include all the essentials, including linens, kitchen appliances and cutlery. Travelers use an app for checking in and communicating with Landing.

I tracked down Lofton Taylor on his workcation in Seattle. In the early days of the pandemic, he found a site called Blueground that offers furnished apartments in 15 major cities around the world. Blueground’s appeal, like Landing’s, is standardization, simplicity and flexibility. Its apartments all come with the same amenities and signature furniture. And you can do almost everything through its smartphone app, including checking into and out of a property.

“It was a seamless experience,” says Taylor, a product designer. “The check-in process is great, as it’s completely hands-off via an app.”

Blueground’s prices are comparable to a vacation rental in that market, but it takes away many of the shared-economy uncertainties, such as dealing with a host or missing certain amenities.

Extended-stay properties specialize in helping meet the needs of longer-term residents. For example, Rachelle Wright needed an ADA-compliant unit in Seattle this spring, so she could help a family member who required emergency medical treatment. She turned to Oakwood, a company that provides serviced apartments, just two weeks before her arrival. Oakwood offered her accommodations at its Seattle South Lake Union property.

“I worked remotely during my stay,” says Wright, a program manager from Spokane Valley, Wash. “It was clean, quiet, secure, spacious - and the views were great.”

It’s not just apartments. One of the most significant developments in the workcations space is this summer’s introduction of Extended Stay America Premier Suites. It’s a 25-property collection within the Extended Stay America family that includes core amenities, such as fully equipped kitchens, apartment-style layouts and guest laundry. But it also adds some higher-end features, such as upgraded bedding, breakfast and larger TVs.

If you have more to spend - a lot more - you could check out a program called the Belmond Nomadic Lease from Embark Beyond. It allows travelers to move among any participating Belmond properties for a minimum of three weeks at a time at a flat rate. Among the options in Italy: the 14-room Splendido Mare in Portofino; the Cipriani in Venice; and the Caruso in Ravello. Rates start at $53,330 per month. (If you’re looking for something less pricey, you could try the Palacio Nazarenas in Cusco, Peru. Rates there start at just $16,000.)

So how do you book a workcation? Because you’ll be living there for several weeks or more, the considerations are different than they would be for a short-term hotel or vacation rental. Find the apartment or home on a map to see whether you’re near the facilities that matter to you, such as coffee shops, the local library, pharmacies and restaurants. As far as the apartment goes, you’ll want to check that there’s a kitchen, adequate laundry facilities and, because you’ll be working from home, a reliable wireless signal.

“Accommodations with multiple bedrooms are also essential for couples or families, so that multiple conference calls can happen simultaneously in peace,” says Christian Hempell, vice president for North American market operations for Sonder, a site that offers extended-stay options.

Extended-stay properties typically cost between 20 and 30% less than a comparable hotel stay. If you’re staying longer than a month, ask about special rates. Many companies will build a discount into their pricing, but not always.

Maybe the most important piece of advice for aspiring workcationers is to be open to new experiences. At the leading edge of this trend, the lines between a hotel and apartment are blurring. That’s the case with Mint House, which considers its properties neither hotels nor apartments.

“It blends the best of traditional-branded hotels and individually owned Airbnb rentals,” says CEO Will Lucas. And, sure enough, the rooms are like those in a hotel, but with more amenities, such as full kitchens. The pricing is more Airbnb-like.

As you head back to work, you may find yourself in one of these hybrid lodgings. As the workcation trend accelerates, we’ll get a fuller picture of the ups and downs of this new nomadic lifestyle.

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