In May, Twitter announced that it would make remote work a permanent option for its 5,100 employees in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement came as many find themselves working from home full time, no longer tethered to a traditional office environment.
While the adjustment can be incredibly challenging for workers, it may usher in a trend of long-term travel as more people may choose to work away from their home base.
“I’d say, in general, we’re seeing people take slightly longer trips this summer,” said vacation-rental company Vrbo president Jeff Hurst. “A lot of people have gotten comfortable that they don’t have to squeeze a nine-day vacation into six. They can take the extra days and maybe work a couple half-days remotely.”
When I was a freelance journalist, I spent most of my time working elsewhere, filing stories from Airbnbs, coffee shops, airport terminals, hostels and trains. From firsthand experience I can tell you that the freedom to work from anywhere is exhilarating — as well as infuriatingly difficult at times.
That experience on the road taught me that combining travel and remote work is absolutely possible if you have the right tools and mindsets.
For additional insights, I spoke with other experts to help you make the most of your long-term trips once we can travel again. (Remember, health officials are still advising people to stay at home and only conduct travel for essential purposes.)
Choose a work-friendly accommodation
I once made the mistake of booking an Airbnb with no windows in Lisbon. It had never occurred to me to check that an apartment would have windows, and I was sold by the cheap nightly rate.
It was a nightmare work environment walking around the glorious city, I’d go back to the dark, dungeonlike apartment and work under florescent lights without any concept of the time of day.
When you’re picking a place for your own long-term trip where you’ll need to work, consider the well-being of your future working self.
“A couple of things to figure out is, can I work from that space, does it have the right connectivity? Do I have everything I need to continue to successfully work from home?” said Misty Belles, the managing director of global public relations for Virtuoso, a network of agencies specializing in luxury and experiential travel.
As you assess an accommodation, make sure to check it has a desk or table (bonus points for a workspace near a window for natural light), and reliable internet so you can connect to your regular Zoom meetings. It may seem like a no-brainer, but ask these questions of your host.
Take care of your home before you go
As cathartic as it sounds to get up and leave your home immediately, you’ll be better off making appropriate arrangements before you go. Depending on how long you’ll be gone, you may want to stop your mail or arrange for someone to water your plants.
And do not forget to take out the trash before your trip; I am warning you.
For safety purposes, Belles, who plans to spend a month working remotely in Colorado with her family this summer, puts her home lights on an automated dimmer during nighttime hours so its less obvious the family is away.
Travis Levius, a freelance travel writer and editor, recommends considering which subscriptions you won’t be using while you’re traveling, like Netflix or meal kits, and pausing them to save money.
“Suspend those services so you won’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for no reason if you’re not using the service abroad,” he said. “This helps a lot financially.”
Know the coronavirus status of your destination
Because we’re in a pandemic, research the place you’re visiting ahead of time to know what restrictions are in place.
“Is there a quarantine based on where you’re coming from and where you’re going?” Belles said. “It’s really important right now to find out what is open in that area, because everything changes state by state.”
Even though places are slowly reopening, health experts are warning of a second wave of novel coronavirus infections, which could result in new restrictions.
If you are thinking about going abroad, remember that the State Department still has a Level 4 travel advisory in place, which advises U.S. citizens to not travel internationally. But if you still plan to go, check local government sites to understand what precautions you need to take when you arrive, like quarantining — that is if the city is even open to U.S. visitors again. The same can be true for domestic trips, such as Hawaii, which requires visitors to quarantine for 14 days.
Pack like a professional: lightly
For those new to long-term travel, packing for a trip can feel stressful. How do you fit enough things into a suitcase for a month away from home?
“It’s key to pack light, I like to be as flexible as possible,” Levius said. “Not only does it help with the logistics of carrying things around, but it also helps reduce unnecessary fees when you’re checking in luggage and you’re charged $20 to $50 per bag.”
Levius recommends packing a wardrobe that’s mix-and-match friendly, and not to worry about wearing the same clothes repeatedly.
“Paparazzi is not following you every day. People are not going to outfit shame you,” Levius said. “There are more important things.”
I’m on team Levius when it comes to packing. There’s a running joke with my friends and family that I only wear four shirts because I travel so lightly. My routine is to pack only mostly black clothes so everything matches and can all be washed in one load.
Which brings me to the next important tip: To make the bare minimum work best, choose an accommodation with easy laundry access so you can wash the few clothes you pack.
When finding a long-term travel Airbnb, I’d filter options to find ones with washing machines. If those were too expensive, I’d look up places with laundromats nearby. It’s a step that will save you priceless time. I’ve had plenty of trips where I wasted hours schlepping dirty clothes for blocks to laundromats that were too far away.
If you can’t pack light, ship your stuff
Traveling light isn’t for everyone. You may need to bring more things with you.
One option for getting your belongings from A to B is shipping them. Because Belles is driving across the country for her Colorado trip, she’s mailing some of her family’s things to make more room in the car.
If you’re traveling somewhere for an extended time, you can also have necessities delivered to your accommodation like customers of CorpHousing Group, a short-term apartment rental operator that’s seen an uptick in business during the pandemic.
“Thinking ahead and stocking your unit is something that’s important in really easing you into your stay and allowing you to really feel like you’re at a home away from home,” said CorpHousing group managing partner Brian Ferdinand. “Those are things like the snacks, the drinks, the iPhone chargers.”
In the age of the coronavirus, it’s now more important to pack cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment in your carry-on. Don’t leave home without a mask, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to clean the common surfaces of your travel accommodation.