As so many of us work from home now, we’re craving opportunities to get a change of scenery. Coffee shops? Closed. Co-working spaces? Closed. Poolside in Mexico? Available! Temporarily moving your home office to a new location is 2020’s top remote work trend. It’s called a workcation, and it may be here to stay.
As travel restrictions tighten and loosen around the world, you’ll need to keep an eye on government guidelines to determine whether or not it’s safe to travel. But there’s no harm in planning in the meantime!
What is a workcation?
A workcation isn’t an actual vacation where you sign out of email and decline conference calls. Instead, it’s an opportunity for a much-needed change of scenery during the day. Without an office to go to, work life and home life are blurring for many people. A workcation helps remote employees relieve the tedium by relocating for a bit without using their precious PTO.
You may not have much time to explore your new surroundings since you’ll be working during the day. But if you’re strategic about the location you choose, being in a different time zone could afford you a morning away from the keyboard if you’re willing to work into the evening.
Why are workcations so popular in 2020?
Virtually no one was talking about a workcation before the pandemic. But people started getting itchy feet after months of remote work and few opportunities to leave home for an extended period of time.
Newly remote workers were craving a change of scenery and something to liven up their workday, like typing away poolside or getting lost in a new city during lunch. Savvy hotels and vacation rentals caught on and started offering attractive long-stay packages. It didn’t take long for the blended workcation to become one of the most popular trends of 2020.
Does going on a workcation make me a digital nomad?
Taking a workcation doesn’t make you a digital nomad. Some digital nomads travel slowly while others move more often—and they typically do so without a return ticket or permanent homebase. As a result, being a digital nomad is more of a lifestyle, while a workcation is a type of getaway.
What are the top tips for planning a great workcation?
First, you need to determine how long your workcation will be. If you’re only leaving for a week, you’d probably choose a nearby location so you don’t spend too much time in transit. Once you decide on length, narrow down where you’d like to go. Here are some top factors to consider:
- Local restrictions and rules (Is there a curfew? Mask mandate? Are restaurants open?)
- Atmosphere and activities (Beach? Slopes? Cabin with a hot tub?)
- WiFi accessibility and quality (There’s such a thing as too remote.)
- Exchange rate (How strong is the USD against the local currency?)
If you have your sights set on another country, contact your health insurance provider to see what your coverage is like abroad. You may also want to purchase a travel and health insurance policy as added protection. No one likes to think they’ll get sick while away from home, but it’s important to be especially prudent during a pandemic.
Cell coverage is another consideration if you plan to travel internationally. Find out what your carrier will charge for international data and calls/texts made and received. Are you better off switching to a Skype phone number or using a video chat program? If you want to have data and the ability to make local calls and texts, buy a SIM card when you arrive. This is often a low-cost solution in many destinations worldwide.
As you consider accommodation options, contact properties directly to see what actions they’ve taken to improve cleanliness and ensure the safety of their guests. You may want to splurge on larger accommodations that have a comfortable, separate work area. If you feel cramped during your workcation, you’ll quickly regret your decision. Don’t forget to talk to the property about their pet policy (that is, if you have one and want to bring your furry friend along).
Although you’ll be away from home, you should still follow standard WHO protective measures. Bring enough personal protective equipment to last during your stay and plan to social distance in public spaces.
Which destinations should I consider from the United States?
A workcation shouldn’t involve mounds of paperwork or costly payments. For this reason, we’re recommending destinations that offer American citizens multi-month visa-free stays.
You may have heard how countries like Bermuda, Barbados and Estonia offer a digital nomad visa. These are better options for remote workers who want to live in a country for a longer period of time. It’s not necessarily a great option for a short-term workcation. Here’s why:
- Barbados. The nonrefundable visa application fee is $2,000. This is a hefty payment if you don’t plan to live there for a year (the full length of the visa).
- Bermuda. This might be a great location to splurge for a week, but insofar as cost of living goes, it has one of the highest in the world. If you’re planning a workcation for a couple weeks or more, you may end up spending a fair amount on accommodations and everyday purchases.
- Estonia. The application process requires you to provide eligibility documentation, including proof of remote employment and a minimum monthly income of €3,504 (gross of tax). You must ensure that your health insurance covers you in Estonia. If you plan to stay for 183 days or longer in a consecutive 12 month period, you are “considered an Estonian tax resident and should declare and pay taxes.”
If you have your heart set on one of the above countries, please do not let us deter you! We are simply recommending destinations that don’t require fees or applications and won’t be cost prohibitive for an extended stay. Check out these incredible workcation-friendly destinations that are all currently allowing American visitors:
This dreamy island destination launched the One Happy Workation program to attract remote workers. Under this program, visitors can stay from one week to 90 days on a valid passport. There are no forms or fees, but you must purchase low-cost Aruba Visitors Insurance. Participating accommodations—from hotels with kitchens to whole villas—are offering special rates and perks like complimentary meals and discounts on experiences and activities. You may be able to bring your dog or cat, too!
Current COVID situation: U.S. travelers are welcome in Aruba. You must either present a certified negative test result or take a PCR test upon arrival at the airport in Aruba. The country has rigorous safety measures in place. Visitors must adhere to mask wearing and social distancing.
Resorts across the country, from Puerto Vallarta to Cancun, are offering incredible package deals for remote workers. They include perks like a room upgrade, discounted laundry services, unlimited WiFi, business center access, waived resort fees and food and beverage credits. All the better if you belong to a rewards program. International brands like Marriott and Hyatt are among those currently offering attractive workcation packages in Mexico.
Current COVID situation: Mexico welcomes U.S. travelers. However, for tourism purposes, you cannot cross the land border and must arrive by air. There is not a quarantine mandate and you don’t need to present a negative test result upon arrival. Visitors must adhere to mask wearing and social distancing.
You don’t need to travel overseas or stay beachside to have an enjoyable workcation. There are stunning mountain hideouts and chic boutique hotels in Colorado that will more than satisfy your desire to get away. Stay near the action in downtown Denver at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco. You’ll save at least 15% and enjoy perks like morning coffee and tea, an evening wine hour, a yoga mat in your room, and complimentary access to PUBLIC bikes.
Take in the fresh mountain air every morning from Vail, Beaver Creek or Snowmass with a Work from Hyatt package. These stays are sweetened with a separate workspace, complimentary services (WiFi, parking, laundry) and a daily food and beverage credit, among other benefits.
Current COVID situation: Colorado doesn’t have any travel restrictions. The government does ask visitors to wear a mask in public spaces and maintain social distancing.
Remember how we said earlier we wouldn’t include destinations that require an application? Well, Hawaii is an exception because it comes with a freebie. The Aloha State is trying to attract remote workers by offering a free round-trip flight to those who commit to volunteering with a local nonprofit for a few hours each week. It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community during your stay in paradise.
This workcation program—Movers & Shakas—requires an application, and only those who are handpicked can participate. If selected, you’ll live and work remotely in Hawaii for at least 30 days (twist your arm, right?).
Current COVID situation: To avoid a 14-day quarantine (on all islands except Kauai), you must upload a negative test result prior to boarding the final leg of your trip. Visitors must complete the Safe Travels form and adhere to mask wearing (required by law) and social distancing. Kauai is enforcing a 14-day quarantine despite test results.
How much does a workcation cost?
Before we dive into cost estimates, it’s important to remember that these numbers will be in addition to any regular expenses you incur at home. That includes rent or mortgage, utilities, phone, internet, memberships and subscriptions and other recurring bills. Call your providers to see if they can pause service while you’re away.
Your overall expenses will vary widely depending on three main factors:
- Cost of living in the specific location (groceries, activities, dining out)
- How much you want to splurge (basic versus luxury accommodations)
- How far the U.S. dollar will go (a weak exchange rate increases costs)
We researched the low end of how much you can expect to spend during a workcation. (Because you can always find ways of spending more if you have the budget!) Here is, broadly, what you can expect to pay:
- Aruba from the U.S.: starting around $130
- Mexico from the U.S.: starting at around $100
- Colorado from around the U.S.: as low as $30
- Hawaii from the continental U.S.: starting at $140
We’re keeping Hawaii on here in case you want to visit outside of the Movers & Shakas program!
- Aruba. 2 weeks: starting at $476; 1 month: starting at $952
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 2 weeks: starting at $280; 1 month: starting at $575
- Denver, Colorado. 2 weeks: starting at $966; 1 month: starting at $1,946
- Honolulu, Hawaii. 2 weeks: starting at $867; 1 month: starting at $1,680
- Aruba. 2 weeks: starting at $250; 28 days: starting at $659
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 2 weeks: starting at $8; 28 days: starting at $16
- Denver, Colorado. 2 weeks: starting at $388; 28 days: starting at $709
- Honolulu, Hawaii. 2 weeks: starting at $592; 28 days: starting at $1,006
A workcation might be just what you need if you’re craving a change of scenery and feeling serious wanderlust. Keep it simple by traveling to a destination that is visa-free or offering perks that are well worth the visit. You don’t need added stress right now!
Whether you choose to stay domestic or go abroad, check government guidelines throughout the planning process. Don’t book flights or accommodations until the local authorities say it’s safe to do so. Even if they give the go-ahead, you should only leave if you feel comfortable traveling. It’s ok to indulge your wanderlust by planning now but traveling later. We all need something exciting to look forward to!
Discover where you can go
Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
Frequently Asked Questions
The main difference is that you’ll continue working remotely no matter where you choose to travel. You’re not quite a digital nomad since you plan to return home after a short time away. A workcation gives you the opportunity to enjoy a different destination outside of work hours, too.
This visa type differs from tourist and work visas. They are typically valid for a longer length of stay and have specific limitations, like restricting local employment. The application process and fee structure will be different than other visa types, too.
A digital nomad is someone who has a location-independent job and is able to travel to different locations throughout the year while telecommuting or performing their work remotely.
DISCLAIMER: This article was last updated on December 21, 2020 and it’s possible that travel rules and regulations may have changed since. Please always refer to official government resources for the most up-to-date information before planning or booking travel.
Want to read more?
- Coronavirus travel advice. We continually update this page with relevant state and U.S. government requirements and recommendations, plus the latest airline policy changes.
- Empty sun loungers and zero queues: Check out these first-hand experiences that reveal what it’s like to travel right now.
- When can I travel again? If you’re eager to travel domestically or internationally and want to know where you can go, we list out destination ideas and ways to travel safely.