The increase of remote work over the past year has given rise to an overlooked type of trip: the workcation. You still clock in every day to work online, but you spend the evenings or weekends exploring your change in scenery.
If you’re one of those people who recoil at the idea of lifting a single finger to answer an email on vacation, you might be diametrically opposed to the idea. After all, it blurs the boundaries you've established in your work-life balance. If you’re on vacation, you want to be on vacation, right? Travel maximizers might also dismiss the idea of wasting time at a new locale, especially one they've worked so hard to book with points and miles from their travel credit card.
But hear us out ... Workcations have a lower barrier to entry. You don’t have to request time off from work or spend a ton of time researching activities to fill up the days. This is your chance to live like a local, spend extra time in a place where you'd usually only stay for a day, or challenge your exercise routine in new terrain.
It also doesn’t have to be expensive. Maybe you’ve been racking up points all year on your hotel credit card but are still holding out for your dream vacation to use them. Points devalue over time, so you might actually be getting more for your points by redeeming them now instead of next year. Plus, hotels are offering all sorts of incentives to get you in the door, from bonus point promotions to lower elite status requirements to work-from-hotel packages.
If you need a place to start, here are a few budget-friendly ideas to help you find the perfect winter workcation close to home.
1. Go for a morning surf
Have you always wanted to live by the water? If you wish you could start your day with a seasonal sport, a workcation is a great opportunity.
For example, you could spend every morning before work on dawn patrol at the birthplace of U.S. mainland surfing. Surprisingly, it’s not in Southern California. It’s actually Santa Cruz, which is just 75 miles outside of San Francisco. The waves here are particularly good in the winter, but make sure you wear a wetsuit because water temperatures are in the 50s.
For accommodations, try the Hotel Paradox, an Autograph Collection property that’s part of Marriott Bonvoy. It has an upscale urban look that’s professional enough to be in the background of your video calls, and it has all sorts of deals for remote workers, including free parking, a bottle of wine, discounts for California residents and reduced rates for stays of five nights or longer.
2. Enjoy an afternoon ski
If you’re more of a winter sports enthusiast, you might prefer water of the frozen variety, so apply the same thinking to mountain destinations. Since you’re going to be working most of the day, look for ski resorts that offer discounts on afternoon or night passes.
Alta, one of the only remaining ski-only (no snowboarding) resorts in the U.S., has a $59 season pass for afternoon skiing if you don’t mind sticking to the beginner lifts. If you went several days of the week, you’d get the practice that newbies need without the giant price tag. The Hyatt Place Salt Lake City / Cottonwood is nestled not too far away from the canyon where Alta is, and we found rooms for as little as 8,000 points per night in February 2021. World of Hyatt is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate RewardsⓇ, so if you have a Chase Sapphire card, you can easily convert your points to cover the cost of the stay.
3. Retreat to an island
It doesn’t have to be Hawaii. There are tons of islands all over the U.S., and a winter workcation might be an opportune time to visit a lesser-known one.
St. Simons Island in Georgia is one that comes to mind. This beautiful barrier island has beaches and trees with hanging moss, making it look like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. After a long day of work, take a bike around the island and order food at one of the local restaurants in the villages.
There’s a wide range of places to stay, from exclusive resorts to budget hotels. For a long stay like a workcation, the Home2 Suites by Hilton St. Simons Island might work best because there's more space and a kitchen. Rooms in February started at 28,000 Hilton points per night. If you’ve got a Hilton credit card, you have automatic elite status, which will give you a fifth night free when you book with points.
4. Hop in a hot spring
It’s hard to go wrong with a vacation that includes hitting the hot tub every night. On a winter workcation, take it up a notch by visiting a natural hot spring.
You could unwind in any number of hot springs in Idaho, especially if you explore along Highway 21. Mountain Village Resort in Stanley is in the thick of it, with its very own hot spring that’s free for guests or you can pay to reserve. Other natural pools might require a hike, but it’s well worth the effort.
If you’re looking for brand-name lodging for your Idaho workcation, you’d have to look in Boise or Sun Valley. The Best Western Tyrolean Lodge in Ketchum, just outside of Sun Valley, starts at 28,000 Best Western points.
5. Sample the local cuisine
Change up your normal weekday dinners and go to a foodie destination for your workcation. You’ll find plenty of excellent, world-class options outside of big cities, and the accommodations will probably be cheaper, too.
Asheville, North Carolina, is one to put on the list. This mountain town is full of fine dining establishments, breweries, barbecue and everything in between. In the morning, order some massive breakfast concoctions at Biscuit Head. For dinner, Cúrate, a Spanish tapas bar known for its charcuterie, is a must-try. Remember, takeout dining is your safest option during the pandemic.
You’ll probably want to stay downtown in the middle of the action. Hotel Indigo Asheville Downtown is an IHG property in a great location, with views of the surrounding mountains and decor by local Asheville artists. Rooms start at 28,000 IHG points per night.
The bottom line
The workcation is a type of trip all its own. This winter, take advantage of remote work and the opportunity to go places you might not otherwise. If you have some goals of what you’d like to do outside of work hours, it’ll make picking a destination much easier. As always, follow local health guidelines for travel and opt for drivable locations as opposed to flying during the pandemic.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card