While some workers return to the office this year, many others continue to work remotely indefinitely. This seismic shift has changed where people live and work and, increasingly, how they travel.
In the first quarter of 2022, nearly 25 percent of job postings at the 50,000 largest companies in the US and Canada were for permanent remote positions, according to job listing service Ladders. That’s up from just 4 percent before the pandemic.
“It’s allowed us to extend our commutes, leave early and work different hours,” says Kirsten Reckman, a credit risk manager based in Tampa, Fla., who works remotely. “My boss is very accommodating as long as the job gets done.”
Reckmen’s experience reflects a larger trend. One in five travelers this summer plan to work on the road, according to a report by Deloitte, an international professional services network. Of these so-called “laptops,” 4 in 5 plan to extend the duration of their trips due to schedule flexibility.
INCREASE THE ‘BLEISUR’ JOURNEY
Remote work has blurred the line between business and personal travel. Instead of rarely leaving home for vacations, remote workers can travel at any time. This has the potential to reverse long-standing travel trends.
“Many travelers who have the opportunity are choosing to combine remote work with travel for a change of scene, as well as to maximize PTO,” or paid time off, explains Mark Crossey, travel expert at Skyscanner, a travel search engine and agency. “The works allow people with flexible home and work lives to become ‘semi-tourists’ for a period of time.”
That kind of freedom appeals to Lisa Wickstrom, an Arizona-based mortgage underwriter who now works from around the world out of a suitcase.
“I had three weeks of vacation before,” says Wickstrom, “But I never feel like I have to take vacation time because … I’m always on vacation.”
For the travel industry, these nomads offer great opportunities. Remote workers can spend far more time—and money—in faraway destinations. However, “pleasure” travelers do not fit the typical tourist mold.
“You can’t freely go anywhere,” explains Derek Midkiff, a patent attorney who fled San Diego during the pandemic and never returned. “You live somewhere but also work. Someone asks me: ‘Did you do this and that’ and I have to say: ‘No, I’m working; it’s not the same as when you’re on vacation'”.
TRAVEL DAYS ARE CHANGING
Before the pandemic, it was expensive to fly on weekends and cheaper during the week. All this can change with remote work.
According to data from Hopper, a travel booking app, the cost of domestic flights on Sundays and Mondays has increased by 5.90 percent and 2.97 percent respectively in 2022 compared to 2019, while the cost of flights on Fridays and Saturdays has decreased by 3.04 percent. and 1.60 percent. It is now cheaper to fly on Saturday than on Monday, on average.
Further, remote workers may make longer trips during busy holidays, flattening the “peak” of peak travel dates.
“Since 2020, we’ve seen a small but noticeable shift toward Thursday departures for Memorial Day weekend itineraries,” says Craig Ewer, spokesperson for Google Flights, “suggesting that location flexibility with really has an impact on travelers’ behavior”.
A SUITABLE INDUSTRY
Many workers fled the big cities during the pandemic, filling the suburbs and rural areas. But telecommuting has changed the calculus more drastically for some, freeing up budgets to allow for more travel.
“I save over $2,000 a month after taxes living in Florida,” says Reckman. “We’re traveling a lot more because of it.”
Lower cost of living and tax incentives mean more freedom for some remote workers. And some companies are seeing a potential profit.
Airbnb, the vacation rental platform, reports that the number of long-term stays (over 28 days) doubled in the first quarter of 2022 compared to 2019. The company has even introduced an “I’m flexible” search function for travelers who don’t you must return to an office on a certain date.
“I found Airbnb to be cheaper and have better rules,” says Midkiff, explaining why he chooses vacation rentals over hotels. “And I like to stay a month to get the discount.”
REMOTE WORK IS HERE
No longer limited by vacation days and returning from a trip by Monday, remote workers have changed the travel landscape, perhaps for the better. While executives continue to stick to back-to-the-office plans, remote workers are happily sending emails from afar.
“I think about office politics, baby showers, all of that,” Wickstrom says with a shudder. “I can’t even imagine doing it all again.”
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sam Kemmis is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.