Has remote work changed the travel landscape?

While some workers are returning to the office this year, many others are continuing 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% of job openings at the 50,000 largest companies in the US and Canada were for permanently remote positions, according to job listing service Ladders. That’s an increase from just 4% before the pandemic.

“It has allowed us to spread out 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.”

The Reckmen’s experience reflects a larger trend. One in five commuters this summer plan to work on the road, according to a report by Deloitte, an international network of professional services. Of these so-called “portable chargers”, 4 out of 5 plan to extend the duration of their trips due to the flexibility of schedules.

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 change long-standing travel trends.

“Many travelers who have the opportunity choose to combine remote work with travel for a change of scenery and maximize PTO” or paid time off, explains Mark Crossey, travel expert at Skyscanner, a travel search engine and agency. “Workstations allow people with flexible work and home lives to become ‘half tourists’ for a period of time.”

This kind of freedom appeals to Lisa Wickstrom, an Arizona-based mortgage insurer who now works from around the world with just a suitcase.

“I had three weeks of vacation before,” says Wickstrom, “but I never feel like I have to take a vacation because…I’m always on vacation.”

For the travel industry, these nomads offer tremendous opportunities. Remote workers can spend much more time and money in remote destinations. However, bleisure travelers do not fit the typical tourist mold.

“You can’t freely go everywhere,” explains Derek Midkiff, a patent attorney who left San Diego during the pandemic and never looked back. “You are living somewhere but also working. Someone asks me: ‘You did this and this’, and I have to say: ‘No, I’m working, it’s not the same as when you’re on vacation’”.

Before the pandemic, it was expensive to fly on weekends and cheaper on weekdays. All of that could be changing with remote work.

According to data from Hopper, a travel booking app, the cost of domestic flights on Sundays and Mondays has risen by 5.90% and 2.97%, respectively, in 2022 compared to 2019, while the cost of flying on Fridays and Saturdays it fell 3.04% and 1.60%. It is now cheaper to fly on a Saturday than on a Monday, on average.

Additionally, remote workers can take longer commutes during busy vacations, flattening out the “peak” of peak travel dates.

“Since 2020, we have seen a small but noticeable shift toward Thursday departures for Memorial Day weekend itineraries,” says Craig Ewer, spokesman for Google Flights, “suggesting that location flexibility is having an impact on traveler behavior.”

Many workers fled big cities during the pandemic, filling suburbs and rural areas. But remote work 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 are traveling a lot more because of that.”

Lower cost of living and tax incentives mean more freedom for some remote workers. And some companies are seeing a potential windfall.

Airbnb, the vacation rental platform, reports that the number of extended stays (more than 28 days) doubled in the first quarter of 2022 compared to 2019. The company even introduced an “I’m flexible” search feature for travelers who no It is not necessary to return to an office on a specific date.

“I’ve found that Airbnb is cheaper and has better rules,” says Midkiff, explaining why he chooses vacation rentals over hotels. “And I like to stay a month to get the discount.”

No longer constrained by vacation days and returning from a trip on Monday, remote workers have changed the landscape of travel, perhaps forever. While executives continue to second-guess and bicker over return-to-the-office plans, remote workers are happily emailing from afar.

“I think about office politics, baby showers, all of that,” Wickstrom says with a shudder. “I can’t even imagine doing all that again.”

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sam Kemmis is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: skemmis@nerdwallet.com.

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