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Top five destinations for a working vacation

While the term “working vacation” sure sounds like an oxymoron, the reality is most Americans nowadays are mixing business with pleasure while taking time off. According to Mother Jones magazine, 30 percent of employees do office work while on vacation, and Travelocity reported 33 percent of travelers keep a cell phone “handy to stay in contact with work.”

While taking a work-free vacation is the ideal getaway, we know it isn’t always realistic. As such, we’ve nominated the top five destinations for a working vacation.

Our destinations were chosen by three key factors:

  • Connectivity with good cell phone service and Internet access
  • A mix of tranquil locales and bustling hotspots to foster relaxation, work productivity, and fun activities
  • Ease of access for major air carriers and train lines to provide a low-stress travel experience

With such criteria in mind, our top five working vacation destinations are: Philadelphia; Martha’s Vineyard; San Francisco; Alexandria, VA; and Hermosa Beach, CA.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia, well positioned on the East Coast, is traditionally known as a place for history, art, and food lovers, but lately has been catering to business travelers as well. The city has embraced a new initiative to offer wireless Internet access throughout downtown, with more than 50 hotspots already established. It’s also easily reached from other major U.S. cities, and often has airfare sales and promotions from carriers such as Southwest and US Airways.

Upcoming events include Ben Franklin’s 300th Birthday celebration, the 100th anniversary of Longwood Gardens, and plenty of gourmet activities. Visit the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation for ideas on planning a trip.

At the time of publication, Sheraton University City hotel was offering a “See the City” package from $149 per night, including accommodations, a trolley tour ticket, and a Philly cheesesteak voucher. Packages are available through December 31. Top

Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard, just a short drive and ferry ride away from Boston, offers visitors a blend of tranquil beaches, bustling shops and restaurants, and quiet spaces to get work done. Visiting in the off-season, without the summer crowds, provides even more downtime to rest or be productive.

Dawn Bellante, general manager of Martha’s Vineyard Online, recommends the Harborview Hotel in Edgartown, the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven, and the Winnetu Resort in Edgartown’s Katama section for working travelers, stating “all are simply wonderful places to stay during a working holiday.” Check out the Martha’s Vineyard Online accommodations website for the latest specials. Top

Experts recommend top choices for working vacations

We spoke to several travel experts to find out their top destinations for mixing business and pleasure.

  • Tom Brosnahan, web developer, NewEnglandTravelPlanner.com, recommends: Nantucket; Cappadocia, Turkey
  • Kari Swartz, product manager, Expedia, suggests: New York City, Hong Kong
  • Amy Ziff, editor-at-large, Travelocity, recommends: Glasgow, Scotland; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; San Diego/Corona-Del-Mar

San Francisco

Like Philadelphia, San Francisco is working on a wireless initiative with its TechConnect project, which aims to provide free high-speed wireless Internet access at all points throughout the city. Serviced by multiple low-cost air carriers, San Francisco is easily accessible from most major U.S. airports. The city is also a good launching point for day trips to California wine country and outdoorsy activities along the Bay. The San Francisco CVB offers suggested itineraries, promotional offers, and more for those needing to mix work and fun.

Currently, the Inn at Oyster Point is offering a “Marina Moonlight Package” from $144 per night, including accommodations, breakfast, dinner gift certificate, and free parking. This promotion did not have an expiration date at press time, however, all offers are subject to availability and change, so check back for updates. Top

Alexandria, VA

Close to D.C., with a romantic waterfront, plenty of shops, cafes, and nightlife, Alexandria is a well-chosen spot for travelers who have to juggle work and play for a few days. Better yet, the city recently started providing free wireless Internet access in Old Town’s historic center, stretching over eight blocks of shops, restaurants, museums, and history attractions. Getting there is easy, too: Many budget airlines fly into nearby Dulles airport, and National Airport is just a few Metro stops away.

The Hilton Alexandria offers a romance package, including accommodations, sparkling wine or cider, and breakfast, valid for stays through December 31. We tested rates for a weekend in autumn and were quoted $249 per night. Top

Hermosa Beach, CA

Hermosa Beach, half an hour south of Los Angeles, recently launched free Wi-fi service throughout the downtown area, City Hall, and several residential neighborhoods. Travelers can spend an afternoon swimming or surfing, playing volleyball, or just relaxing by the sea, all while being able to check e-mail or get work done from their beach blanket. To leave work behind, the city has festive dining and dancing along Pier Avenue, farmers’ markets and volleyball tournaments year-round, and free summer concerts through September.

The Beach House Hotel offers accommodations ranging from $232 to $373 for stays through December 31. All guests receive continental breakfast each day and a newspaper Mondays through Fridays at no extra charge. The hotel also has a “Coastal Romance Package,” valid through the end of the year, that includes sparkling wine, bubble bath, rose petals, free valet parking, and a late checkout for an extra $75 added to your room rate.Top

What to do before you go

In order to get the most out of your vacation, reduce stress, and minimize the work done outside the office, take a few precautionary steps before leaving.

Kari Swartz of Expedia recommends letting your manager know your vacation plans as early as possible. “That way, you can work closely with your managers and colleagues to wrap up projects in advance, or delegate projects beforehand. Determine what can wait until you get back. Then, the day you return to the office, block off your entire calendar to enable you to catch up—that way you won’t have to check e-mail while you’re gone,” she stated.

Additionally, Swartz advocates planning in advance financially. “As soon as you decide to go on vacation, set up a preliminary vacation fund so you won’t be financially stressed,” she suggests. Even it it’s just $25 or $50 per paycheck, your savings will add up, and having a small cushion to cover costs can provide extra peace of mind when on vacation.

Before spending a cent, ask the right questions

If you know you will be bringing work on vacation, don’t plan blindly. Research the area you plan to visit, as well as your choice of accommodations.

  • Ask if your hotel or resort has a business center, and if there is a charge to use it. Some properties will offer free services, while others charge nominal fees per service.
  • Ask the hotel manager what the neighborhood is like (noisy? tranquil? both?), and if certain floors are quieter than others. Explain that you’re both a business and leisure traveler, and may need to take some time to work while at the hotel.
  • Check your cell phone provider to make sure you’ll have good coverage and if roaming charges will apply.
  • See if there are libraries or cafes near your hotel where you can do some work. Check if they offer free Wi-Fi.
  • Take advantage of the hotel concierge when planning fun things to do, or to make recommendations if you get too busy. Or, plan some activities before you even arrive. Many concierges will be happy to help, or you can often book tickets, reservations, and more through an area CVB or a travel provider such as Expedia.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun on your vacation. Once you’ve arrived, be sure to create a good balance between work and play, with an emphasis on play and relaxation. Remember—you’ve got the rest of the year to work, but only a few precious weeks of vacation. Take advantage of it!

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