Jessica Dowshen just wants a little more space to breathe this summer.
“I am most looking forward to just being able to walk outside of the house without a mask on because there won’t be any other people around,” Dowshen said of her upcoming working vacation in western New Jersey.
Stepping out of her apartment building in Brooklyn – where she shares 900 square feet with her husband and two boys, 7 and 10 – affords no such mask-free luxury.
So the family is spending a little over a month in a rented farmhouse two miles from the Delaware River separating New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Dowshen and her husband both work for the city of New York and are able to work remotely. They plan to alternate working and time off with their boys, who will have more freedom to play outside.
They’re among a growing number of people renting properties for a month or more. While the pandemic has created all sorts of reasons for longer-term stays, according to rental behemoth Airbnb, the company is keeping a close eye on indicators that more people are taking working from home on the road.
“It’s something that we’re really interested in and are tracking to see what happens as we sort of work our way through the pandemic,” said Chris Lehane, senior vice president for global policy and communications at Airbnb. “Does this become just a different way that people work and live?”
Airbnb now showcases monthly stays on its homepage and also highlights getaways within a short drive in response to a 20% drop in how far guests are traveling from home to rental properties.
What happens next in the travel industry – and the world – is anyone’s guess. But there are some key considerations for anyone thinking about working from a vacation rental.
While the world is opening up and many spots are eager to get back to business, some locations are in better shape than others in terms of coronavirus transmission.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that staying home is still the best way to prevent the virus’ spread, but the agency offers a series of considerations for travelers, including whether Covid-19 is spreading in your community or where you’re going.
And more locations are implementing or considering 14-day quarantines for people arriving from heavily affected areas.
Car travel is generally considered easier to control than air travel in terms of your interactions with other people, and shorter trips mean less of a need to navigate public restrooms, drive-thrus and so on.
Take a close look at the connectivity situation
If you’re planning to stay a while and work, technology matters.
“High-speed internet. Smart TVs. Because a lot of times people who are renting out places, they’re not equipped for you to stay there for so long,” said Katie Sturino, a New Yorker who has been renting an Airbnb house in Maine since March.
Sturino hasn’t had much trouble with connectivity at the waterfront house outside of Camden (although cell service in the area is spotty for her), but she and her husband turned down some properties because they were not updated.
And old-fashioned mail service matters, too, if you expect to receive packages.
Sturino owns Megababe, a company that makes women’s personal care products, and she receives a lot of packages and samples.
“I would advise going to the post office and establishing a relationship,” she said.
Meanwhile, the house that Dowshen is renting has never had any complaints about internet service, but if virtual camps, video webinars and business meetings outmatch it, the owner has offered to upgrade the service.
Dowshen is hoping the WiFi may even extend to the garden.
Pay attention to rooms with desks or tables and how easily those spaces can be closed off for meetings or calls. When in doubt, contact the owner and ask.
There’s no overcommunicating in the age of coronavirus
Dowshen was careful to double check with the owner about the availability of outdoor space, as it’s a driving force for getting out of the city.
It turns out that there are animals on the property that her kids can visit and the house is close to a river. She also made sure her kids would be welcome as the listing suggests it’s best for kids 12 and older. All set.
She’s not worried about hygiene as the host has committed to Airbnb’s enhanced cleaning protocol. For those who get nervous, disinfecting wipes add a sense of security and come in handy on the road.
For longer stays, Sturino suggests asking more specifically about beds and how new the mattresses are “because I’ve been at Airbnbs before in the past where the bed, if I had to sleep there for one more night, I would just sleep on the floor.”
Laundry access is also a factor for longer stays, especially if you’re trying to look professional and polished from the waist up.
Self-care and gratitude are more important than ever
Both Dowshen and Sturino realize they’re incredibly fortunate to be able to work remotely and to have the means to get away.
Sturino has lost a lot of her income for 2020 and is still paying rent on her Chelsea apartment, but the financial strain is worth the investment she’s made in her health and well-being in Maine – a place that she loves and feels safe.
“It was a place that seemed like it would be a great location to find some peace and get work done and just try to figure it all out as the world is changing rapidly,” Sturino said.
Dowshen echoes that sentiment.
“I have to remind myself of how lucky I am and how grateful I am that we even have the option to be able to go out of the city to take care of ourselves in this way.”