Working and Learning Remotely - on a Florida Vacation

    By Dalia Colón

    “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

    — Theodore Roosevelt

    It was supposed to be a vacation to remember: Along with their children, Chris and Lisa Runge would spend part of September 2020 in Germany and Austria.

    But COVID-19 had other ideas.

    “With Europe still largely shut down to Americans, we had to make a change in plans,” said Chris, who lives with his family in Ashburn, Va., just outside of Washington DC.

    Rather than cancel his time off work, he found a solution that worked for everyone: a Florida vacation. They spent two days at Walt Disney World, followed by a weeklong Schoolcation package at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World.

    “While I have the ability to work remotely, I intentionally chose not to for this week,” said Chris, who works in software sales. So, while sons Max, 15, and Becket, 8, had supervised e-learning sessions in the hotel ballroom, Chris and Lisa lounged at the pool. (Their two oldest children were away at college.)

    “This gave all of us the opportunity for a much-needed break from our same four walls, while not interrupting their studies,” Chris said.

    The Runges aren’t alone in needing a break. After spending the better part of 2020 hunched over their laptops at the kitchen table, workers and e-learners everywhere could use a change of scenery.

    With countless offices shuttered due to COVID-19, millions of employees have been sent home to work remotely. But really, “work from home” has become “work from anywhere.” Ditto for remote schooling.

    Staff meetings aren’t so bad when you’re logging in from your happy place. And reading, ‘riting and 'rithmetic are much more palatable when they’re accompanied by rest, relaxation and a jaw-dropping Zoom background.

    This mix of work and play was ideal for Max and Becket. During study breaks, they played basketball and ping pong. They even hit the links for a lesson on the Four Seasons golf course, and they found time to join Chris and Lisa at the pool for some fun in the lazy river and waterslides.

    “The supervised study sessions were great for the boys,” Chris noted. “While both were unsure of what to expect going in, both without hesitation said they would do it again.” The staff’s family-friendly nature, along with their use of masks indoors and outdoors, gave Chris and Lisa peace of mind.

    So, while the family’s vacation didn’t take them overseas, it did open up a whole new world of e-learning possibilities.

    The options extend as far as the Wi-Fi connection.

    “We’re seeing a little blurring between traveling and living,” Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky told the New York Times. “Before the pandemic, you lived somewhere 50, 51 weeks of the year, and if you were so fortunate, you’d go on your once-or-twice-a-year vacation. Now the pandemic is changing how people want to work, travel and live.”

    Remote school and work unbind families from their homes. “People are living differently and people want to live anywhere,” Chesky said.

    As temperatures drop up North, the appeal of a winter working vacation in the Sunshine State is as strong as the tidal forces on the beach. In addition to mild winter weather, Florida day trips offer endless opportunities for socially distant after-school and after-work fun. When you’re ready for a great place to do work or school, consider one of these Florida getaways.

    TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, The Learn from Paradise program

    Hotels and Resorts: Amenities Make Work a Breeze

    “Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility.” — Oprah Winfrey

    There’s nothing like posh accommodations to help you see the silver lining of this challenging time. If you think you can’t afford a stay in a fancy hotel, think again. With tourism declining, many hotels and resorts are offering deep discounts to lure visitors. Here’s a sampling:

    ●       TradeWinds Island Grand Resort
    The Learn from Paradise program features socially distanced study stations, e-learning specialists to help with assignments, PE, art, mindfulness breaks and a special lunch menu. Meanwhile, parents and other remote workers can enjoy the Work from Paradise package, with socially distanced work lounges and free beach cabanas to melt away stress.

    Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World offers a Schoolcation package, a win-win for e-learners and their parents.

    Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World offers a Schoolcation package, a win-win for e-learners and their parents.

    - Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World

    ●       Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World
    The resort’s Schoolcation package is a win-win for e-learners and their parents. While adults work or relax, students study in style during a full or half day of supervised virtual learning, arts and crafts and lunch/snack breaks. After class, enjoy “recess” in the lagoon-style pool and “phys ed” with a golf or tennis pro.

    ●       Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
    The Back to School, Back to Your Bucket List package includes upgraded wifi, an extra power strip to plug in everyone’s devices and a backpack filled with school supplies. Parents get sanity-saving freebies including noise-cancelling headphones and—the ultimate 2020 essential for parents—a free bottle of wine.

    ●       The Inn on Fifth in Naples
    The boutique hotel’s Peace and Quiet Package allows remote workers to rent a room for a day, overnight or for a multiday working retreat. The package includes free wifi, valet parking, a minifridge stocked with water and fruit, use of the pool and fitness center, and more.

    ●       The Island Fort Walton Beach
    Ask about the Island Biz Zone and private Zoom rooms.

    ●       Wyndham Grand in Clearwater Beach
    The Study Hall in Paradise package will have e-learners swimming through remote learning like champs. They’ll have a socially distanced workspace at the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium. After class, the kids can visit with the marine animals and play games before heading back to their family’s hotel room, which includes free wifi and printing, daily boxed lunches for the kids, spa treatments for parents and more.

    ●       Capt. Hiram’s Resort
    The Work from the Beach offer includes a spacious workspace and free wifi, plus a $25 food and beverage credit.

    ●       The Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach Shores
    The Teach by the Beach package includes a free fourth night, free wifi and a map of nearby fun-yet-educational sites like Ponce Inlet Lighthouse & Museum and the Museum of Arts and Sciences.

    Of course, it always pays to be a Florida resident. Properties offering staycation deals include:

    ●       The Crystals Palm Beach Resort

    ●       Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort

    ●       Margaritaville Resort Orlando

    More Hotel and Resort Options to Consider

    As Orlando’s theme parks reopen with safety precautions, Central Florida hotels are appealing to remote workers and e-learners. Even Walt Disney World, the most-visited travel destination in the world, is offering hotel and campground discounts.

    ●       Walt Disney World
    Save up to $500 on a four-night, four-day package that includes theme park tickets and accommodations through Dec. 25, 2020. Choose from resorts, villas or campsites.

    ●       Office for a day
    If you just need an office for the day, take advantage of discounted rates at hotels statewide, including $25 per day at The Country Inn & Suites in Cape Canaveral, $89 per day at Intercontinental at Doral Miami, $119 per day at The Holiday Inn in Titusville and $125 per day at The Ben West Palm Beach.

    Vacation Rentals: Find Your Perfect Fit

    “Education is the great American adventure.”

    — Mary McLeod Bethune

    For a working vacation, it’s easy to see the appeal of a vacation rental: With seemingly endless homes to choose from, you can find something that suits your schedule, budget and other needs. There’s also plenty of room for the family to spread out—say, a cosmopolitan condo with a dedicated office or a sprawling country estate with room for kids and pets to run.

    On Airbnb, customize your stay by selecting the website’s traveling for work filter to see “homes and boutique hotels with 5 star-ratings from business travelers.” VRBO, another popular vacation rental site, also lets you customize your search.

    Florida vacation rentals include plenty of unique stays, from boats and lighthouses to treehouses and trains. Why not work from a waterfront tiny home in Orlando, a colorfully decorated man cave apartment in Geneva or a cozy vintage Airstream in Bradenton? Moreover, Amelia Island has a slew of vacation rental, B&B and hotel deals.

    Camping: The Sky’s the Limit

    “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

    — Helen Keller

    Open skies, fresh air and miles of great outdoors to explore make camping the perfect social distancing activity. Just bring your own wifi connection, and there’s no limit to where you can work.

    Pitch a tent on a beach camping trip, settle into a cabin, hit the road in an RV or glamping trip to enjoy the great outdoors with all the comforts of home and curated activities. Camping is also a great way to experience Florida’s state parks. With nearly 200 parks to choose from, the scenery and activities are endless—tubing, horseback riding, lighthouse climbing, surfing and more. You can even camp at a theme park; Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is an affordable way to experience the theme parks, leaving you more money for Mickey ice cream bars.

    Even if you’d prefer not to rough it for your entire visit, an overnight or weekend camping trip makes a fun and affordable vacation-within-a-vacation.

    More to Explore

    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

    — Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go

    The trend of working vacations didn’t start in 2020, and it looks like it’s here to stay.

    “I’d certainly recommend that others look into this as an option if it fits their needs. It is an example of one of the few good things about the present situation with the coronavirus,” says Chris, the dad whose sons enjoyed a schoolcation at the Four Seasons in Orlando. “Without virtual learning, this would not have been possible.”

    Places to Remember