The Anatomy of a Working Vacation


Nothing spices up your work life like a change of scenery. That’s why I’m such a huge proponent of working vacations. If you’re self-employed or have the ability to work remotely, then there’s nothing stopping you from hopping on a flight and working from a different corner of the world.

I’m currently writing this post from Helsinki, which is my home away from home for the next 8 days.

There are no rules when it comes to how long your working vacation should be. Most of us are restricted by work obligations, budget, and visa rules, or some combination of the three. My personal preference is to fly in on Saturday and fly out the following Saturday or Sunday. That gives me a little bit of weekend time to play the role of full-blown tourist and it tends not to disrupt my normal work schedule.

How a working vacation differs from a vacation vacation
The experience of a working vacation is slightly different than that of your typical city break or holiday. The first thing that’s important to understand is that if you plan on working full-time during your trip, chances are you won’t get to see all the touristy stuff that typical holidaymakers get to see. That’s because you’ll be spending a bulk of your day working.

However, the advantages of working from a new city go a lot further than just a change of scenery. Unlike full-blown vacationers, you’ll get a better sense of what it’s really like to live in the city you’re visiting.

As much as I enjoy visiting the major tourist sites, it tends to be the little things that I have the fondest memories of when I come away from a trip. Trips to the grocery store, lunch runs, and even watching foreign television are each their own little cultural adventures.

A few of the spoils from my grocery store adventures.

Just this morning I realised that I purchased sour creme at the grocery store here in Helsinki rather than milk. I tried putting it in my coffee anyway, and it was horrible. My boyfriend and I had a laugh about it and it’s certainly something I won’t forget about this trip.

Daily Schedule
On working days, I recommend working 8am – 6pm and taking a 2 hour lunch in the middle of the day. That gives you plenty of time to make a lunch run and squeeze in a little bit of sightseeing, so long as you’ve chosen the location of your hotel wisely. After work, you’ll have some time to check out restaurants a little further afield from the neighbourhood you’re staying in.

Senate Square, in the heart of Helsinki, is a popular tourist attraction that is easy to visit during lunchtime.

The island of Suomenlinna is a 20-minute ferry ride from the harbour, and thus better suited for a weekend visit.

The anatomy of the perfect working vacation hotel
When choosing a hotel, it’s all about location, location, location. On weekdays you won’t have the liberty of having too much time, so it’s important to choose accommodation that is central to all the major places you want to see. In addition to that, I like to have the following within easy walking distance of my hotel:

    • Cafe: a cheap place that sells coffee, pastries, and sandwiches)
    • Supermarket: a convenience store will do in a pinch. It’s good to have snacks and refreshments on hand during the work week so you don’t have to run out every time you get hungry or thirsty
    • Lunch restaurants: Casual places where you can grab lunch quickly
    • Dry cleaners: only if your hotel doesn’t have laundry services
    • Public transport: this makes it easier to get around. I like to stay near places that also offer easy public transport to the airport

One of the perks of working during your holiday is that you’re making money on your trip. Keeping that in mind, you can increase your budget accordingly to book a nicer room. I tend to prefer serviced apartments over traditional hotels because they are more spacious and cater to business clients who require perks like speedy internet access.

Aallonkoti Hotel Apartments – Kitchen

Bedroom – cosy and comfortable

Bathroom – clean and contemporary

Covered and fully furnished balcony – very cool added bonus!

Spacious living room with state-of-the-art entertainment system

Here in Helsinki I’m staying at a 1 bedroom deluxe suite at Aallonkoti Hotel Apartments. Our crisp white apartment is practically brand new and decked out with Bosch and Samsung appliances. High-speed internet is complimentary and we also get a washing machine and fully fitted kitchen with utensils, cookware, and flatware. Taking into account the swanky fully-enclosed balcony, the apartment totals 600 square feet – more than double the size of the average hotel room and larger than our flat in London.

Oh, and did I mention that we’re less than 5 minutes from Helsinki’s central train station? As I’m typing this I’m also staring at the National Museum of Finland from the kitchen window.

Despite everything that it offers, nightly rates at Aallonkoti are comparable to that of more traditional 4* hotels around Helsinki. Because both my boyfriend and I will be working for 4 days during our stay, we’ll more than cover the cost of our accommodation (not to mention our flights) over the course of the week.

What’s not to love?
So to sum it all up, a working vacation is kind of like a mini expat experience and holiday rolled up into one affordable package. You may not have as much time to follow the tourist trail, but if you play your cards right you’ll be able to pay for your vacation during your vacation, experience things that tourists and travellers rarely get to do, and on top of that get a nice change of scenery from your typical working environment.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.