When Life Gives You a Global Pandemic, Take a Schoolcation
Even the biggest, blackest, most threatening clouds have silver linings. The global coronavirus pandemic is without a doubt the most sinister cloud our world has faced in the past 100 years. But nine months into the pandemic we are adjusting to our new normal and discovering our own silver linings. Schoolcations and Work from Paradise might be the sweetest of all. With most schools meeting remotely and many parents working from home, families can realize their dream vacation any day of the week – no need to wait until Christmas vacation, spring break, or the summer holiday.
Our normal lives have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Twenty-five percent of American adults, or someone in their household, have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Thanks to technology, 33% of adults are able to work from home full time while another 25% split their work hours between office and home. School openings and closings differ from day-to-day and district-to-district. An estimated 52% of the 50.8 million public school students are studying completely remotely and 44% of students are attending in-school classes, but only 25% attend in-school class every day and 19% have a hybrid schedule with a combination of in-class and remote learning. This has proven very challenging for many families and 32% of women with school-aged children have left the work force to care for their children.
The travel and leisure industry has been hit harder than most. In April, the lowest point in the pandemic thus far, 75-80% of all hotel rooms sat vacant and 1.6 million direct employees were laid off or furloughed, resulting in $2.4 billion in lost wages. An additional 3.9 million hotel support jobs were lost and revenue declined a whopping 50% ($142 billion). Hotels have implemented a Stay Safe program developed by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), and the industry is slowly returning. In an encouraging sign, September vacancy rates had shrunk to 48%, definitely trending in the right direction, but still precarious given the break-even point is 50% occupancy and it is unclear how the new wave of coronavirus infections will affect that rate. But the industry has been proactive in creating programs that will ease the pain – for both the industry and for overworked parents.
Almost every major hotel chain is now offering some form of remote learning schoolcation. They vary wildly from location to location, but each strive to provide a safe learning environment for children while freeing parents up to work on important projects or to simply kick back and recover from the grueling job of being a parent and teacher while holding down a full-time work-from-home job. Some have converted conference rooms to children’s learning centers, complete with child-sized desks, Plexiglas barriers, an array of school supplies, and a mentor or Chief Virtual Learning Officer (CVLO) who can assist with technical issues. Others offer educational tours and activities. Some hotels offer discounted day rates on additional rooms and access to tutors. Full day and half-day programs are available and most include lunch, a snack break, and electives such as PE, music, and arts and crafts. Some high-end resorts are offering poolside or beachside cabañas outfitted with desks, Wi-Fi, and a sound system. Special perks for parents include happy hour, a complimentary bottle of wine, or two spa treatments. At the end of the school day families can pretend they are simply on vacation and forget about work and school for a few hours.
Every program requires participants to follow the CDC safety guidelines of wearing masks, physical distancing, and frequent hand washing. Ms. Jetsetter has created two elegant safety solutions, the Ms. J Wristlet and Mask Set which contains a cloth mask with a filter slot, a gold lanyard, and a fashionable carrying case and the Ms. J Healthy Travel Kit, which contains a face mask, hand sanitizer, and latex gloves in a handy clear case. Each child should have a personal travel kit containing child-sized face masks and hand sanitizer.
Extended car or plane travel with young children can be its own adventure. The JL Childress 3-in-1 Travel Tray and iPad Holder is the perfect accessory for those adventures. This sturdy lap tray has raised edges to keep crayons and toys from rolling off, a secure cup holder, snap on mesh bags which fit nicely into the zippered pouch, a clear pocket for an iPad or tablet, and an adjustable shoulder strap for children who want to carry their own treasures. This bag easily attaches to strollers and car seats and can be loaded with the essentials that will entertain children for long excursions. For older children, the RoadPro® 17.5” Silver Aluminum Briefcase can be filled with critical school and art supplies such as pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks, a tablet or laptop, and charging devices. The hard sides double as a writing surface. Best of all, everything a child needs to learn and create can be contained in one secure case.
People have different coronavirus comfort levels and hotel travel isn’t for everyone. Some families opt for extended car camping adventures, hitting the open road and augmenting their children’s remote learning with educational in-person adventures. One great accessory for road trips is the High Road Carhop Car Seat Organizer for kids. This insulated pack snuggles securely on the seat and holds critical boredom-busting accessories, cold beverages, and snacks so one can avoid extraneous pit stops. They also offer a variety of nifty car-organizing devices that allow quick, easy, and organized access for every member of the family. For intrepid backcountry travelers who are not always within easy reach of a power source the Big Blue 3 Solar Charger is perfect. It has three USB ports, folds down to the size of a magazine and weighs a mere 21.5 ounces.
Other intrepid traveling families might choose to travel by RV, be it their own or a rental which can be had for as little as $70 per day. For some, their RV is home and traversing the diverse nooks and crannies of this big beautiful nation their new normal. When traveling by RV organization is essential. Just a few misplaced items can cause utter chaos in an already cramped space. The LiteGear Kompressor Kubes come in two sizes and three colors and are efficient organizational tools. Depending on the size of the family, each member can have their own color-coordinated set and each cube compacts to a fraction of its original size saving valuable space.
One critical component of remote working and learning is access to Wi-Fi. Fortunately, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), with almost 500 locations across the United States and Canada, offers a wide variety of services including Wi-Fi, laundry, playgrounds, swimming pools, hot showers, electricity, private bathrooms, restaurants, secure pet areas, and more. At KOA one can hook up an RV; rent a simple cabin that sleeps four to six or a deluxe cabin complete with kitchen; or choose quirky glamping (glamorous camping) options such as an Airstream, teepee, yurt, wall tent, tree house, or train caboose. Each location is independently owned and extreme coronavirus precautions have been implemented company-wide to create safe and healthy environments. With so many locations families can escape to a dream destination near or far.
While a global pandemic is stressful and challenging, it has created amazing opportunities that were not possible just nine months ago. Many families are fully embracing the freedom of working and learning from paradise!
The Ever-Expanding List of Remote Friendly Products
Just as the hotel industry is creatively responding to the global pandemic with family-friendly getaways for parents and children who are now working and learning remotely, the travel goods industry is creating a plethora of products to facilitate the transition from in-person to remote. Below are a few of those helpful and clever products.
When working from paradise requires actual in-person meetings, the Briggs & Riley Medium Expandable Spinner from the iconic Baseline Collection is the perfect case for keeping business clothes looking sharp. The built-in tri-fold garment folder with foam roll bar neatly holds two to three suits wrinkle free and the mesh lid zip pocket is perfect for organizing small accessories such as socks, ties, and face masks. Negotiating busy airports is a breeze with the four double swivel wheels, aircraft-grade aluminum retractable handle system, cushioned and retractable top, side, and bottom handles, and the large u-zip front pocket. The CX™ compression-expansion system is perfect for those who always pack seven days of clothes for a five-day trip. With the ability to expand 25%, and compress back down to original size, the large expandable spinner can accommodate an entire family’s clothing for a four to six day trip. MSRP: $659 (Sale $559)
Packing for a family holiday can be daunting. Packing for a family holiday that will include remote working and learning can be nearly impossible. Fortunately, the Briggs & Riley ZDX 27” Medium Upright Duffle is loaded with special features to accommodate an entire family. This bag combines the roominess of a duffle with the convenience of a wheeled bag; it boasts the patented Outsider® handle which houses the bump bars outside the bag, providing more packing space. A separate PVC-lined pocket isolates dirty clothing, the handy outside gusseted pocket allows easy access to travel essentials, and the honeycomb frame folds nearly flat for compact storage in the smallest of places. Additionally, the large zip-around lid pocket expands two full inches and provides quick access to key travel pieces such as jackets, sweaters, or laptops. For larger families, or those who prefer the mountains to the beach, the Large Upright Duffle has all the same great features, plus a separate four-inch flat packing base and a generous 120-liter capacity. MSRP: $429 (Sale $329)
Spending extended periods of time in non-traditional office chairs, airplane seats, and cars can be brutal on the strongest of backs. The Cixi Letu SmartTripTM Butterfly at Work Lumbar Support Cushion is made from environmentally friendly memory foam which is firm to the touch, molds comfortably to the lumbar back curve, and rebounds slowly to its original form. The BundleEasy Strap holds the cushion in the ideal position to improve your posture and provide much needed relief for any aching back. If your work from paradise happens to be a poolside cabaña, the CoolPass wicking fabric is key for staying cool under deadline. MSRP: $24.90
Slowly but surely the world is opening their doors to American travelers, allowing families to work and study from the paradise of a foreign country. The Design Go Go Travel Worldwide USB Charger effortlessly charges four devices at once with a powerful 4.8A auto-regulating power output. The two high-speed 2.4A outlets and two 1A outlets quickly and efficiently charge smartphones, tablets and other power-hungry devices. The auto-regulating design balances power output so each gadget benefits from consistent charging voltage, alleviating the battle for the quickest-charging slot. With four unique outlet configurations, this 4.6-ounce, 2” cube adapter can keep you powered up in 150 countries. MSRP: $27.95
Harkening back to the days of elegant steamer trunks and ocean liner travel, this FPM Bank Special Edition Workstation is the perfect work/study from anywhere trunk. Just open the aluminum case, flip up the worktable, unfold the chair and voila – instant workstation. This portable workstation features a lined aluminum body, four interior drawers to keep all your essentials neatly organized, a telescoping handle, a leather top handle, and four wheels so you can easily negotiate airports without the benefit of a porter. MSRP: $5,595
One of the most critical elements of working and studying remotely is reliable tech devices. One lost power cord can ruin the most productive study session. GruvGear takes technological security to the next level with SLNG, a personal tech pack. This pack can be worn either cross-body sling style or fanny pack style. It will keep mobile phones, chargers, cables, credit cards, and passports secure, organized, and easily accessible. More importantly, the RFID shield protects your credit cards and passport from digital theft; the Global Recovery Tag (powered by HomingPIN) helps find your lost bag at more than 2,800 airports; the OKTANE power bank offers wireless charging for compatible devices and has an outlet for headphones. The bag is water-repellent and has a breathable padded mesh back panel. In the past we packed our pajamas, toothbrush, and change of underwear in our carry-on in case of lost luggage. These days, our tech devices have been added to that list of carry-on essentials. MRSP: $49.99
Whether one has scheduled a poolside cabaña for a weeklong schoolcation adventure with the kids, or is jetting down to Mexico for a little work from paradise getaway with the significant other, the Jack Georges Voyager Overnight Backpack is a sophisticated travel companion. This handmade, hand-stained buffalo leather backpack features a u-zip that facilitates suitcase style opening, a zippered mesh interior pocket for a change of clothing, a padded compartment big enough for a 14” laptop, and organizer pockets to hold a phone, wallet, pens, and other workplace essentials. This bag boasts a trolley strap that neatly attaches to most telescoping handles and comfortable, adjustable shoulder straps for hands-free convenience. When adventure calls, this pack is the ideal companion. MSRP: $358
There is nothing more awkward than negotiating a busy airport with both toddler and car seat in tow, but in the time of coronavirus a trusted and clean child safety seat is essential. The JL Childress Spinner Wheelie Deluxe Car Seat Travel Bag is made of durable, fully padded, easy to clean, water-resistant fabric. The four 360° multi-directional spinner wheels, sturdy handle, and optional shoulder strap make it easy to glide through airports, train stations, and busy sidewalks. High-quality, dual lockable zippers secure the full-access front opening. Not only will this bag fit almost all brands of convertible car seats, booster seats, and infant car seats, you can also store the detachable seat base and essential items such as spare diapers, wipes, extra clothing, and baby’s favorite bedtime security blanket. MSRP: $134.99
The LiteGear Bags Hybrid Rolling Tote is the perfect size for kids heading out on a fun-filled schoolcation. It is big enough to carry life’s essentials, clothing for a week, toiletries, laptop or iPad, pens, pencils, and notebooks, yet small enough to store under most airline seats. The telescoping handle, inline skate wheels, padded top handle, external organizer pocket, vertical stash pocket, and side mesh pocket give our young travelers all the comforts afforded their grown up companions. Available in purple, blue, and black, each child can have their own easily identifiable tote. MSRP: $99.95
When heading out on educational adventures this Mancini Colombian Collection Classic Waist Bag, elegant yet casual, is perfect for hands-free exploration while keeping essential items secure and close at hand. These timeless pieces are lovingly handcrafted from supple drum dyed top grain cowhide leather. The adjustable waist strap is comfortable and adjusts to fit most people. This classic waist bag features six zippered compartments: one main compartment, four front pockets to keep your personal items organized, and a secure pocket on the body side of the pack which is critical for keeping passports, credit cards, and expensive smart phones safe from sticky fingers. MSRP: $99.99
Versatile is the best way to describe this elegant McKlein USA East Side Pebble Grain Calfskin Leather Convertible Backpack. This backpack has top and side carrying handles, padded backpack straps, and a detachable non-slip, adjustable, padded one-shoulder strap. The front features a zippered organizer pocket and a small, zippered top load pocket for wallet, passport, keys, and other small essentials. The main body has a 17” padded laptop sleeve and secure tablet pocket, a zippered inner pocket, and plenty of space for additional work or homework essentials. The rear exterior features ultra-padded air mesh with Air Flow System (AFS) and a piggyback strap to secure the pack to a rolling case. The slim profile and versatility of this backpack will become an instant favorite for jet-setting, work from paradise parents. MSRP: $150
While we should never leave home without it, sometimes it is hard to remember our COVID-19 essential personal protective equipment (PPE). Happily, Ms. Jetsetter has created the Ms. J Healthy Travel Kit, which includes an adjustable cloth face mask, disposable gloves, disinfectant wipes, and gel hand sanitizer in a convenient TSA-accepted clear plastic case. This is the perfect grab-and-go accessory for both parents and their children who will be working and learning remotely. MSRP: $14.99
Nothing compares to the elegance and durability of a handmade leather bag. The Piel Positano Deluxe Travel Duffel, handmade in Colombia, epitomizes elegance. This carry-on duffel includes a sturdy top zipper, which opens to the wide, nylon-lined main compartment. A large zippered interior pocket stores small essentials. A zippered exterior pocket graces each side of the bag. This duffle has large double handles, an adjustable/detachable shoulder strap, and a piggyback strap, which easily attaches to the handle of your wheeled case. The optional drawstring pouch clips onto the duffle and keeps your face mask and hand sanitizer easily accessible. MSRP: $422.49; Optional Drawstring Pouch $24.99
This small Sienna Leather Urban Backpack by Piel is perfect for any adventure – educational or recreational. Hand crafted of genuine full grain Colombian leather, this backpack features a zip-around opening to a lined main compartment complete with a small zippered pocket and an open padded pocket for tablets or small laptops. The front of the bag includes one large, flat zippered compartment and one gusseted pocket with two zippered compartments, a larger one contains phone and pen organizers and a second slim pocket. The back includes a vertical zippered pocket to securely carry your phone and easy-to-reach essentials. The pack features both a top handle and adjustable, padded backpack straps. Available in hunter green and deep navy, this pack adds a touch of fashion to every adventure. MSRP: $132.99
A durable, lightweight backpack is essential for every student, whether they are attending in-person classes or studying remotely. The Traveler’s Choice Heaven’s Gate 19” Backpack is a great lightweight and durable option. It features four zippered pockets including a padded laptop compartment that can accommodate a 15” laptop; an interior built-in organizer to keep pens, pencils, notebooks, and handheld tech devices secure; and an easily accessible exterior pocket that is perfect for travel documents. One key feature is the smart USB charging port, critical equipment for a traveling schoolcation student or their parent/teacher. Never again will you be stranded at the airport with a dead computer or smart phone. MSRP: $49.99 (Special offer $39.99)