Whether you’re a daily digital nomad, or a poor schmuck who got stuck finishing the annual report while on vacation, almost everyone needs to get work done on the road at some point.
Over the years we’ve had the fortune/misfortune of working online nearly everywhere. From the beach to cyber cafes to hotel lobbies we’ve learned that each place has its pros and cons.
Here are our 12 best office work space alternatives while traveling. Trust us, after this, you won’t look at telecommuting the same way ever again.
Sometimes you’ll find a small coffee or snack counter in an Internet cafe, but most of the time internet cafes are just row upon row of huge monitors, powerful PCs, and lightning fast internet. You usually pay by the hour to use one of the cyber cafe’s computers. They’re pretty rare in North America these days, but you can still find plenty throughout Asia and Europe. We even found a great one on the island of Kos, Greece. If you’re looking to get some serious work done, then this is the place to go.
Pro: Fast internet, big monitors, printers available (for a price) and decent tech help.
Con: Rooms full of 14 year old kids playing Call of Duty at max volume and grandmothers using Skype beside you.
You’ll find digital nomads and remote workers in coffee houses around the world. Cafes are also a great place to get caffeinated and get some work done at the same time.
Some cafes have really embraced the remote worker culture, with meetups for virtual workers and great WiFi. Some cafes aren’t so accommodating, with no (or poor) WiFi, uncomfortable chairs, and a culture that really doesn’t want to see someone hang around on their laptop all day. You just need to find the right one to get some work done.
Pro: Decent coffee and free WiFi
Con: Loud conversations, overpriced baked goods and occasionally spilling coffee on your laptop
The park may not be the first place you think of for remote working, but we’ve found a surprising number of parks and public places with WiFi access. In cities where public WiFi is available, it’s usually only offered within parks in the city limits, as well as city facilities and subway stations. Of course, you can always work offline for a while if there’s no Wifi and upload when you get back to your room.
Pro: Sunshine, fresh air, and a lot of room to stretch out.
Con: Ants. Ducks. Random homeless guys snuggling up to you. Those damn squirrels.
OK, so a pub may not be the best choice for a productive work environment on the road. However, you’d be surprised how many pubs offer free WiFi to customers and everyone knows pubs offer the best food anywhere.
Pro: Beer and great pub food. Oh yeah, have we mentioned beer?
Con: Laptop gets in the way of drinking beer, and exsheshive spealling mishtakes after a few beerz…
Tip: Write drunk. Edit sober. – often attributed to Ernest Hemingway
Oddly enough, most people don’t think of the library as a good work space when they’re traveling, but a library can be a fantastic place to get some work done on the road. Libraries are usually centrally located, and many offer free public WiFi. Check ahead, as some libraries limit WiFi access to library cardholders (though many will give visitors a guest pass).
Con: No coffee or beer
Ah, this is the dream, isn’t it? Sitting back, drinking a margarita and working while you’re watching the waves and wiggling your toes in the sand. Unfortunately, the reality of working on the beach doesn’t really live up to the dream. There’s blinding sun glare on the screen, and WiFi can be hard to find. Plus, sand, water and delicate electronics are a horrible combination.
Pro: Making your office-dwelling friends insanely jealous by posting beach office selfies every hour on the hour.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many of our posts were written in a hotel lobby. While Wi-Fi inside rooms can often be spotty, a wireless signal is almost always good down in the hotel lobby. Hotel lobbys are one of our absolute standbys for working on the road.
Don’t forget to check if your hotel has a dedicated business center, too, as these are often free for guests.
Pro: Best WiFi in the place.
Con: You either need to rent a room there or be incredibly brazen or sneaky.
In many parts of the world, it’s expected that you’ll linger after you eat. We spent a good many hours lounging at comfy restaurants in Spain, Portugal and Greece long after our meals were done. Many restaurants have WiFi, and are happy to share the connection if you ask.
You won’t find such a welcome attitude to lingering after dinner in the USA or Canada, where you often get the check before you’re done eating and they’re quick to usher you out the door once you’re done your meal.
Pro: Extensive food selection and drinks. Sometimes unlimited coffee.
Con: Fire. Plus, food and drink can get expensive very quickly. Also, having someone come by every few minutes asking if you want something else can get annoying really fast.
If you can find a WiFi and hammock combo, this is one of our favorite ways to work. Hammocks have a huge advantage that they’re up off the ground, keeping sand and bugs away from electronics. If you have kids, make sure they have their own hammock, or they won’t be able to resist climbing up on you and squishing your laptop.
A pillow for your head and one for your laptop can really help productivity.
Con: Easy to fall asleep
If you have WiFi in your hotel or rental accommodation, then chances are that the signal reaches out onto the deck as well. The deck is a great makeshift office, as it gives us a little quiet away from the hubbub of kids, and the views are often great.
Pro: Great views 10 feet from your bed.
Con: Rain, uncomfortable chairs, possibly lots of distractions like nudists or time share salesmen if you’re on the ground floor or close to the beach.
Working in the airport is probably the mainstay of most of us who work while traveling. You can see this simply by counting how many travelers are in your row with laptops perched precariously on their knees while comically trying to guard their carry-on.
Pro: A great way to pass time during a long layover.
Con: WiFi can be hard to find, no desks, and limited electrical plugs.
Working on the go
One of the major drawbacks of working in an airport or a park is the lack of desk space, which made it awfully hard to sit comfortably with our larger laptop.
Since we’ve downsized to our Intel 2in1 Lenovo Yoga 2, working on the go has gotten a lot easier. It’s so nice to have a lighter, smaller laptop in airports, cafes and other spaces with limited table space.
We even took the plunge and updated to Windows 10 (why, hello again Start menu!), and it’s been a pretty seamless transition.
If I’m watching a video, I pop the Yoga 2 from laptop to tent mode, making it really easy to keep my lap and hands free.
There’s also a Lenovo Yoga 3 out on the market now – it has a little more processing power thanks to the new Intel Core M processor and a higher resolution than the Yoga 2.
We've been traveling around the world since 2003, first as a couple and now as a family of four. We love sharing our adventures and the lessons we've picked up on the road. Contact us or check our About page for more info.