5 “Zoom towns” to elevate your work from home experience

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Though some Americans have started heading back to their workplaces despite COVID-19 getting worse and worse, an October Gallup Poll showed that 33% are still working from home full time. Though that number has decreased since the pandemic started, millions of Americans are still working remotely to stay socially distanced and reduce the risk of contracting the virus. 

What all that means, though, is that not only are these people not tied to their office locations but they can actually fully relocate. And for people who are used to traveling frequently and have had to scale way back (and completely stop) seeing the world, 2020 has been particularly hard.

The solution? Relocating outside a city to smaller areas that offer more space, a quieter atmosphere, outdoor activities, gorgeous scenery and a lower cost of living. Best of all, they’re perfectly acceptable places to work remotely. Relocating to a new spot can be a fun and safe way to see a new place even with COVID-19 still happening, and the best way to make it all happen is by using your travel credit card that’s been waiting for you to book a new trip. Next stop: Zoom towns.

Many have left the city or suburbs for more remote areas, like Montana, since they can work from anywhere. (Image by Nick1803 / Getty Images)

What are Zoom towns?

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, many Americans continue to work from home. Companies have allowed employees to work remotely until it’s deemed safe for the population to fully return to offices. Because of this, some people — especially those based in metropolitan areas — have opted to relocate.

These moves are largely to areas of the country where, in the past, people might look to invest in a vacation home but are now looking for a more permanent relocation. They’re smaller towns with a lower cost of living and a pleasant atmosphere — which is exactly what a lot of people are looking for right now.

Working remotely provides people the freedom to not actually live in the city where their work is based. These days, people are conducting meetings via phone and Zoom and working whatever hours suit them. With companies allowing this flexibility, people are fleeing the high-price urban areas for something different. 

Not only are these Zoom towns much more affordable but, for the most part, they’re also slower and more pleasant — especially to someone who has spent years living in a bustling city. They may provide more warmth, space and enjoyment to ride out the pandemic safely.

It remains to be seen if these Zoom towns will maintain this influx of residents after the pandemic has subsided or if these people will return back to the cities from whence they came. It will come down to employers making the decision on whether or not remote work can continue permanently. In the meantime, we can explore these places a little further.

Zoom towns to consider

Butte, Montana

Butte is one of Montana’s larger cities yet it offers plenty of space for people to spread out. The historic town has plenty of outdoor activities — which should be fairly safe to do despite COVID-19 as long as safety measures are followed — as well as beautiful architecture. The cost of living is quite low and the city has recognized that it is, in fact, a zoom town

Butte is within driving distance of a number of amazing national parks, including one of the most popular: Yellowstone.

Bison roaming in Yellowstone National Park. (Image by Getty Images)

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod has long been a popular summer destination for those in Boston especially but now, it seems, Bostonians are making a more permanent location of these coastal towns. The quaint area offers beautiful scenery and plenty of delicious food. While it’s not one of the cheaper Zoom towns, it is still less expensive than parts of the city, and local real estate agents have seen a huge increase in home sales in recent months.

Cape Cod, Masachusetts. (Image by Getty Images)

Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is known for its gorgeous scenery and outdoor sports. It’s one of Colorado’s premier destinations, which makes it a perfect Zoom town. The city has seen a recent surge in relocations of people escaping city life for this idyllic mountain town that’s rich with history and has plenty of fun things to do — safely.

There’s plenty of amazing skiing in and around Aspen, Colorado. (Image by Getty Images)

Sandpoint, Idaho

Sandpoint has been growing in popularity over the past few years, but 2020 has provided an influx of new residents. The city sits on a lake and provides plenty of options for outdoor activities. The cost of living is also much lower than large US cities. It’s also near a massive ski resort and sits right on Lake Pend Oreille, providing the perfect place to get outside and be active.

There are plenty of safe, outdoor activities in Sand Point, Idaho. (Image by Patrick Orten / Getty Images)

Truckee, California

Truckee has long been a getaway for Bay Area residents. It’s nestled just outside Lake Tahoe, providing unparalleled scenery and the perfect remote escape. The cost of living is much more palatable than the Bay Area or Silicon Valley, which is why vacation homes in this California town are getting snapped up quick.

Visit Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe — a quick drive from Truckee. (Image by Getty Images)

Plan for your work-from-home adventure 

COVID-19 has made life difficult for just about everyone, but one way to alleviate some stress is to change your living situation. And while travel planning can come with stress of its own, it doesn’t have to. You’ll probably want to do some research on what Zoom town is right for you and you might even want to visit before you commit to moving there. Consider these tips to help you plan for your move to a Zoom town:

  • Consider what you’ll need: Really think about the things you’ll need for work when you move. Reliable Wi-Fi is a must, so be sure your new place is hooked up or can be set up easily. Also, consider distractions. Many of these areas are beautiful places that you might want to enjoy rather than work in, so make sure you can stay motivated. Consider the time zone too: will you be in a different one from your job? Discuss this with work to make sure it’s okay.
  • Be flexible: If you don’t need to relocate at a specific time, set up your search to be flexible. Cross reference flight options (if needed) and rental options. Keeping your schedule open can help you find a better deal on travel expenses and home rentals. Consider living there during the low season, you may find rentals are cheaper and easier to find.
  • Use points and miles: It’s time to cash in those miles you’ve been saving. Use them to book a flight, rent a car or on any other valid travel expense.
  • Use a rewards credit card: If your travel credit card has been collecting dust this year while you’ve been stuck at home, dig it out and use it for this. Your travel card is good for so many things — flights, accommodations, car rentals, gas, car share, food, etc. Use that card now and rack up more miles and points so that you can use them later for something else. Or, consider signing up for a new one. We’ve seen a ton of valuable sign up bonuses recently that can get you thousands of dollars in travel when opening up just one card.

Follow these guidelines to be a good visitor

Keep in mind that these towns that have come to be known as Zoom towns are not places that are used to this much foot traffic. Many of these places are rushing to figure out how to handle the new, larger population. We recommend you try to be as kind of a neighbor as possible once you get there. 

It goes without saying that this place is your new home and should be treated as such. Be kind and respectful to those in the city and take care of your things and other people’s things. Be aware of your new city’s regulations and abide by them, especially when it comes to COVID-19. We all know how much of an impact COVID-19 has made on the world — and this influx of new residents is just another change in a local’s life. 

Once you’ve settled on the Zoom town you want to call home, read up on how that town is handling COVID-19. Familiarize yourself with their regulations and policies so that you can immediately fall in line once you arrive. You should also, of course, research the town in general before you go. Hopefully, you’ve done this as part of the process in deciding where you want to move, but if you haven’t, do it before you get there. You can definitely explore (safely!) once you’ve moved, but if you go in prepared, you can settle in a little more easily.

Bottom Line

Zoom towns are all the rage right now as Americans struggle to figure out how to safely live in a world where COVID-19 is still extremely present. These idyllic locations far outside the country’s metropolitan areas provide a bit of escapism and the perfect place to work from home. If you haven’t considered relocating, now’s the time to check it out.

Hedy Phillips is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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