I spent 7 nights working from a 5-star resort in Arizona. From live-music happy hours to poolside cabanas, here's what the 'Work From Hyatt' program was like.

  • Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on nonessential travel, 2020 has largely been a year of canceled work trips.
  • In an effort to incentivize business and leisure travelers alike, hotel brands like Hyatt have been rolling out 'workation' packages at deeply discounted rates.
  • Freelance writer Michelle Gross spent a week spent working at the 5-star Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona to see if the 'Work from Hyatt' amenities were worth the $254 per night price tag.
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Before the pandemic happened, my trip from Jersey City to South Beach in early March was relatively run of the mill. I was traveling to meet my partner for his company's annual board meeting, a business-meets-leisure (bleisure) vacation spent working, lounging, and networking between the beach and bar.

Little did we know that those blissful pre-pandemic days we took for granted would be the dearth of "bleisure" travel. 

Like many couples whose work-life balance has consisted of small daily arguments exacerbated by an even smaller apartment, we started to explore ways we could work and coexist beyond our four walls.

In an effort to incentivize travelers, hotel brands have gotten creative with their offerings in recent months. 

From 'workation' programs and "school-cation' packages, traditional vacations as we know them have been rebranded to meet travelers' growing demand to work and relax all in one safe, sanitized, and socially distanced setting.

"There is a strong pent-up demand for travel," Asad Ahmed, SVP Commercial Services Americas at Hyatt told Business Insider via email. "We wanted to offer a package to give the millions of people who are indefinitely working and schooling remotely a welcomed change of scenery, with more work and school-life balance, more space, better weather, and a respite from chores." 

In August, Hyatt launched 'Work From Hyatt' at 25 hotels across the US, Mexico, Canada, and The Caribbean. The package performed well, and has now expanded to more than 60 hotels. Hilton and Marriott have also introduced their own iterations of "Working in Paradise," and "Zoom to Zen — Work With Perks" programs at select properties across the US, Caribbean, and Mexico.

After seven months of working from home, we pulled the trigger on a seven day 'workation.'

We went to Hyatt's Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, a Spanish-style hotel boasting 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space in the shadow of Arizona's Camelback mountain. The minimum seven-night stay at $254 per night plus tax was higher than the average $139 plus tax offered at the other participating 'Work From Hyatt' hotels. 

Editor's note: The writer paid a media rate for her seven-night stay at the property.

Among the inclusions, which vary from hotel to hotel, was a daily $50 food and beverage credit, dedicated work space in one of the hotel's banquet rooms, waived resort fee, free dog walking, one daytime cabana at the hotel's pool, and an automatic upgrade to a one bedroom suite.

A week before check in, we received an email listing all of the inclusions along with a preference sheet for our stay.

Everything at Royal Palms was contactless including check in via Hyatt's Mobile Entry App. 

The entrance to the Royal Palms Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.Michelle Gross

Once we arrived, everything from booking a reservation in the restaurant to room service was communicated via text message. There's one main restaurant on property called T. Cookes as well as a bar and pool café which utilize QR codes for ordering or can be ordered through the TV menu found in each guestroom.

As a part of the WFH package, our room was upgraded to a mountain view spa suite on the ground floor. Many rooms on property feature private outdoor space, which I promptly designated as my morning office.

True to its description, our mountain view room also fronted an oversized fountain which provided a nice ambient noise both day and night. The room also came equipped with a mini fridge, steam shower and bathtub, as well as a Keurig coffee machine with enough decaf and caffeinated coffee pods, cream, and coffee cups to last our week-long visit and then some.

With 16 room types starting from the most basic guest rooms to suites, villas, and private casitas, the grounds are a labyrinth of walkways and tucked away alcoves and gardens. 

Designated as a Historic Hotel of America, Royal Palms' Mediterranean meets Spanish-style architecture dates back to 1926, and was built as a private residence by New York industrialist (and JP Morgan's cousin) Delos Willard Cooke for his ailing wife. 

"It was built for a wife by a loving husband and it's never lost its romantic touch," the hotel's unofficial historian and event and sales manager Brianna Vore told me on the historical property tour, another perk included in our stay. 

One guest I spoke with booked a room using her military discount for $151 a night, and received an upgraded balcony view room for an additional $10. She said she's a World of Hyatt loyalty member, but had never heard of the hotel before this year. Part of Hyatt's exclusive Unbound Collection, Royal Palms does not look or feel like more traditional Hyatt's or bear any logos, but the Work From Hyatt package can be booked using World of Hyatt points that can go towards members elite tier status.

Our routines varied slightly day to day, and were a balance of work and enjoying the resort's amenities.

After discovering an enclosed garden space not far from our room, it became my go to spot for morning stretching and yoga. Sometimes I'd be accompanied by our two-year-old dog, Teddy, who also likes to stretch in the mornings.

In addition to guests traveling with their pets, the hotel seemed to largely cater to couples looking for a romantic getaway.

While we were initially drawn here because of its relaxed resort-like setting and complimentary dog walking service, we ended up forgoing that offering altogether, and scheduled our work breaks around taking our dogs for walks around the winding property.

Every morning, while it was still cool enough, my partner and I would sit and have coffee on our room's private patio where I'd set up my morning work station. Breakfast is not included in the WFH package, so we stocked up on oatmeal, cereal, and fruit to keep in the room.

We used $20 of our $50 daily credit towards ordering a fresh pot of coffee and a copy of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, which were delivered to our door for contactless delivery each morning. 

By the afternoon, when the heat would linger between 97-100 degrees, we would move to Palmera South, the banquet room that had been converted into our designated 'Work From Hyatt' office hours space.

The banquet room is set in the middle of the property and featured ample indoors and outdoors space which was good for getting some fresh air during the day.

The banquet room came outfitted with desks, chairs and offered extras like sticky notes, pens, paper, calculators, and scissors. My partner had brought his computer monitor from home, and posted up at a desk by the window.

Our "office" also came equipped with a mini-fridge loaded with water and soda that was replenished each night, a nice surprise since it wasn't listed in our WFH inclusions email.

There was also a library and game room available for guests who wanted to work in a cozier, academic-inspired setting.

While it wasn't required, my partner and I took multiple COVID-19 Rapid tests prior to and during our visit. The hotel never felt crowded, but operating in compliance with Hyatt's Safety First, Wellbeing Always including an enforced mask and social distancing policy in public areas, and a 50% limited the capacity in the restaurant, pool, and bar.

During the weeknights, when the hotel was quiet, we'd sit and enjoy happy hour cocktails at MixUp, the hotel's bar which offered plenty of outdoor seating.

Some of our favorites were their house specialty MixUp Mule made with home-brewed ginger beer, and the Orange Grove, a spicy tequila drink with orange, lemon, demerara, and bitters.

On Saturday and Sunday, when traffic at the hotel picked up, there was live music and happy hour on the 'Mansion Patio,' which was a great place to sit and people watch in a safe and socially distanced way.

Lawn games like bocce, volleyball, and life-sized checkers were always available on a first come, first served basis, and was a fun way to decompress after the work day. 

We didn't partake in these services, but the hotel is also home to an award-winning spa called Alvadora, and a fitness center that was open but would only accommodate one guest or couple from the same household at a time. Both the spa and fitness center could be arranged by texting or calling the concierge.

In response to COVID-19, the hotel recently launched a complimentary Wellness on Demand service with workout classes ranging from Barre, Cardio, HIIT, and Yoga by Exhale and calming meditation sessions from Headspace.

Overall, Hyatt said they've seen a great response to their 'Work From Hyatt' package since its launch, particularly among travelers like us who are looking to change their day to day routine.

Among the most popular destinations attracting travelers according to Hyatt's SP Asad Ahmed are warm weather destinations including Florida, Southern California, and Cabo San Lucas.

"As the world begins to reopen, we are readying ourselves to help people do what they're longing to do," Ahmed said.  "That is to get back on the road to explore new places, feel the excitement of reconnecting with those they miss, destress, reenergize, and once again experience the joy of travel, and do so safely."

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