Pink-Slip Trips: Get Laid Off, Go on Vacation

  • Share
  • Read Later
Megan Maciejowski

Megan Maciejowski, photographed in a market in San Miguel, Mexico.

When Megan Maciejowski was laid off from her job at an investment bank at the end of 2008, she cleaned out her desk, retreated to her Venice Beach, Calif., apartment and started sprucing up her resume. Then the 33-year-old set aside some of her severance package and arranged to spend February in artsy San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Her goals for the trip were simple: to take an immersive Spanish class, do some painting, experience a new culture and generally relax. Says the self-described Blackberry addict: "I needed to get away to disconnect, recharge and regroup for the next step." The price tag, including airfare and all meals: $1,200. (Read more about travel and the swine flu dilemma.)

Despite the grim employment outlook, Maciejowski isn't the only white-collar worker to respond to lay-offs by planning a vacation; across the country recently unemployed white-collar workers are taking similar pink-slip trips to places near and far. Some are like Maciejowski, hoping travel will help her clear her head and plan her next career move. Others are simply trying to escape the harsh realities of job hunting. "After weeks upon weeks of searching job boards for that next great gig, it is nice to just take off and forget about everything for a few days," says Erik Moser, 26, who in March went on a weeklong ski trip in Colorado after getting laid off in January from his public-relations job in Chicago. (See how to negotiate a better severance package.)

Not surprisingly, the already battered travel industry is eager to capitalize on the trend. Carroll Rheem, director of research at PhoCusWright, a consulting firm in Sherman, Conn., that follows the travel sector, says pink-slip trips are particularly common among those who receive sizable severance packages — i.e., the lawyers and Wall Street types who are confident they'll find another job soon enough. “If they have the time and they have the money, people are stepping back after a lay-off and thinking, 'Hey, why not?" she says.

But knowing that most of out-of-work travellers will be particularly price-sensitive, some companies have crafted special offers for the newly unemployed. Intrepid Travel, an Australian tour operator with U.S. headquarters in Boulder, Colo., recently launched a promotion dubbed "Laid Off Take Off," through which customers who provide letters stating that their jobs have been terminated within the last calendar year get 15% off trips to a variety of destinations.

Tiffany Richards, the company's president, says that roughly 30 of the firm's 1,200 bookings since January have taken advantage of this promotion. She adds that the discount brings the price of a 15-day trip to Morocco to $722.50 from $850, not including airfare. "For people who are in between jobs and maybe a little nervous about money, this kind of savings could be the difference between staying home and getting to see the world," she says.

But no matter where you go, it's hard to forget about the uncertainty waiting for you back home. Maciejowski says she thought about her impending job search from time to time in Mexico, and Moser spent his ski trip checking his e-mail repeatedly for job leads and missives from recruiters.

He says that on one "particularly stressful" afternoon, he had to piece together a resume and cover letter on a cousin's iPhone. "I didn't bring any of my files with me, but when this recruiter got in touch, I dropped everything and used this tiny device to recreate what he wanted," he notes. "Needless to say, I didn't get that job, and didn't hear back from that (recruiter) ever again."

See TIME's photos of grocery auctions