- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

A local vacation-oriented Web site is attempting to capitalize on the post-election weariness of the presidential campaign worker.

Washington-based Away.com, which sells and organizes packaged vacations via the Internet, announced last week that any person who worked on a political campaign will be entitled to a rebate of up to $100 on the vacation of their choice.

This came as good news to many campaign workers, who admitted to be running out of gas as Election Day nears, after working hideously long hours on the campaign trail for the past several months.

"[The rebate idea] started very informally," said Away.com founder Sean Greene, who many years ago worked for Michael Dukakis' campaign for governor of Massachusetts. "Being based in D.C., we know a lot of people who work on Capitol Hill and on campaigns, and their first response was always, 'as soon as this thing is over I want to take a great vacation.' "

"People are averaging 60-80 hours a week. People are here every night," said Carolyn Danckaert, an organizer with the campaign of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in Washington. "Overall, there's definitely a sense that people are eager to take a vacation."

After Election Day, Ms. Danckaert said she'll be ready to get out of town. She'll be headed to Mexico, home of sun, warm weather and nobody running for president.

The campaign work is exciting, she said, but more than a little exhausting.

"It's just continual long hours, working on the weekends," Ms. Danckaert said. "You're here pretty much seven days a week. It's just the constantness of it all."

Ms. Danckaert said there is much talk within the Nader camp of taking a break from work after the election is over. Many workers are eager to get back to their home states, or take an exotic vacation as she is doing.

The rebate appealed to Ms. Danckaert, but she questioned how many people would take advantage.

"[The rebate] is a neat idea," Ms. Danckaert said. "But $100 isn't terribly significant for a package vacation."

Indeed, most of Away.com's vacations cost upwards of $1,000, with those labeled as "budget vacations" hovering around $500.

Away.com specializes in exotic tour vacations, such as biking and hiking in the Australian outback or traveling through California's wine country. Visitors can search for the type of vacation they want, and are given a phone number of a company expert who will help them plan the trip. The privately owned company was started in February as the result of a merger between Greentravel.com then the largest adventure-travel provider on the Web and Adventurequest.com.

The company took in $17 million during its most recent round of funding, with key contributions from Circle T Partners and Gannett Co. Inc.

Away.com has 1 million members, and offers more than 10,000 vacation packages in an attempt to capitalize on the $500 billion leisure travel market. While it remains to be seen whether campaign workers will take advantage of the Away.com rebate, hard work and long hours are a common story from people at every camp. At the Alexandria campaign office of Democratic presidential nominee Vice President Al Gore, organizers said 16-20 hour workdays have been common in recent weeks. At the Reform Party's camp for Pat Buchanan in Washington, where Mr. Buchanan is not even on the ballot, work continued at a fever pitch for some workers, even those who are simply volunteers.

"We've had a mixed bag, but there's one lady who's been relentless in the effort she's put out," said Jim Hemenway, the top Buchanan organizer in Washington. "She's put out 100 hours in the past 6 weeks, which is a lot for unpaid volunteer help, I'll tell you." Mr. Hemenway said he puts in five hours a day for the campaign while still working full time as a lawyer.

But while Mr. Nader and some Buchanan workers appear anxious for the whole election process to end and perhaps take advantage of Away.com's rebate, those campaigning for the front-runners Mr. Gore or Republican presidential nominee Texas Gov. George W. Bush said they aren't thinking past Election Day.

"In terms of vacations, it's the furthest thing from our minds at this point," said Maurice Daniel, a campaign organizer for Mr. Gore in Maryland. "We haven't had a lot of time to think about Wednesday."

That was echoed by officials at the Gore camp in Alexandria, who said there simply isn't any time to worry about plans after election day.

"We are so focused on the importance of Nov. 7 that nobody's thinking about vacations," said Kendra-Sue Derby, the Gore campaign chairman in Virginia. "Some people have a little time on their hands after this to take a vacation. But that's something to think about on Nov. 8."

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