Chicago Sun-Times - - TRAVEL - Charisse Jones

When you’re trav­el­ing for busi­ness, pick­ing, pack­ing and tot­ing your clothes may at times feel like a se­cond job. But a host of apps are try­ing to make life on the road a lit­tle bit eas­ier.

From on­line valets to ser­vices that es­sen­tially of­fer laun­dry to go, cor­po­rate trekkers can dig­i­tally out­source much of the drudgery around their work at­tire.

“It’s about the abil­ity to go on a trip . . . and not worry about any­thing other than your busi­ness,” says Bill Rine­hart, CEO and founder of DUFL, a “vir­tual valet” that will sort, clean and ship your wardrobe to and from wher­ever you’re trav­el­ing for work.

Cus­tomers down­load the DUFL app, then fill a bag the com­pany sends to their home or of­fice with their var­i­ous busi­ness out­fits. DUFL will clean, in­ven­tory and pho­to­graph all the items. Then, “from that day for­ward, your closet is the app on your phone,” Rine­hart says. Cus­tomers in­put their busi­ness desti­na­tion, the ho­tel where they’re stay­ing and the dates, and the suit­case ar­rives the same day they do.

At the end of your stay, you can drop your bag off at the front desk, where Fed Ex will pick it up and ship it back to the DUFL ware­house where the cloth­ing is cleaned for your next trip.

The cost is $ 9.95 per month plus a $ 99 fee per trip, which cov­ers ship­ping and clean­ing. Since launch­ing in May 2015, Rine­hart says that thou­sands of cus­tomers have reg­is­tered for the ser­vice, with the typ­i­cal male client stor­ing 50 items in his closet, and the typ­i­cal woman hav­ing 150.

“When you think about some­one spend­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of time on the road, it’s in­cred­i­bly time con­sum­ing and stress­ful,” he says, adding that cus­tomers will some­times or­der items from Ama­zon or a depart­ment store and have the items shipped right to DUFL.

Washio, which started in March 2013, has cus­tomers who use its ser­vices while trav­el­ing for work, as well as when they re­turn home.

With op­er­a­tions in Los An­ge­les, San Fran­cisco, Wash­ing­ton D. C., Chicago, Bos­ton and Oak­land, busi­ness trav­el­ers can re­quest a laun­dry pick up on Washio’s web­site or mo­bile app. The clothes are then cleaned and re­turned to your doorstep.

“While trav­el­ing for busi­ness, most ho­tel dry clean­ing ser­vices are very ex­pen­sive,” says Washio CEO and founder Jor­danMet­zner in ex­plain­ing the ap­peal of his ser­vice to busi­ness trav­el­ers.

Mean­while, those head­ing out on a cor­po­rate trip can get their shirts boxed, for easy pack­ing. And when faced with a suit­case full of dirty clothes upon their re­turn, they can sim­ply send the items off with Washio and they “have clean clothes to take on their next trip,” Met­zner says.

Ben Gil­len­wa­ter, CEO of his own soft­ware com­pany, ini­tially built the Pack­Point app for him­self. “I’ve been a busi­ness trav­eler for about eight years,” Gil­len­wa­ter says. “I was al­ways for­get­ting some­thing . .. . like my pass­port, or my toi­letries or even my dress shoes for work.”

Now Pack­Point prac­ti­cally does the pack­ing for him. The app tells users what they need to take de­pend­ing on their desti­na­tion and planned ac­tiv­i­ties, right down to re­mind­ing them to take an um­brella be­cause it’s likely to rain. And as you pack, you can check off each item within the app.

“You can tell it if you will have ac­cess to laun­dry and if you want to re­peat ba­sics, like wear a shirt more than once,” he says. A paid ver­sion of the app which costs $ 2.99 can be cus­tom­ized— you can tell it for in­stance to never re­mind you to pack con­tact lenses since you don’t wear them. And if you have a TripIt ac­count where you assem­ble all your travel ar­range­ments, Pack­Point will sync with it and au­to­mat­i­cally cre­ate pack­ing lists based on your itin­er­ar­ies.

Style­book, an app launched in Oc­to­ber 2009, isn’t just for those hon­ing their in­ner fash­ion­ista. The app, which has a one- time cost of $ 3.99 is “per­fect for busi­ness trav­el­ers,” says co­founder Jess Atkins, “be­cause they can plan what to pack when­ever they have a free mo­ment.”

Users in­put pic­tures of their clothes, and can use the app’s cal­en­dar to plan their out­fits. The app also al­lows them to cre­ate a pack­ing list, and even post notes to re­mind them­selves where they wore var­i­ous en­sem­bles.

“With air­line bag­gage fees at an all­time high, suit­case space is pre­cious and Style­book can help you bring only items that you need,” Atkins says.

Apps like th­ese can be real time savers, some users say.

DebbeMcCall, a busi­ness owner, uses DUFL one to four times amonth.

“I save hours not pack­ing, not sch­lep­ping, not look­ing for over­head space, not wish­ing I had brought an ex­tra out­fit or pair of shoes,” says McCall, who lives in Te­mec­ula Val­ley, Calif. “Trav­el­ing is fun again.”


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