This post originally appeared on The Harvard Business Review.
When you’re on the road, every minute counts — even more than usual. Add the financial costs of airfare, accommodation, and meals to the opportunity costs of being away from work and family, and you want to be sure that you’re getting the most out of your time on the road.
A new generation of on-demand websites and mobile apps help you do just that: not just Uber and Airbnb, but a whole range of online services that bring the world to your door, wherever your temporary door may be. By making it easy for you to get the transportation, support, and resources you need, peer-to-peer services let you trim the wasted time from your business travel, and even help you rethink the nature of business travel itself.
Those services are most abundant in high-tech hubs like San Francisco, New York, and Seattle, but they are rapidly spreading to other cities. As Jeremiah Owyang and I note in our recent report, The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy, the number of people nationwide who use peer-to-peer car sharing and accommodation has more than doubled in the past year.
So after collaborating with Jeremiah long-distance for 18 months, I was eager to try out for myself some of the on-demand services that he gets to use as a Bay Area denizen, to see how they could transform my two weeks in San Francisco this summer.
An aside: it may seem like an indulgence to get your groceries delivered and your car valet parked, but expenses that don’t make sense at home often do make sense when you’re traveling. Consider your overall travel costs in addition to your billable rate, salary, or the work that’s not getting done while you run errands. If an on-demand app can save you an hour for less than that hour is costing you, it’s almost certainly worth paying that markup.
If you want to use on-demand apps to squeeze every last minute of value out of your travel, you can and should make them part of your trip from the moment you start planning. Here’s how:
Before you leave
Make room for meetings: Booking your accommodations through Airbnb, VRBO, or another peer-to-peer site allows you to get a space big enough to entertain clients and colleagues. Particularly if you’re traveling with family, it may be easier to arrange casual business meetings if you can bring people back to your place. Look for a spot that offers locals something special: in our case, the rooftop deck of our temporary digs gave our colleagues a new view of their own city.
Pack light: If you’re used to checking a bag because you don’t have time to do laundry, pack a carry-on and get Washio to do your laundry for you. Or skip the packing altogether by using a rental service to get the clothes you need delivered to your destination: borrow the outfit you need for a major presentation or event from Rent the Runway (women) or The Black Tux (men). If you’re a frequent traveler, you may want to subscribe to a monthly service like The Ms. Collection,The Mr. Collection, or Le Tote, all of which send you a monthly box of garments; just arrange for each month’s box to be delivered to your destination that month.
Hit the ground running
Streamline logistics: Use on-demand services to simplify the job of getting up and running in another city. Get help from Taskrabbit to get luggage to or from the airport so you can go straight to a meeting instead of to your lodgings. When we moved from an apartment to a hotel, a Taskrabbit helper picked up all our bags from the apartment and took them to the hotel bell desk, giving us back half a day. Or use Postmates or Instacart to deliver any forgotten essentials instead of rushing out to the drugstore.
Combine transportation options: Uber isn’t the only way to get around in a new city. Depending on the length and nature of your trip, it can be a lot more efficient to combine multiple options. Car2Go lets you find a nearby car, drive it to your destination, and then leave it; it’s handy if you’re doing quick hops around town and don’t wan to commit to a vehicle (or pay for parking). On-demand valet parking services like Luxe will send a valet to meet you at your destination, take your car, and then bring it back on request so so that you don’t spend thirty minutes circling for a parking space.
Max out your networking
Find a local workspace: Yes, you can always go to Starbucks when you need to check your email, but you’ll be a lot more productive if you find a local co-working space that offers drop-in access. Not only will you have access to facilities like printers and meeting rooms, but it can be a great way of meeting local entrepreneurs and building your network. If you need a more private workspace or a spot for a meeting, try Breather or DesksNearMe.
Entertain efficiently: If you’re going to use your temporary digs as a spot to catch up with colleagues or host meetings, you need to be able to feed people — but you don’t want to waste precious travel time on shopping and cooking. Use a grocery delivery service like Instacart to stock your fridge with snacks so that you have some options on hand if you want to invite someone over for a spontaneous meeting; I lured more than one colleague to our apartment with the promise ofBi-Rite ice cream. Get an assortment of wine, beer, and liquor from a service like Thirstie. And if you want to invite someone over for a meal, use a meal prep service like Spoonrocket or a restaurant delivery service like Caviar (my favorite) to offer your guests top-notch cuisine.
Plan it all: If you feel exhausted at the prospect of finding and signing up for all these different services, there’s a service for that, too. Magic is a text-based service that lets you simply text your needs to a single number; they’ll coordinate with all the different on-demand services to get you whatever you’re looking for.
While you can use any or all of these on-demand services to make business travel a little easier, the real payoff comes from the way they allow you to rethink when, why, and how you travel. If you can simplify the logistics, a three-day trip that doesn’t seem worth the effort suddenly feels feasible; if you book an apartment rather than a hotel room, a series of short trips may make more sense as an extended visit. All that logistical support also makes it a lot easier to combine personal and business travel: the last time we tried a combined business-trip-plus-family-vacation in San Francisco, it was a stressful disaster, but this time out, it was easy, fun, and productive.
Most important, by letting you pack more business into your business trips — but with a lot less stress — on-demand services help eliminate the trade-off between having a productive trip, and having an enjoyable trip. Use on-demand services to eliminate the time and energy-wasters from your travel, and you’ll have the time you need to work and enjoy what your destination has to offer.