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5 On-Demand Services That Make Travel Easier Than Ever

By Liza Weisstuch
January 12, 2022
dog on lap looking at camera
Viktor Allin/Dreamstime
You've got your food delivery and ride-hailing apps covered, but what about makeup, pet care, and private yoga instruction? We rounded up some top picks.

Once upon a time, delivery drivers pretty much only ferried pizza and Chinese food to your door, and AAA appeared if you needed a tire changed. Today, however, it’s hard to think of something you can’t get at the touch of a button. Supermarkets will deliver your groceries, various apps will ensure that your Thai food, green juice, or even alcohol arrives at your door swiftly, and, of course, ride hailing—the one that started it all—doesn’t appear to be stepping on the brakes any time soon. These days, the on-demand business is growing exponentially, reaching into all kinds of industries. And with the evolution of the smart hotel room, access is more streamlined than ever. From stylists to yoga instructors, these companies will send an expert to your door, which is exceptionally helpful if you’re a traveler in an unfamiliar city.

1. Glam on Demand

Reasons to call on a stylist are plentiful: Maybe you’ve traveled across the continent to go to your best friend’s wedding, or maybe you’re getting married. Or you have a big presentation to give in front of hundreds of colleagues. Or perhaps being in a new city inspires you to find a new look. There are a number of apps to download when the need for a hair stylist or makeup artist arises, most of which work like classic ride-hailing apps in terms of connecting you to an independent contractor, and all of which assure that their practitioners are thoroughly vetted in terms of personal background, accreditation, and skill. Established in 2014, beGlammed (beglammed.com) is available in 26 U.S. cities and has a wide-ranging menu of services, from blowouts (from $50) to updos (from $85) to full makeup applications (from $75). Most visits take about an hour.

Priv (gopriv.com) is another app that lets you summon a makeup artist or hair stylist on demand—within just a few hours, actually. Serving New York, Los Angeles, Philly, D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Austin, and Chicago, Priv pros, as they’re called, can be scheduled for blowouts, hair stylings and cuts (from $50), makeup (from $40), and mani/pedis (from $10). And it’s worth noting that their prices include tip. As with all the companies, the stylists bring their own tools, products, accoutrements, and even furniture. 

Some apps are more specialized. In 2016, Jennifer Lambert, who trained as a lawyer, started Swivel (swivelbeauty.com) with her childhood friend to solve a problem black women often face: finding someone experienced in caring for textured hair. Women can choose the style—cornrows, Bantu knots, twist-outs, silk press, and note hair type (kinky, curly, relaxed). The app, which is available in New York and D.C., is designed as a guide to local salons, but other apps provide focused services to black hair. Yeluchi (yeluchi.un-ruly.com), for one, lets women book appointments at home for blowouts (from $60) or braids, weaves, and twists (from $80). Services are available in New York. 

2. Relax With a Massage

Growing up in a large family with a mother who was a practicing healer, it was inevitable that Merlin Kauffman would end up working in wellness. Turns out, he became a bit of a pioneer. As a traveler, he found it hard to book a massage on the road, so he came up with an idea for a platform that connects people seeking massages with certified practitioners. Today, Soothe (soothe.com) is available in 65 markets in four countries, and, as a sign of its high standards, only accepts 30 percent of applicants to the network, which is 10,000 practitioners big and growing. Book a relaxation session in as little as 60 minutes between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight, and the massage therapist will show up with a table, linens, oil, music, and everything else they need to recreate the spa experience in your room. All you need to choose is your treatment—deep-tissue massage, reflexology (a stretching and flexing regimen), Swedish, prenatal, or a couple's session—and length of time (60, 90, or 120 minutes). 

Zeel (zeel.com), which is available in 70 cities, started as a directory for alternative medical practitioners, but in 2013, it narrowed its focus and widened its reach and became an on-demand company. With just an hour lead time, Zeel therapists can show up at your hotel with a chair or pop-up table and all the necessary products and accoutrements to help you recalibrate. Five different treatment options—Swedish, deep tissue, sports, prenatal, and one to help you sleep—are offered for 60 or 90 minutes, then increments of 15 minutes beyond that. 

3. Pet Care Anywhere

When you bring your pooch on your trip—as an estimated 39 percent of dog owners do when they’re traveling for two nights or more—he may need a bit more attention than when you're hanging out at home. The good news is that there are plenty of on-demand services to ease the anxiety of caring for a pet on the road, and even a few ways to get your furry friend an indulgence or two, which everyone should have while on vacation. First, the basics: dog-walking. Wag! (wag.com), perhaps the biggest such company, uses Uber-like location-based technology to connect walkers to a pet and its owner’s current location. Booking is available on an immediate or scheduled basis, and live GPS tracking keeps owners up to date on the pup’s every step. Rover (rover.com), which is available in more than 14,000 American cities, also provides dog-walking, plus lots, lots more, like drop-in visits (read: play dates) and all-day drop-off care. They vet (no pun intended) their contractors so thoroughly that less than 20 percent of those who apply make the cut.

Many hotel chains these days are pet-friendly, like Loews Hotels and Resorts, known for its vet/chef collaborative pet menus, and Ace Hotels, which charge $25 per night for a dog up to 25 pounds. Of the nearly 900 La Quinta locations, only a handful do not adhere to the free up-to-two-pets-per-room policy. But for true royal treatment, find a property that puts your pup in the spotlight with everything from cute add-ons like water bowls and organic treats to over-the-top extravagance. The Jane in New York's Soho neighborhood will adorn your room with handcrafted items, like a doggie bed and toys, and provide in-house walkers and pet-sitters. Many Kimpton properties have adorable extras, like a nightly “yappy hour,” which includes wine for adult humans, and pet concierge services.

4. Yoga and Fitness, Customized for You

If you don’t know the lay of the land, trying to find a yoga or meditation studio can be a little stressful, especially if your free time is limited. There have long been internet programs like Core Power Yoga (corepoweryogaondemand.com) and Yoga Vida (yogavida.com/pages/vida-on-demand), where you can follow online instructors and do your sun salutations in the privacy of your own space, but nowadays, several hotels are taking the lead and lunging into the yoga, meditation, and conditioning game with instructors and services beyond the property’s fitness center. The Benjamin (thebenjamin.com) in Manhattan claims its On Demand Meditation, a 10-minute meditation session for guests provided via phone, is the first of its kind. Part of its much-touted Rest and Renew program, it’s one of several offerings designed by a sleep medicine expert for the hotel. Other hotels, especially in warmer vacation spots, have dedicated fitness staff for group workshops and private sessions of all sorts. At The Standard in Miami (standardhotels.com/miami/spa/yoga-and-fitness), you can sign up for various kinds of yoga classes as well as Pilates (and that’s to say nothing of their water-sports instruction), or you can schedule a one-on-one customized yoga or meditation session. There are also apps that will pair you with a local, certified, vetted pro for customized training. Download Troupe Fit (troupefit.com) and request a yoga or Pilates instructor or a personal trainer for a 45-minute session (from $45). Any size space will do. They’ll bring equipment. (Only available in New York City.)

5. Call a Tailor for a Fix

It’s happened to the best of us: a rip, a snag, a missing button, or a loose hem needs fixing and the hotel sewing kit isn’t gonna cut it. The on-demand mending business is still in the early phase of development, but there's plenty of hype around the concept on men’s style and tech blogs, so expect to see them popping up in major cities soon. For the time being, New York City is leading the way. If you’re in town for a few days and don’t need the clothing item urgently, call on Ricky Belopolsjy (bztailor.com), who’s run his tailor shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, since 1991. Through his website, he’ll send someone to pick up and take measurements, then drop off the finished product three or four days later. Another options is Air Tailor (airtailor.com), a text-based app that provides mail-in and return services. Login and someone will walk you through the steps to make sure your item is altered precisely to your fit. If you’re in New York, you can opt for a messenger service at a higher price. Turnaround time is five business days. 

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What's Your "Day Bag Personality"?

When you’re on the go, the smallest details can make or break your day. Who would rather spend time adjusting their shoulder straps or rearranging their bags to make room for souvenirs when they could be taking in new sights and sounds undistracted? We found a batch of hands-free accessories that will allow minimalists and pack rats alike to sally forth without such nuisances—and each one rings in at less than $150. (Yes, a backpack might be the ultimate example of the genre, but for these particular purposes, we’re sticking with bags of the frontal persuasion.) Read on to find the one that's right for you.  Lighten Your Load (Courtesy Parker Clay) If you prefer to travel light, this is your pick. Made with sustainably sourced, premium Ethiopian leather by Parker Clay, a company that supports vulnerable communities in Addis Ababa, where its production facility is located, the Everly crossbody is perfect for the minimalist day-tripper. At just eight inches long, five inches high, and  one inch wide, it has room for a small wallet or card holder, a set of earbuds, and maybe a lipstick or two, and that’s about it. Stash your phone in the slim external back pocket, and proceed to explore with your hands swinging. Everly crossbody in blush, $88; parkerclay.com. Mind Your Waistline (Courtesy Hustle & Hide Co) This sleek hip bag might look like a spin on an ‘80s classic, but it’s not your mother’s fanny pack. With two straps and four ways to wear it, Hustle & Hide Co’s understated, handcrafted convertible pouch is made for the modern traveler. Budget Travel senior editor Liza Weisstuch carried it on a recent trip to Alaska and came back singing its praises. “Wearing it feels like having an extra pocket,” she says. “It's the perfect size for travel, just big enough to keep the royal trifecta—phone, wallet, and passport—within easy reach. That's a huge game-changer for someone who's constantly rummaging for one or the other. Like me.” Liza prefers to use the waist strap (it’s easier for the on/off when you sit down, she says), but you can also clip it directly to your belt loops, use the standard strap and throw it over your arm, or go for the longer strap and wear it crossbody style. “What’s more,” she adds, “its soft, bourbon-brown leather and brass clasps make it a stylish accessory, regardless of whether you're wearing it around your waist or on your shoulder.” Classic button stud hip bag in brown, $100; hustleandhideco.com. Carry It Crossbody (Courtesy Peg and Awl) For years, I’ve been searching for a day bag to fit a book, a water bottle, over-ear headphones, and sunglasses, plus the wallet, organizational pouch, and lip balm that I always carry. It needs to be something big enough to hold it all without having to Tetris it in, but not so big that it weighs me down, and this no-frills satchel from Peg and Awl ticks all the boxes. Designed to carry the essentials and inspired by purpose-driven vintage bags like colonial-era satchels and the military map cases of World War II, the Hunter is made from sturdy, waterproof waxed canvas, with a brass rivets and studs for a modest flash of bling and a wide leather shoulder strap that stays put and doesn’t dig in. The interior pocket is just the right size for a wallet, keys, and a battery pack, and the main compartment is roomy enough for everything else. It's a utilitarian number with a few subtly clever details, from the smart placement that keeps the strap from twisting to a flap you can close with one hand (and a bit of dexterity).  Hunter satchel in slate, $144; pegandawl.com. Feed a Crowd (Courtesy FEED) If you require more space, the Go-To bag from FEED provides extra wiggle room and more organizational options with the same crossbody convenience. With a zippered pocket inside that’s ideal for anything that needs to be safely stowed, like a wallet or passport, and an outer pocket that offers easy access to a phone or charger, this cotton-canvas carry-all not only holds everything you need for a day on the town or in the country, its purchase also provides 40 school meals to those in need. Go-To canvas bag in burnished olive, $68; feedprojects.com. Tote It All (Courtesy Everlane) Not a fan of the crossbody thing? Consider an upgrade on the standard tote instead. With leather straps that can handle whatever fits inside and a zip top to keep it all from falling out—and grabby hands from getting in—Everlane’s twill version is a stylish, nearly indestructible upgrade on the original. I put it to the test in New York, stuffing it with gym gear, a laptop, and a bottle or two of wine, and it didn’t give even the slightest bit. If your travel style includes lots of shopping, this bag's generous size and comfortable handles make it a great option, perfect for that farmers' market haul or bookstore score.  Twill zip tote in golden brown, $48; everlane.com.