Packing anxiety has inspired dozens of apps and services in recent years, many of them thriving on users’ willingness to download checklists to avoid forgetting their socks and phone chargers. But there are a growing number of other services that have gotten more personal, inviting themselves into users’ calendars and closets.
At least one offers a concierge service that does all the packing and then delivers the suitcases to the hotel. No need to hoist suitcases onto airport conveyor belts — or to get stressed about any of the other annoyances of modern air travel.
Debbe McCall, a cardiovascular patient researcher in Temecula, Calif., was an early customer of the concierge service, DUFL. “I’ve got three words for you: full-size toiletries,” she said. DUFL includes full-size jars of her favorite face cream. And, she said, when she checks into a hotel for one of the dozens of medical conferences she attends annually, her luggage is waiting at the front desk for her.
More from New York Times:
A stagnant General Electric will replace the CEO who transformed it
Verizon completes a $4.48 billion purchase of Yahoo, ending an era
Australian casino company’s employees face charges in China
DUFL, which costs $99 per round trip plus $9.95 a month for storage, works as an outsourced wardrobe. Instead of packing their own suitcases, travelers like Ms. McCall rely on the company, which started in 2015 and now has warehouses in three cities and 30 employees who clean, press and pack their clothes and toiletries for them.
When a trip is approaching, customers use DUFL’s website or app to select items from their personal closet in DUFL’s cavernous warehouse. (Photographs of every piece of clothing are uploaded.) DUFL then launders or dry cleans the clothes and packs them in a way Ms. McCall said reminded her of a shopping spree.
“Everything is wrapped in tissue paper, and they always tuck a little trial-size something in,” she said.
The company uses FedEx to deliver the bags.
DUFL’s president, Bill Rinehart, said he had developed the company because of his own frustrations as a tech entrepreneur who flew often.
“I had this massive red backpack I used to carry around with me because I never wanted to give my bag to an airline,” he said.
Mr. Rinehart, who lives in Arizona, described a frantic process in which he would fly home from New York on a Friday and try to get his clothes cleaned in time for another East Coast business trip on a Monday.
“Finally I said there’s got to be a better way,” he said. “I thought: Almost everything is available to us by phone now, but we’re still traveling like it’s the 1960s. The only thing that’s really improved is they’ve put wheels on the bags. Otherwise, it’s a painful process.” Several focus groups later, DUFL was born.
Mr. Rinehart said customers saved three to five hours of personal time that would otherwise be used on laundry, packing and bag-check lines. Ninety percent of users are business travelers. And women may benefit most.
“They’re maybe 35 percent of our customers,” he said. “But they’re our biggest advocates” because more than men, they take advantage of the flat rate to pack hair dryers, pillows and other personal items that would stay at home if they had to check suitcases.
DUFL is not the only luggage concierge available to packing-averse travelers. Ms. McCall tried Luggage Forward but switched because she was still doing her own dry cleaning and laundry.
She also tried UPS, “but it was really expensive,” she said. And, like Luggage Forward, it did not relieve her of pre-trip chores.
Paying someone else to pack suitcases may not be practical for less-frequent travelers because of the monthly fee and the need for multiple wardrobes. And hiring a concierge service may seem an extravagant antidote to packing stress.
That is why some travelers use packing apps like PackPoint. Ben Gillenwater, its founder, said that he had developed the app in 2013 and that it had been responsible for 2.1 million custom packing lists last year. He has since added bells and whistles to the premium version ($2.99; the basic app is free) aimed at business travelers.
For instance, in addition to providing checklists that help users remember to pack sneakers in addition to dress shoes, or a pen when they are traveling internationally to fill out customs forms, it gets to know users of another popular tool among business travelers — the trip-planning app TripIt — much better.
“TripIt is big in the professional travel community, and I just thought, gee, wouldn’t it be great if PackPoint knew you were taking a certain trip on a certain day, and it would just automatically make a packing list for you?” Mr. Gillenwater said.
When linked with a TripIt account, PackPoint looks for new itineraries. “It grabs whatever new trips have been added, and it makes a new packing list that tells you, ‘Hey, here’s what you’re going to need for Barcelona.’ Or, ‘Hey, bring a visa for India,'” Mr. Gillenwater said.
In addition to familiarizing itself with users’ calendars via TripIt, PackPoint can be customized to generate lists that have little to do with packing but soothe a traveler’s anxieties nonetheless.
Charles Chung, who as the business developer for a tech start-up in Los Angeles flies several times a month, said he had been using PackPoint since it started. At first, he didn’t venture past its standard checklists. But now, he uses it to streamline his entire pre-trip routine.
“I have a house-prep list on PackPoint,” he said. “It reminds me to turn off the sprinklers, make sure the windows are locked, take out the trash if it’s close to my trash day and check the fridge to make sure nothing’s expiring soon so I don’t come home to something that smells bad.”
Other packing app users have different priorities.
Pamela Schein Murphy, a blogger and marketing executive in New York, said she relied on Travel List ($1.99) because she liked its simple format. Each item she packs, from batteries to underwear, vanishes from a checklist once it’s safely in her bag.
“It’s very clean and easy to use,” she said. “I can’t survive without contact lenses, and this way I know I’ll never forget them.”
Quinn Genzel, the developer of Packing Pro, introduced in 2008, said the premium version of his app ($2.99) was thorough and methodical, including pre-trip, mid-trip and post-trip to-do lists.
And Kyle Akeley, an assistant admissions director at the Darrow School in New Lebanon, N.Y., said she used StyleBook ($3.99) because it allowed her to pack virtually. Users upload pictures of their clothes, shoes and accessories, which they can then browse remotely and add to a packing list. Ms. Akeley said it acted as a portable closet.
“If I’m sitting at a soccer game I can say, O.K., I have this trip in two days, and I have these events on that trip, so I should pack this and this,” she said. “It has a calendar function, too, so I can put whatever outfits I choose on the calendar for that day and it serves as a visual reminder.”
Doug Dyment, a travel expert who writes about packing light on his blog, One Bag, argues that packing apps may add to forgetfulness rather than eliminate it.
“They all seem to promote the notion that you need different lists for different types of trips,” he said. “That’s a bad idea.”
Mr. Dyment’s idea of a well-packed bag is one whose contents stay consistent, with only minor modifications for weather.
But Mr. Chung, the PackPoint user, said packing apps were a sign of the times and may become necessary.
“We’re all on our phones so much that I think it’s diminished our attention spans,” he said. “If I’m worried I’m going to forget something, it’s helpful to know I can fire up an app that will take care of it.”