The Serious Traveler’s Guide to the Gig Economy

How to leverage sites like Thumbtack, TaskRabbit, and Fiverr to make your travels smarter, safer, and simpler.

The Serious Traveler’s Guide to the Gig Economy

Fancy a quick tango lesson before your Buenos Aires adventure? The gig economy can help.

Courtesy of Pixabay

TaskRabbit is an online platform that matches people with “taskers” to handle household chores and repairs. Two weeks ago, Ikea purchased the company, leading us to believe that your next Dyfjord dresser will come with a handyman as well as a hex wrench. But there’s more to task-oriented marketplaces than assembling bed frames.

“This is something that is on-demand, in your pocket,” says Mimi Huggins, a spokesperson for Thumbtack, a U.S.-wide online service that lets you make a request for services and receive bids from professionals in close to 1,000 different categories. “You don’t have relationships with professionals where you travel and it’s hard to get word-of-mouth recommendations. But you can turn on Thumbtack and have access to reliable people right away.”

The gig economy is going strong and going global, and a variety of sites have the flexibility and reach to become very useful for travelers. Think creatively, and you can leverage the gig economy to take care of all sorts of tasks—before, during, and after your next travel adventure.

Before the Trip

Travel arrangements. Your corner travel agent may know a lot about a lot of things, but she probably won’t know as much as an agent in your destination city. You’ll get a lot of great advice about the hot restaurants, great new art exhibitions, and even road closures—although chances are she won’t have stayed in a local hotel recently.

Lessons. If your Italian is rusty, you can find a tutor for some quick brushing up before you head to Milan. Or if you’ve always wanted to dance the tango in Buenos Aires, you can take care of that “learning to tango” part before you leave.

Lodging reconnaissance. Sure, the Airbnb pictures look great, and the host’s communications seem legit, but maybe you need a trusted third party to look over your rental before you arrive. How’s the privacy? The feng shui? Is it free of anaphylaxis-inducing cats? Is it over a bowling alley? Really, Google Street View can only tell you so much.

Personal shopping. Maybe you’re leaving Muncie for Miami, but aren’t having a lot of luck with the swimsuit section in January. Send your sizes to a personal shopper at your tropical destination, and have that person greet you at your beach home with an assortment of the most fashionable resort wear.

At Your Destination

Personal training. Your hotel may have a gym full of equipment, but you’re not likely to get a great workout pushing random buttons on the elliptical. But find a local personal trainer, walk her by the front desk, and you’ll get a professional workout plus a few tips to bring back home. Likewise, there are apps that will let you find a running partner in other cities.

Hair and makeup. Traveling can take a toll on your ’do, and it seems a little silly to carry your full makeup case if you’re only having one nice dinner out. You can find hairdressers and makeup artists that will bring the fierce for your night on the town.

Photos. When you’re on your long-dreamed-of trip to see the house where your great-grandmother was born, you should do a little better than a selfie by the barn. Hire a professional photographer to trail you for a day, and you’ll remember every nuance of a wonderful trip.

Eternal wedlock. Well, you’ve got your hair done and there’s a photographer trailing you. You might as well find a wedding officiant.

Tours. There are plenty of startups that will connect you to a tour guide in a distant city, but there are other ways to do tours. Hire a chef to take you to local farms and farmers’ markets and then cook dinner for your group. Hire a yoga instructor to navigate you through the local kombucha scene (apologies for the typecasting). Find a local DJ to take you on a tour of the club scene, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll pass through the line.

Lost item rescue. Did you leave something important at your hotel, but don’t have time to get it before you board the plane? You can quickly find someone to grab your laptop, eyeglasses, or (heaven forfend) your passport from the front desk for a quick trip to the airport.

At Home

Pet sitting. Yes, you could ask the neighbors to check in on Basel and Marfa, but do you really want them in your house when you’re not there? Hire a responsible stranger instead—maybe one who can also water your plants and bring in your mail without judging.

Maintenance. It’s smart to keep your lawn trimmed while you’re away, of course, but why not return home to clean windows, free-flowing gutters, or a freshly painted house? You might even find someone who doesn’t mind building Ikea furniture.

Memory preservation. Have all those photos edited and bound into a book, professionally typeset with some (lightly) edited text from your travel diary. Fiverr can help with that (and quite a few other things).

Transportation. Incredibly, there are even gig-economy services that function like taxi companies, letting you use an app to have someone pick you up at the airport! If you haven’t heard of a little company called Uber, you will soon.

Your turn. Have a favorite travel-focused use for task sites like TaskRabbit and Fiverr? Have a gig-economy success story? Share them with us on Twitter or Facebook.

>>Next: How One Brand Is Reinventing the Hostel

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