Have Work, Will Travel

Have Work, Will Travel


Tim Justice took a cross-country road trip and earned $2,000 along the way by making pickups and drop-offs for a delivery service.

“I was itching to do a road trip,” said Mr. Justice, 41, a Phoenix-based flight attendant. “Forget getting on a plane if I don’t have to.”

Mr. Justice’s trip, which was funded by work he picked up on Roadie, an app that coordinates drivers and people or businesses looking to ship items, is just one example of how people with flexible day jobs and a little know-how can stretch their travel dollars by joining the gig economy. The proliferation of apps and websites that aim to link employers with temporary workers has only made things easier.

Some jobs require specific skills, such as bartending at a music festival or teaching snowboarding. But other opportunities only require good timing.

Mr. Justice had already done some deliveries for Roadie, so he kept an eye open for long-distance gigs. He jumped at one that offered $1,200 to transport a bonsai tree and a dozen other houseplants from Los Angeles to New York City. Then he found another he could tack on, delivering a vintage garden windmill from Akron, Ohio, to Atlanta for $300. He got an unexpected $500 tip from the plants’ owner when he delivered them healthy and three days ahead of schedule.

Mr. Justice and an unemployed friend traveled 6,200 miles in a week, doing tag-team driving.

The money he made covered his costs, he said, and he had a great time “on the open road with good company and good laughs.”

Here are some other ways for United States residents to mix work with travel without having to worry about a working visa for a foreign country.

Festivals and events

Music festivals and other temporary events need a lot of low-wage workers. And though you might spend a good part of your time tending bar or being a cashier, you can still take part. The Music Festival Wizard website offers a list of events, and you can check the individual festival sites for job postings if a location is appealing.

Another good place to look is the Indeed.com job board, where a recent search for the word “festival” turned up an assortment of positions, including bartending at the Under the Big Sky Music Festival, July 13 to 14, in Whitefish, Mont. ($10 an hour). Applicants need to have a Montana alcohol-serving certificate, which can be obtained online. Workers were also needed for retail sales at the Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pa., with dates for training, the event and teardown stretching from July 16 to Aug. 18 (pay not specified); and as scorekeepers for two-day Lacrosse America tournaments near Chicago July 13 — 14 and Madison, Wis., July 20 — 21 ($10 an hour). A two-day music festival in Butler, Ohio, was offering $13 to $15 an hour for workers to move boxes, put on wristbands, handle crowd flow, and scan tickets and parking passes. The festival isn’t named in the posting, but organizers of the E.S.T. Fest, which runs Aug. 2 to 3, confirmed the listing.

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For higher paying positions at music festivals, arena events, fashion shows and cruise ships, those with medical training might apply to ParaDocs Worldwide.

Emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nurses and emergency room doctors need to be licensed in the same state as the event. They get an hourly wage and virtually all expenses are paid. The days can be long, and partying on the job isn’t allowed.

But while “the music festivals are super busy, sometimes you can be placed right in the pit,” Alex Pollak, ParaDocs’ founder and a trained paramedic, said in an telephone interview from Pryor, Okla., where he was working the Rocklahoma festival.

Childcare and teaching

Many years ago, my friend and I applied to an agency to work as vacation nannies over winter break. I was placed with a family that stayed home. My friend, on the other hand, got to go on a family ski vacation to Val d’Isére, in the French Alps.

Susan McCloskey, owner of Nanny Poppinz, a nationwide agency that places nannies with at least three years of experience, said opportunities to travel still exist.

In general, the employee should get about $20 per hour, a travel bonus of $50 to $100 per day and expenses, she said. The nanny should also negotiate for some time off.

“I would tell all nannies, ‘Do not do this on your own, going through an agency gives you a level of protection,” said Ms. McCloskey, recalling the case of Katherine Ann Olson, a 24-year-old who was lured to her killer’s house in a Minneapolis suburb through a fake Craigslist ad for a nanny.

Skiers and snowboarders looking for a few weeks in the mountains can work as lift attendants, rental technicians or ski instructors, especially during the busiest weeks of winter, when extra hands are needed for the holiday crowds.

“Most of the big ski resorts are pretty much always hiring. they are never at full employment,” said Dave Belin, a market research consultant for the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI).

Vail Resorts has a “holiday help” tab in its job pull-down menu.

A job as a rental technician at Breckenridge Resort in Colorado has a minimum 10-day commitment, while teaching as a ski instructor at Colorado’s Beaver Creek Resort requires at least 15 days of work during peak periods, plus training days.

“We have some instructors that will come out and spend spring break with us and complete all 15 days of teaching during that period,” said Greg Willis, the senior director of Beaver Creek’s Skier Services.

Courier services

Sometimes, businesses need an item ASAP, and so they turn to an air courier to get it hand-delivered.

One company, Airmule, pays $150 to travelers with a visa for China who are willing to “sell” a luggage slot on their flight there from the United States, or on a flight to India, Thailand or Korea that stops in China. (Flights back to the United States pay $100.)

There are downsides, however: Couriers need to be at the airport up to three hours ahead of their flights, and they have to pay any baggage fees for the Airmule luggage, as well as their own. They also need to pay any duty that might be charged on the items they are carrying in advance. (The company advertises it will reimburse any duty as long as the courier submits the paperwork.)

It’s unclear what sort of support the company offers. Several calls weeks apart to the customer service number during advertised business hours only reached voice mail. Sean Yang, the founder, responded to an email requesting comment, saying he was traveling and didn’t have time for an interview.

Still, a few bloggers who have tried Airmule have given it generally good reviews. Though one did note that a certain amount of trust is involved. Another well-established air courier, Chapman Freeborn OBC (On Board Courier), addresses many of the Airmule shortfalls, but has its own limitations.

OBC books and pays for an economy plane ticket, as well as any luggage fees. It also pays a daily sum to the courier, and it has customs brokers to help at the destination, though the process can still take many hours, said Mr. Nikolai Bergmann, director of the OBC program.

It’s not for the casual traveler, however. The company chooses the destination and the flights, and usually gives couriers only a few hours’ notice of a job. And it’s generally a quick out and back, even on international flights.

“You really need to be an aviation nerd. You need to love airports and flying in order to enjoy this kind of work,” Mr. Bergmann said.

One perk: In addition to the pay, which, he said, would be “in the three digits” for a New York to London trip, the courier gets to keep the frequent flier points.

Urban or rural

Travelers who want to pick up some shifts and potentially meet locals might look to Wonolo (Work. Now. Locally.), which offers access to on-demand jobs in about a dozen cities in the United States through its app. Positions might include event staffing, brand ambassadors, catering, theme park work, sales and warehouse fulfillment, among others.

Job seekers download the app, then create a profile and answer questions related to location (which can be updated while on vacation), and preferred payment method. A background check is required before the user can start signing up for jobs, so initial approval can take a few days.

Those willing to commit to at least a few weeks can find seasonal jobs at resorts and parks at CoolWorks, a website whose slogan is “jobs in great places.” Current postings include jobs in Grand Canyon National Park, where Bright Angels Bicycles and Cafe needs a bike mechanic, shuttle van drivers, a barista, bike tour guides and more through Nov. 1. An Alaskan adventure can be had with Allen Marine Tours, which runs day cruises in Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka and Glacier Bay through the fall.

In Yellowstone National Park, some lodges are looking for people to work part time for five weeks in September and early October.

“The low unemployment rate has created a very competitive work environment, with a smaller pool of candidates interested in seasonal work,” said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for the lodges, which are part of the Xanterra Travel Collection.

Several park properties, including the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and the Old Faithful Inn, are hiring people to work during the shoulder season, after college students have returned to school, as part of Xanterra’s “Helping Hands” program. It requires a minimum of 20 hours per week at a starting wage of $10.10 per hour for duties such as light housekeeping, kitchen prep, busing tables or washing dishes, usually for four to eight hours per day.

Employees live in the park in basic dorm rooms that generally have two to three people per room, and shared or private baths. The cost of the accommodation and cafeteria-style meals are subsidized based on hours worked, but typically average about $45 per week. Participants also receive complimentary uniforms, laundry, parking, a park entrance pass and free park tours when space is available.

Erica Brown, 62, a retired dental hygienist from Atlanta, worked last year at Yellowstone’s Lake Lodge Cabins and the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. She said some of the jobs were physically demanding, but she loved getting to meet people from around the world, and having a chance to photograph the scenery and wildlife.

“The best part was the opportunity to live in one of earth’s most amazing places for five weeks,” she said.

Follow Karen Schwartz on Twitter: @WanderWomanIsMe

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