Update 2020/07/24: Dufl declared bankruptcy and closed up shop due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A little background about me first:
- I travel 1-2 times per month
- Most of my trips tend to be one week long (or longer)
- When I travel, I wear clothes I wouldn’t normally wear at home (like cashmere sweaters)
- A lot of the stuff I wear onsite should probably be dry cleaned
- I’m lazy
Dufl sounded perfect for me. They ship you an empty suitcase, you fill it up with your business clothes, and send it back.
Then, whenever you wanna go on a trip, you open the Dufl app on your phone, tell it where you’re going and when, and pick out the clothing items you want in your bag. When you arrive at your hotel, your Dufl suitcase is waiting for you.
At the end of your trip, you open the Dufl app, schedule a pickup, roll the suitcase down to the front desk, and leave it for FedEx to pick up. Dufl receives the suitcase, dry cleans all your clothes, and gets them ready for the next trip.
It’s $99 per trip, or $49.50 each way.
I know, it sounds like a lot, but bear with me: that includes all the dry cleaning, plus you don’t have to check bags, and you don’t have to wait by the baggage carousel for your stuff to come out. You just slap together an overnight bag, and fly with the greatest of ease. (This makes standby flights way easier too.)
The Things I Love About Dufl
At first glance, the service works exactly as advertised. The bag arrives beautifully packed – everything’s wrapped and delicately packed, wonderfully organized with more care than I would ever take. Seriously, opening my Dufl bag is like unwrapping brand new clothes. It’s so nice that I get pissed off when I have to get clothes back from regular dry cleaners, and they have all kinds of pins and stickers in them. Not so with Dufl.
You don’t have to put the same stuff in the bag every time. On the first couple of trips, I only ordered a few things in the Dufl bag, then packed a full carry-on suitcase, and I put more/nicer things into my Dufl suitcase for the trip back to Dufl. They dutifully photograph everything in your suitcase so you can pick out just the stuff you want for each trip. I’m at the point where I have a great set of clothing options in my Dufl closet, somewhere in the United States.
You don’t get the same Dufl bag size every time – when I virtually pack more stuff, I get a bigger suitcase, but otherwise they keep it smaller, which means easier to wheel around the hotel.
Could my bag get lost by FedEx en route? Sure, but I’ll gamble on FedEx over the airlines any day.
The Things I’m Not Quite So Fond Of
Some Vegas/Orlando/convention-y hotels make Dufl cost much more. They often charge you $15-$20 to hold a package for your arrival, and then another $15-$20 to hold a large package like this for FedEx. In a perfect world, I’d drop the Dufl bag off at a FedEx shipping center, but on business trips, I don’t usually have the time to hassle with that. (Update Oct 2015 – if you contact Dufl, they’ll work with the hotel to refund that charge.)
The signup process hints (but doesn’t promise) that sometimes your bag will be waiting for you inside the hotel room, with your shirts on hangers. That hasn’t been the case for me yet – in fact, I can’t even get the bag when I check in. It’s stored somewhere in a locked room, so it takes 15-30 minutes for the bell staff to track it down and bring it to my room (at which point they want a tip.) It sounds very first-world-problem, and it is, but I just wanna point out that it’s not quite as fast-and-easy as it looks.
When I come home from a trip, it takes Dufl around a day to unpack, clean, photograph, and make available my stuff in the app again. Dufl includes both a regular free shipping sticker and an extra-charge express shipping sticker in the suitcase, so for each trip, you can choose whether your stuff is available quickly or not.
For example, as I write this, I arrived home from a trip on Monday, and today’s Thursday, but everything in my virtual closet shows as “unavailable.” (I used the regular-shipping sticker.) This means I can’t schedule another trip again for a while even though I know exactly what’s in the bag. That makes my travel a little tricky because I want to schedule my trips in advance.
In a perfect world, I’d group clothes together as units (this is the short sleeve pack, this is the long sleeve pack) and be able to schedule cities/dates in advance at the same time I’m scheduling my air/hotels/car. Instead, after each trip finishes, I have to set myself separate reminders to go set up another Dufl trip.
I’m gradually working past that by putting more and more stuff in my virtual closet, but that’s kinda expensive. (On the bright side, it’s forced me to realize I didn’t have nearly enough good-looking travel clothes, so there’s that.)
Dufl sends text notifications, so after your bag arrives back in their warehouses and your stuff is cleaned, you can pop open the app and schedule your next trip.
Bottom Line: I’m Hooked, and I Highly Recommend Dufl.
As long as you go in knowing these limitations, it’s fantastic.
I really love just packing in ten minutes by throwing some casual stuff in a backpack and hitting the road for a week-long trip. I’ve always traveled with one day’s worth of clothes in my carry-on anyway (because bags get lost and flights get diverted), so it’s no extra work for me.
Update 2018/12 – I stopped using Dufl because most of my trips are overseas these days, and Dufl wasn’t cost-effective for that. They charged around $250/trip. I would still recommend them for domestic US business travelers though.