Refresh Your Commute: Travel To Work Better, Faster, Smarter

If you’re working, chances are you’re commuting. Whether it’s an hours-long drive, an inter-borough bike ride, or a subway/bus trip across town, we’ve got several ways to make the most of it. And when the long day is done, get a ton of recommendations for awesome events in LA & NYC via Flavorpill’s custom summer guides. We’ve got the best of the city, no matter your starting point.

Shave down minutes and more on your NYC mass transit commute with the Citymapper app (and site). It’s our favorite of a slew of subway apps because it features real-time info on MTA service advisories/disruptions, plus hyperlocal weather (so you can decide if you’d rather walk or bike it), and personalization features; it will remember often-travelled routes and give you regular updates. For our international readers, the app is also available in London, Paris, and Berlin.

Shake Backpack
The author can personally attest to the awesomeness of this bag. Don’t be fooled by the “kid’s backpack” description over on Quirky. It’s just large enough for a laptop, wallet, and sundries, and it easily goes from office to beach — which is a particularly inspiring feature for summer Fridays! The canvas bottom of the bag flips back to reveal a mesh bottom that will sift any sand out of the bag before you leave the beach.

Up your podcast game
If you’re stuck in the car, bus, or train for an hour-plus, don’t spend it listening to obnoxious morning drive-time radio. Instead, spend it learning with Radiolab, an acclaimed — and creative — science and philosophy podcast that (we promise) is more engaging and entertaining than you think, thanks to original sound design and accessible dialogue. In the mood for something funny? Our go-to remains Scott Auckerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, which is just plain better than the TV show. Delve into the podcast archives (back when it was called Comedy Death Ray) for even more hilarity with guests including Jon Hamm, Nick Kroll, Paul F. Tompkins, and Amy Poehler. But be warned if you’re on mass transit: you will laugh out loud, and people will stare at you. Fantastic storytelling series The Moth also launched a podcast last year, named iTunes’ Best of 2013. Subscribe and be moved (sometimes to tears, sometimes to laughter).

Pup Holders
Pup Holders
Because you already downed your Starbucks Iced Coffee, you can turn your cup holder into a… pup holder! Bring your buddy to the office. Your coworkers will totally thank you.

Ride in style
Belle Helmets
They don’t come cheap, but if you’re wearing one every day, you might as well invest in a stylish Belle Helmet. Each is hand-painted and one-of-a-kind, featuring designs ranging from kiwi fruit and zebra print to tarot cards and phrenology charts.

Drive smart with traffic apps

Gridlock is a nightmare, and in metropolitan areas can add precious minutes — if not hours — to your commute. Drive smarter with real-time traffic apps like INRIX and Waze. INRIX released a lauded update last year, and is much more user-friendly as a result. Data updates every 60 seconds, with ping points coming in from autos outfitted with the software at sale, plus fleets of UPS trucks and other trucking companies. Waze adds a social element, getting its data from self-reporting users (and local traffic reports). If someone’s stuck in nightmare traffic on the 405, they’ll alert the app. The more users the app has, the better its data gets, so you could be part of the solution and not just the traffic headache.

Learn a language
If you are stuck in a huge traffic jam, put your time to good use and try learning a language! There are dozens of apps and podcasts you can download — and many of them are free. A fave: Apple’s 2013 iPhone app of the year, DuoLingo, a language-learning app that uses gamification to trick you into learning. It’s totally gratis, but because of said gamification, it should only be played on subway or train commutes. Not while driving! For car-based lessons, check out Pimsleur programs, which are all audio.

Another great way to make the most of your idle ride to work (aka, not for those of you biking or driving): catching up on the news. There is a wide world beyond your cubicle; make sure you stay abreast of breaking news and developing stories with Newser. The site and app condense top news stories into a headline, an image, and two paragraphs. Newser pulls from hundreds of sources around the globe, mining publications for the most important, entertaining, and thought-provoking stories. You’ll never be silent at the water cooler again.

One final tip: negotiate a work-from-home schedule! Refreshing your routine to include a remote work day can have great effects on productivity. Fewer distractions and zero commute time can lead to longer, more productive work days.

Now that you’re off the clock, head to our exclusive Summer Guide in NYC & LA for refreshing suggestions of fun things to do when you’re not commuting.