1. Choose the right luggage.
“I’m always shopping and collecting fun finds and vintage items along the way, so weight is always my biggest issue, especially on an around-the-world trip. When suitcase selecting, my go-to is always the lightest,” says Elisa Marshall, co-founder of Maman cafés, who travels frequently between the company’s New York and Canada locations, as well as the Tropical Hotel St. Barths, where she oversees the food and beverage program.
“I like hard luggage,” says Denielle Wolfe, chief design officer of cult luggage brand Arlo Skye. “They keep my precious belongings safe and protected. Always wheels and always four wheels, as I can either have it glide alongside me or pull it behind me.” Carry-ons that leave the hands free are also key for hauling your gear around multiple stops. “Since travel and accommodation connections are often not door-to-door, I highly recommend a backpack,” says Sara Leveen, co-owner of New York-based Hanoi House, which was inspired by a seven-month round-the-world trip that included stops in Slovenia, Belgium, and Vietnam.
2. Focus on multipurpose pieces.
“I organize my packing list by destination and then pack as many items as I can that show up on the most destinations,” says Leveen. Her must-packs? “A neutral or solid colored sarong can be used on bus or van seats in sweltering day trips in Southeast Asia, for impromptu beach naps, as a shoulder cover-up for temples and churches, and as an additional layer on rented beach chairs,” she says. “I have a fitted cotton jersey blazer for day-to-night layering in cooler climates like New Zealand and Japan. It’s just formal enough to wear with a silk tank and jeans for dinner out—plus it doubles as a comfy in-flight cover-up. And my single most useful piece of clothing is the perfect heather gray v-neck t-shirt.”
Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian travels the globe so regularly for work that he designed his own custom leather carry-on with the Parisian L’Atelier Renard and sticks to simple textiles for his travel uniform: “Light and natural fabrics like cotton or cashmere depending on the climate, for t-shirts, jeans, and other comfortable seamless clothing.
3. Fold and roll.
“I pack clothing on the side with the handle tubes and use small items first to level out the grooves. On the opposite side, I pack my toiletries, shoes, and pouches filled with small items,” says Wolf. “Always resist the urge to pack something that you may ‘try and wear on this trip’. If you didn’t wear it before, you will very likely not wear it on the trip.”
Kurkdjian tightly rolls basics—t-shirts, pants, sweaters—and places shoes stuffed with socks at the bottom of his suitcase and heavy items on the sides to shelter more delicate or fragile items. He has a clever, crease-reducing trick for tailored clothing. “Shirts can be folded in half vertically to avoid wrinkles. Flip your jacket inside out and fold the arms crossed inside,” he says.
Avec Les Filles designer Joyce Azria, who grew up in Paris and traveled extensively before settling down in Los Angeles, advises, “Tissue paper is a must-have—it helps slippery pieces like silk stay put. But more than anything it’s great to fight the wrinkles without the weight.” Another essential? “Large freezer zip-lock bags: They are perfect for everything from shoes to toiletries and keep things clean and visible,” says Marshall. “I never travel without them.”
4. Bring a virtual concierge.
Marshall uses the CityMaps2Go app to build easy, mobile itineraries. “When I get suggestions on places to see or things to do, I enter it into the app and pin it on the map,” she says. “When I arrive in the city, I have a customized map of all these great spots I’ve wanted to check out, and from there I can best plan my route and days to maximize my travel… It works offline too!”
5. Plan ahead for illness or injury.
Beauty entrepreneur James Read boosts his immune system before any journey. “When I’m going away, I make sure to get a vitamin B shot and always bring vitamin C and echinacea,” he says. “I always make sure to stock up on medications and over-the-counter basics—like Excedrin and band-aids—before I travel just in case anything goes wrong. There is nothing like having a bug bite or a killer headache and having to go to a foreign pharmacy, explain what’s wrong, and gamble on mystery pills and ointments (not to mention higher prices). I have my little medical emergency travel kit with me at all times—better safe than sorry!” says Marshall.
“Start your research eight weeks in advance by visiting the CDC’s website,” Leveen recommends. “It lists suggested vaccinations and medications by destination that will allow you to build a spreadsheet to take to the travel doctor, who will want a list of your destinations… REI has great options for first aid kits, not to mention a myriad of other suggested gadgets like sleeping bag liners and microfiber towels.”
6. Maximize in-flight comfort.
Stay hydrated, warm, and cozy on an inevitably chilly plane. “Long-haul flights require a cashmere scarf and a water-resistant toiletry kit with TSA-approved necessities: cleanser, moisturizer, lip balm, toothbrush, eye drops, ear plugs,” says Wolfe. “I pack a hat and scarf so I can cover my head while sleeping, as there is always a freezing airflow on the plane. And don’t forget to drink loads of water. It’s the best beauty product ever,” says Kurkdjian.
7. Avoid getting flagged at customs.
“Security varies from city to city, so assume they’ll let you get through with nothing and put all gifts, liquids, and tools in your checked baggage,” says Leveen. “Even wine openers and nail clippers can get confiscated. And do not travel internationally with fresh food. We were slapped with a $400 fine entering New Zealand with a fruit from Hawaii in our carry on.”
Above all, Azria says a good attitude will get you further than the most elite status. “People who work at customs and security are bombarded with all sorts of personalities. Keep a smile and be helpful. It goes a long way (although it doesn’t get you an upgrade—believe me, I’ve tried!),” she says.