What’s In Your Carry-On? 6 Things That Keep Me Comfortable and Productive on the Road

Nate wrote in to ask me about my travel packing strategy:

“My burning question for you right now is what are your essential items that keep you comfortable and productive while you travel (virtual or real)? How has this list changed over time – or has it even changed since you published your first book?”

My answer is that it’s changed a little over time, but not by much. When it comes to travel, I’m a creature of habit and routine. I take the same things with me everywhere I go, and everything fits in a single carry-on bag + my laptop bag (never check luggage!).

The list of longtime necessities is basic:

1. Computer (currently a 13” MacBook Air)

2. Journal (currently a custom moleskine with my monogram on the front—thanks, Marie!)

3. Running Shoes

4. At least two Vega bars on hand whenever possible (chocolate peanut butter are the best)

5. Latest issues of the New Yorker

6. Packets of Nescafé or Starbucks Via for emergency coffee situations

I realize that list is pretty boring. That’s how it works, though: I keep it simple so I can focus on other things.

A year or so ago I tried to find a replacement for my long-time Empire Builder bag. I’ve been carrying this bag for several years, hundreds of thousands of miles, and nearly 100 countries. I bought a couple of other bags to try out, but ended up returning them. Nothing beats the Empire Builder!

A couple things have changed, however:

  • I now have a set of everything I need that I keep in my bag even when I’m home. That way, half of the bag is already packed when I take it out of the closet for a trip. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that until after 10 years of travel…
  • I now take jeans with me everywhere. The classic world traveler advice is to avoid jeans, since they take up a lot of space and aren’t suitable for every climate. Like a lot of classic travel advice, I think if you want to wear jeans, you should wear jeans.

So yeah, it’s basic. I make so many travel decisions on a regular basis (booking 5-10 flights a month on average, along with at least that many hotel stays) that keeping the packing list narrowed down to essentials frees up my mind for more important things.

How do you pack—what’s in your carry-on? What makes your life better on the road?


Images: 1 & 2

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