As they say,
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
That first crucial step is usually packing your travel bag.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled to over 35 countries in my 20s and I’m currently traveling to Asia for both business and leisure, so while I’m here, I thought I’d share what I like to pack into my travel bags to make traveling that much easier and more enjoyable.
I’ve recently ditched my almost decade-old luggage bag and upgraded to the Carl Friedrik Check-In – it has got to be one of the more distinctly better luggage bags I’ve used that is fit for 2-3 weeks of travel essentials.
When paired up with a leather initial tag for personalization, I’ve yet to see someone else mistake my luggage for their own.
The wheels are made by the highly-regarded Japanese manufacturer, Hinomoto, the gold standard when it comes to silent luggage spinner wheels. At the same time, the dual aluminum locks essentially give you the choice of a 6-number TSA lock.
Any longer and you may want the Large Check-In. Honestly, most decent luggage will get the job done as long as the build quality is there.
The Carl Fredrik Check-In gets the sleek design right, especially with the Italian leather detailing.
My go-to travel bag ever since I got it is the Bowen Bag, also made by Carl Friedrik.
It’s small enough to take around day-to-day to most places and large enough to house a padded laptop area and several sleeves for other items like my hard drive and daily essentials.
Because I take this bag around everywhere, its build and durability are very important and thankfully we have that with the Bowen – it’s made of Italian Vachetta leather and a heavy-duty Raccagni zipper.
Seriously, I’ve gone through plenty of bags while traveling in the past and I’ve even had a camera travel bag break on me the time I was in Hawaii – an expensive lens fell out and shattered so I learned from my mistakes – invest in a good backpack if you plan to travel with it.
Next up is the laptop I take on the go, currently the MacBook 14” with the M1 Pro chip and only 16GB of memory but it’s more than enough as my daily driver even when I’m abroad.
The laptop is housed in the Grams28 114 Leather Folio sleeve, also made of Italian leather and monogrammed with initials. It’s soft to the touch and quite versatile with plenty of internal pockets for accessories, pens, and notepads.
I like to store my passport in a holder for convenience – it saves me from fumbling around at the airport check-in counters and dreaded security checks, particularly at large airports such as LAX. I’ve been using this one here for years and it’s just from Typo.
Speaking of airports and planes, one of my must-have travel items is a good water bottle. So a small travel hack I have is bringing an empty water bottle on planes and asking for it to be filled up before the flight takes off.
My go-to water bottle is the LARQ’s Filtered bottle – an aesthetic water bottle that appeals to my design and inner tech geek with its advanced filtration system. The detachable carabiner and pop-up straw make it nifty and travel-friendly.
The built-in and replaceable filter removes foreign materials in water like lead, metals, and chlorine. It’s able to filter up to 150 liters or 40 gallons of water, so you’d be saving the environment from about 300 single-use plastic bottles with every filter. I have it interchanged frequently with the PureVis Cap, which features a very nifty UV-C LED underneath to clean up to 99% of bacteria not only in the water but the entire bottle.
So between the UV light filtration and physical filtration from the bottle’s filter, I’m getting really clean water in a good-looking water bottle and it’s a game-changer when it comes to staying hydrated when on the go.
Everyone needs a pen while traveling for moments like filling out customs forms on the plane, and the Mark One Pen by Studio Neat is one I’ve been enjoying a lot. It’s a custom-machined all-metal pen with a ceramic exterior coating.
This one here is in the White + Copper colorway and I just find it sleek as heck. The custom click mechanism is also satisfying as heck.
I also have a couple of their notebooks thrown into the bag which is nice to draw on whenever I have an idea or thought to scribble out.
6. Sonos Roam
Next is the Sonos Roam and really, this one is more of a nice to have than an essential, but I personally can’t go without it now because I’m always left wanting more when it comes to speakers in hotel rooms.
The Roam is a simple, portable Waterproof Smart Speaker that sounds far more impressive than its size might imply.
It’s perfect for hotel sing-alongs or beach-side tunes, and my friends and family seem to really enjoy it too!
7. Bose QC35
When it comes to headphones, I still use the good old Bose QC35s on planes. The noise cancellation on these remains second to none and it almost completely cuts out the monotone hum of the engine during long-haul flights whether you’re listening to music or watching a movie.
Ever since I got it, it’s been a game-changer for me for in-flight entertainment or when transiting around countries.
8. Fujifilm X100V + Adapter + Moment Cinebloom Lens
Next up is probably my favorite purchase in recent times, the Fuji X100V.
With the amazing lens, beautiful camera body, and compact size – it is my one go-to camera I take almost everywhere with me.
If you’ve seen my review video on this bad boy, I’ve called it the best travel camera I’ve ever used because the photos that come out without any sort of post-editing are absolutely insane. Add to that the amazing Fuji film simulations and a custom film sim that I’ve tweaked that seems to work in almost all situations.
Since the review, I’ve added a Fujifilm lens adapter and added onto the threads a Cinebloom diffusion filter to take that film-like aesthetic to the next level.
The photos that have come out of this camera paired with the cinebloom lens and custom film simulation have been so, so good. I’ll probably get some of them processed as prints and if you want to check out more of my shots, I have a separate Instagram profile for casual snaps abroad @aez.photos.
9. Cartier Santos
I personally like to travel with at least one timepiece on my wrist, and the one I’ve recently fallen in love with is the Cartier Santos.
It’s subtle enough to safely travel with, but also iconic enough to be recognized by watch enthusiasts.
I personally think it’s one of the best-proportioned watches aesthetically and its iconic square design and bracelet are timeless.
If you also travel with a timepiece, I highly recommend investing in a good watch roll so you can throw your timepiece into your bag or luggage without worrying about it getting scuffed up.
I have the one shown above from a local niche brand, Banks & Sloane, and it’s pretty sturdy with a strong outer case made of cowhide leather and an inner soft suede lining.
11. Oura Ring
Because I don’t want to be the guy who wears an Apple watch and a mechanical watch at the same time, I usually take my Oura Ring abroad.
It’s not the same thing as an Apple Watch but at least I get sleep tracking and basic activity tracking while I’m out and about during the day.
The amazing thing about the Oura Ring though is that if I’m going on a short 1-week trip, the Oura Ring 3 can survive the entire trip on a single full charge, making it a great travel companion.
I prefer carrying cards rather than cash, so I just purchased this simple Goyard card holder while I was in Singapore. Because there’s so little bulk to this, it’s easy to travel with. Pretty straightforward, but it’s a nice touch of subtle luxury.
13. iPhone 12 Pro
Let’s not forget about the phone I use, I still carry an iPhone 12 Pro. I typically skip generational upgrades — I just personally don’t see the benefit in the yearly hassle of upgrading unless there’s a huge leap forward.
This works more than fine for daily use and while traveling given I take photos using the X100V.
14. Orbit Key Nest + SSD Drive
Next is my OrbitKey Nest and SSD Drive for extra physical and digital storage.
This portable 500GB Samsung SSD drive here lets me edit and store videos and photos on the go. For quick access, I keep it within the Nest together with the Apple Magic Mouse, batteries, and other small items.
The cool thing about the Nest is it doubles up as a 10W wireless charging pad when hooked up to a USB port.
15. Kindle Oasis
When it comes to travel and portability, it makes zero sense to lug around paperback books – they’re heavy, they tear, and they’re not waterproof.
The Kinde solves all those issues, it holds literally thousands of books, and you can take notes on it easily, the Oasis version is waterproof and super thin so I can throw it into the Bowen Bag and go. The battery lasts for weeks on end and that’s with 30mins to an hour of reading a day so you can literally last an entire trip on a single charge and leave the cables at home!
16. Cable Pouch
With all this tech, naturally, there is a ton of cables and chargers I need to take with me so the easy solution here is to keep them neatly stored in a cable pouch here.
It’s usually sitting in my home office and I just grab it and go when I’m traveling so I don’t need to think about it much.
17. Aesop Travel Kit and Muk Hair Wax
When it comes to travel toiletries, the Aesop travel kit takes most of that load off my shoulders.
I’m usually never a fan of in-hotel toiletries but I do love Aesop toiletries and this kit includes 9 different items from skincare, to shampoos and toothpaste essentials.
I throw in my hair wax in there too. I use the Muk Styling Mud, which is a really tough hold with a matte, low sheen finish. I find it great for thick Asian hair like myself lol and it holds pretty well in hot, humid climates like Singapore then comes off easy with shampoo at the end of the day.
Another thing I have in my toiletries bag is the Phillips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush and this one’s a must when traveling. After changing to an electric toothbrush, I can’t go without it even for just a day so I pack this with me on my travels – it’s a little bulkier but totally worth it.
A good pair of sunglasses is an obvious staple and the one I have here is the Rayban Clubmaster, which has a classic, clean silhouette that fits most outfits.
They’re polarized, which supposedly offers double the protection from UV rays in comparison to non-polarized sunglasses.
These with a button-down white linen shirt, and you’re good to go to most tropical destinations!
That’s it for my Carry Bag Essentials. I find being prepared in advance for travel to be more enjoyable especially when you pack well.
If there are travel essentials you don’t go without and you think I’m missing in my bag, please do drop a comment below!