What Author Celeste Ng Brings in Her Carry-on

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Photo: Strategist, Portrait by Kevin Day Photography

The winter holiday season is here, which means, for many of us, winter holiday travel. To help us decide what to pack (and what to pack it in), we’ve enlisted some celebrities to tell us what they’re lugging. Today, the travel essentials of novelist Celeste Ng, who just completed her book tour for Little Fires Everywhere. Welcome to My Carry-on.

Just before I went on book tour, a friend gave me this, and I wish I’d had it years ago. [Editor’s note: We’ve named it the best travel pillow, too.] It’s incredibly comfortable, super light, and way easier to pack than a regular travel pillow. I usually can’t sleep on planes, but with this, I did and do.

Yet another friend gave me this travel blanket — apparently, I have well-known travel anxieties. It’s super soft, rolls up really small, and can double as a scarf or a wrap. I think of it as my secret superhero cape (slash grownup security blanket).

Two days into my four-week book tour, my well-traveled tote that I’d carried for years bit the dust, and I had to replace it on the fly. This Timbuk2 bag is built like a tank and has a pocket for everything — it’s my Leviathan. There’s a hidden expandable pocket in the middle that’s supposed to be for a yoga mat, but I stick my jacket and a snack in there.

I play music on my phone to fall asleep when I’m on the road and as an alarm clock to wake me up, so I need it nearby — but there are never outlets by the bed in hotels! This superlong charging cord solves that problem. And I guarantee next time you’re in an airport sitting comfortably in a chair with your phone plugged in eight feet away, instead of crouched on the floor by the outlet, people are going to ask where you got the cord.

I keep a writer’s notebook and also put all my daily schedules and to-do lists in it. Leuchtturms are my favorites — they come in beautiful colors, have page numbers, and are just the right size to fit in my purse. I prefer the dotted pages, because they’re helpful when I need straight lines and easy to ignore when I don’t. Compared to a Moleskine, the paper is thicker, there are two ribbon bookmarks, and they come with stickers for labeling and archiving afterward (nerd bonus); plus, at least at my local stationery store, they’re cheaper than Moleskines to boot.

I stick on this pen loop and keep my notebook in my bag at all times.

I lose pens a lot, so I don’t use fancy ones. These pens are inexpensive, fine-point, and always write smoothly — I’ve never had one skip. [Editor’s note: Writer and illustrator Joana Avillez likes the very slightly thicker version of this same pen.]

A friend recommended these for travel — they’re antibacterial, and they smell fantastic: aromatherapy in a foil-wrapped packet. At night, when I’m traveling, I wipe my phone with the lavender one, and then put the cloth on my pillow to help me fall asleep.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to earphones — I just use the ones that came with my phone! — but I hate when the cord gets tangled. This keeps it all bundled, and the sparkle makes it easy to find in my bag.

The metallic gold version is no longer available, but here is a metallic turquoise option.

Traveling makes my hands so dry they crack (all the dry airplane air, etc.). I walked into an airport Kiehl’s and they hooked me up with this: a superrich hand cream that isn’t greasy and smells ever so faintly of eucalyptus, all in a tube small enough to get through security.

This is my go-to lip balm: moisturizing and just a hint of color.

Whenever I travel, I seem to get sick — it’s probably inevitable when you’re on a plane every single day. When, despite my best efforts, I feel a cold coming on, I take Zicam right away. It really does seem to shorten the length of the cold, or knock it down to just a few days — I swear by it. I’ll also try to fight it by taking an Emergen-C packet every morning.

I really don’t sleep well when I’m on the road — especially when I finish an event at 9, get back to the hotel at 9:30, and then have to eat dinner and get up at 5:30 the next morning; it’s hard to turn off my brain. Calm’s Sleep Stories have really helped. They’re little stories or narrated meditations, 15 or 20 minutes long, designed to lull you to sleep. Some are more storylike, but I prefer the nonfiction: Stephen Fry describing a walk through a lavender field in Provence; a Welsh farmer describing different breeds of sheep; the British shipping forecast, which is just wind and visibility reports for places all over Britain. I turn one on when I’m ready to sleep, and I almost never reach the end.

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What Author Celeste Ng Brings in Her Carry-on