please advise

Ask Chris Black: What Are Your Travel Essentials?

Photo: Yimmy Yayo; Retailers

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste-based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? Regular readers of the Strategist will know that we’ve previously turned to resident Cool Guy Chris Black (he’s a partner at brand consultancy Public Announcement) to help us answer both of those questions. For more of Chris’s advice, he’s now answering reader questions for us in a regular column. If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, drop us an email with the subject line “Ask Chris” at

Last time you went in on your travel uniform. But what are your other travel essentials, the things you simply can’t take a trip without?

The reality is, planes fuck us up. Recycled air, other people, it’s a mess! Even if I am just leaving for a few days there are some essentials I always have in my carry-on.

Eating plane food is … despicable. The smell alone makes me cringe. I always keep one of these bars in my carry-on in case I hit a wall with my intermittent fasting. They taste pretty good for a protein bar, and a ripped trainer told me they were the only ones I should eat. Need I say more?

For when AirPods just won’t do, you must have big-boy noise-canceling headphones so your chatty neighbor gets the hint. The Bose QuietComfort 35 are sleek and classic [Editor’s note: we’ve written about these headphones a few times; David Sedaris, Points Guy Brian Kelly, and Amazon reviewers also love them.] I wanted to hate them because they are standard issue for any true frequent flyer, but they are the best and therefore … I must use them.

Kindle Paperwhite - 8GB

My trusty Kindle Paperwhite, because who wants to watch that stinker Bohemian Rhapsody for the second time! Kindle is the Kleenex of the e-reader, the price is right and it does the job. Everything else I see has bells and whistles that I don’t want or need.

When I land, I want to look — and feel and smell — fresh. You never know who you are going to run into at LAX or CDG! So I also always carry Ursa Major face wipes and Carmex lip balm (to awaken and soothe my skin and lips after the recycled cabin air takes its toll on them), Weleda Skin Food (I use it to moisturize my hands), and PUR Gum (which is sugar- and aspartame-free).

I’m in need of a good, nice-looking bath mat. Everyone seems to have the Cold Picnic kind, but I think those are a little too embarrassingly millennial (and expensive!). I used to have a wooden one from Muji, which looked very nice but was impossible to keep clean. Any recommendations?

Let me be honest, bath mats are a scam! They are unsightly and can quickly give off that wet dog smell. I learned years ago that they are useless and haven’t looked back. The trick is to dry off … while standing in the shower, a simple fix! So take that money you were going to waste on a bath mat and instead invest in some truly luxurious towels.

I particularly like these from Parachute, in a simple white. Any other shade seems distracting and childish — but a chic monogram never hurt anyone.

If your tender tootsies just cannot touch the marble or tile post shower, maybe you should get some luxurious slippers? I’ve been eyeing this pair of beautiful moss-green Charvet slippers that seem like the perfect way to shuffle from the bathroom to the drawing room post cleanse. And they definitely look better than a bath mat.

Are you coveting any pairs of swim trunks this season? What are some styles you’d recommend to guys who want their trunks to stand out (but not because they’re covered with tiny lobsters)?

As we speak, I am on a European jaunt that ends in Greece, a place where a great bathing suit is absolutely necessary.

For years, I have worn a plain navy pair of trunks from Vilebrequin. The brand is known for its wild prints, but also sells trunks in a range of simple, more wearable, solid colors.

I have my eyes on some other bathers as well, though, including this trippy pair from Loewe’s third capsule with Paula’s Ibiza, which feels summery in a psychedelic way without going full tie-dye.

I’m also eyeing this sunny yellow pair from Loro Piana, which would look beautiful against the polished cherry of a vintage boat on Lake Como.

The classic Burberry check looks just as good in the pool as it does protecting you from the rain. Whatever you choose, just make sure you wear sunscreen — looking like a lobster is worse than wearing one!

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Ask Chris Black: What Are Your Travel Essentials?