A few weeks ago, everything changed. The U.S. as a whole was just beginning to acknowledge the pandemic that is COVID-19, but in New York City, where I live, people returning from Europe were already self-quarantining—some offices were even starting to work from home. I was meant to fly to Austin for the weekend and was faced with two options: go, and self-quarantine when I come back, or stay home and see how this thing unfolds. I chose to travel, and what a choice that has turned out to be!
The day I landed was the day the rest of the country started taking the virus seriously; the rapid infection rate started creating widespread panic. In Austin, people were freaking out. Bars and restaurants were closing, the grocery store was ransacked, and the gym was off limits.
My friends and I decided to decamp to Marfa, but upon arrival, the Saint George was already shutting down. So further west we went—to El Paso, Las Cruces (shout out to Spirit Winds) and then Tucson, on an unplanned road trip through the American Southwest. In Phoenix, my friends decided to continue on to Palm Springs, but I was nervous about getting stuck there with no real end in sight. Instead, I said goodbye and went to Las Vegas, where I had family, thinking it would be easier to fly back to NYC when it was time.
It has now been four weeks since I’ve seen my apartment, with nothing but a small duffle bag containing two changes of clothes and whatever toiletries I absentmindedly threw in for “a quick two-day trip” in my possession. If there’s anything I’ve learned through this, it’s what necessities I’ll never again travel without.
As a guy, but also just as a human frequent traveler, you need products that are multi-purpose, not fussy, and not messy. Two things I have now re-confirmed to work amazingly well are Kiehl’s Age Defender Face Wash and Supergoop’s City Sunscreen Serum.
The face wash comes in a slick black tube, which, at 2.5 ounces, is perfect for travel. The product itself is also black (thanks to Moroccan Lava Clay), which makes me think I’m getting a deep clean (thanks to aggressive Instagram ads for charcoal-infused everything). What makes this especially great is that you can use it daily as a face wash but also leave it on as a mask—two things in one! I only wish they made the bottle refillable.
The sunscreen serum is another two-in-one product that’s become a must-have. I know I’m supposed to wear sunscreen, but I don’t usually. You might not either. I have oily skin and will only use a light, oil-free moisturizer, so the thought of putting sunscreen on top of that has always turned me off. However, this stuff is super lightweight, already has the sunscreen in it, and is octinoxate-free, which makes it safe for coral reefs.
The next thing that I’ve learned is a travel essential is a buzzer. I did not bring my Wahl Peanut with me and I cry just thinking about it. Guys know—once your beard gets to be a certain length, you can’t really just go in with a razor. (Add to the list of things I did not bring with me but wish I did: my Amazon Kindle. I take back every trip I’ve taken with this trusty device left for dead at the bottom of my bag. I miss you, old friend.).
Previously, I had purchased these Bravo Sierra Antibacterial Wipes for a backpacking trip to Havasupai, and I was thankful to find them in my bag. They most certainly came in handy when I was driving for hours at a time during a nationwide shortage of hand sanitizer. Speaking of which, crossing multiple time zones and freak desert weather was not a fun combination for my skin. I was told to use these Mighty Patch patches overnight anytime I felt a breakout brewing, but they are pretty invisible, should you need to wear them during the day (you know, like while driving for 10 hours through the desert). My consensus: These patches are legit! You know when you can feel a spot brewing under your skin, but you can’t quite see anything yet? Put this patch on before you go to bed and that zit will never see the light of day.
Rounding out my dopp-slash-survival kit is Weleda Everon lip balm, Aesop Deodorant Roll-On and Beekeeper’s Naturals Propolis Spray. Lip balm is a given—you need it on an airplane and anywhere with dry air, but I have chronically dry lips and feel that Everon’s is truly the best (and I have tried them all). Aesop deodorant because 1) it’s a roll-on that goes on clear, 2) smells amazing and 3) is the perfect size for travel (it’s smaller than a normal deodorant).
The propolis spray is something I always have with me for general immunity and I highly recommend; it’s also small in size and stops a scratchy throat in its tracks. I have found it to be especially useful now, given the circumstances.
All of these products have served me well in general, but even more so in isolation, on the road and away from home. None of these products are particularly expensive, they last a good while and travel well, and I’d recommend them to anyone, whether you're traveling or just looking for some quality everyday essentials.
One last tip: skip packing shampoo or body wash. They're bulky and take up space, and either the hotel or host at your destination will have always them. A travel tip to remember for when this is all over.