Meet Hitha Palepu, packing expert, renowned author, travel blogger and CEO of an early stage life sciences company. Phew, that was a mouthful but she is a lady who manages to do it all. She honed her packing prowess while running business development for a pharmaceutical company. But even before that, she has been traveling her entire life, acquiring her first passport stamp at 6 months old. After flying over 500,000 miles around the world, she’s developed the ultimate system for stylish, carry-on packing. We’re honored and so excited to share the packing queen’s tips right here!
Describe your earliest travel memory.
It’s not my earliest, but it’s the most memorable. I got terribly lost (like on the other side of the terminal lost) when I was 9 years old, in the St. Louis airport. My parents and I were mutually terrified, and I couldn’t understand my name on the overhead speaker. It all turned out okay - a very kind flight attendant brought me to my parents, and we made our flight. Alls well that ends well.
What or who inspired you to travel?
My mother is my main traveling inspiration. She had no issues with picking up and taking me all over the world, no matter how young I am. So many of our experiences are my favorite memories - riding camels in Egypt, watching lions nap in the Okuwangu Delta in Botswana, haggling with vendors everywhere. I hope to have the same memories with my own kids as they grow older.
Tell us about your travel essentials.
A great piece of luggage (I love the AWAY suitcase), and inside I swear by solid packing accessories like my Hudson+Bleecker shoe bag and an organized jewelry case (Nomad Lane designed a fantastic one, hint hint). I only bring two pairs of shoes for every trip, which helps to literally lighten the load. I bring my Dagne Dover backpack as my personal item, and pack my Chanel WOC or Lo & Sons Pearl inside of it. Hotels are notorious for too few outlets, so I bring a 4-USB port wall adapter that can charge all my small devices simultaneously. And while my iPhone’s camera is good, I always bring one of my Leica cameras (either the Q or the D-LUX 100) when I travel.
What’s your packing style/strategy?
It’s all in my book! The short version - write a list, ensure you’re wearing every main clothing item twice, edit down accessories, and bring along the list so you can recheck it when packing to return home. You can get the packing list I use here, and a copy of my book here.
Do you prefer to work on flights or disconnect (watch movies, read etc.)?
It depends - but I rarely do both. If I’m behind on e-mails or feeling particularly inspired, I’ll work through the entire flight without a break. If I’m wiped and need to relax, I’ll grab my Kindle and headphones and unwind. Regardless of whatever I pick, I’m always chugging water and reapplying face cream and lip balm every hour.
What has been your favorite place to visit so far
Saint Petersburg, Russia. I’ve been lucky to have been there 3 times - in 2000, 2013, and 2015. It’s changed every time I’ve visited, but remains a time capsule of different eras of history - the golden age of Russia under Peter The Great, the Cold War, and the modern Russia. I’m a big Russian history buff, and seeing the places I’ve studied for years is always a thrill.
One thing you can’t live without on a flight
My Kindle, with at least 10 new books downloaded on it. Flights are my favorite time (and the only time I have) to binge read. I'm currently reading the Lyndon B Johnson series by Caro, and am hoping to put a big dent in them during our upcoming trip to Hawaii.
Do you head to the airport with plenty of time to spare or just in the nick of time?
Plenty of time. I like to get to the airport at the recommended 2 hours early, and typically go straight into the Delta Sky Club on arrival. It’s the best perk, by far, of the American Express Platinum card. I drink a ton of water (and refill my S’well bottle), eat some snacks, charge my devices, and get a little bit of work done so I can truly unplug on the flight. If it’s an evening flight, I’ll enjoy a glass of wine as well. There are worse places to wait for a flight - like stuck in traffic.
Check in or carry on?
Carry on, always.
Airplane food or bring your own meal?
Shake Shack in Terminal 4 in JFK - always and forever. Otherwise, whatever the Delta Sky Club has to offer. If I’m catching a morning flight, I’ll make a savory oatmeal from the breakfast bar - oats, jalapenos, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and Tabasco sauce. It sounds strange, but it’s actually delicious.
Aisle or window?
Usually window - I like to lean against the window so I can sleep, and I like to coordinate bathroom trips with the my seat neighbors so we get up and sit down at the same time. I learned this trick during my flights to and from Australia, and it’s a trick I employ for every long haul flight.
One thing on your travel bucketlist
Antarctica! It’s the only continent I haven’t visited, and I’m eager to go - before it melts down.