The Travel Essentials That Anthony Bourdain Would Always Pack For A Trip

Anthony Bourdain knew a lot about travel. Though he got his start as a chef in New York City, he became a household name as the star of travel food shows "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" and "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown." On the shows, the foodie visited not only tourist hotspots (Tokyo, Las Vegas, Berlin) but also less-traveled destinations (Congo, Ethiopia, Bhutan). He reportedly spent 200 to 250 days a year on the road, shooting for the TV series and exploring new and exotic destinations.

With so much jet-setting under his belt before his tragic death in 2018, Bourdain offered a lot of valuable wisdom for the rest of us explorers (even if we only dream of traveling for a living like he did). Case in point: his packing tips. To start, the TV star only used sturdy luggage that could survive being manhandled. "I don't like having to worry about taking it easy on luggage when I'm throwing it in an overhead bin or tossing it on the tarmac," he told Men's Journal, adding that his luggage of choice was a "near-bulletproof" Tumi suitcase. Then, Bourdain separated his belongings into one carry-on bag full of essentials and his larger luggage, which he always checked, according to an Esquire interview.

So what exactly did he put inside his travel bags? Like many, Bourdain was known to pack necessities, such as medicine and a laptop. However, some of his must-haves were a little more offbeat — just like Bourdain and his adventures.

A fiction book

Travel guides can be a useful way to learn about a location's top sights and attractions, but Anthony Bourdain preferred fiction books to better understand a place's overall vibe. "I bring at least one physical book [when traveling], I find that comforting," he told The New York Times. "Often a book set in the country that I'm headed towards. A work of fiction, preferably. The perfect book to read before you go to Vietnam is Graham Greene's 'The Quiet American.' Fiction seems to capture the place in a way that's more tangible. It just works for me better than a travel guide."

Specifically, the former chef told ShermansTravel that he preferred novels written by people who have spent a long amount of time in the destination. "Ex-intelligence officers, NGO workers. It doesn't matter how old the book is, it'll give you a sense of how a place smells, feels, the little intricacies, annoyances, and delights of a place," he revealed.

A book can come in handy during long-haul flights or layovers, and reading can be a relaxing way to unplug from your devices while on vacation. However, if you intend to pack light, consider adding a digital copy of a book to your tablet or phone instead.

A hidden knife

As a chef and food lover, Anthony Bourdain likely knew a thing or two about cooking knives. When traveling, though, the TV show host brought along a different type of knife: a hidden credit card knife. "If it's a place with heavy street crime, I have this sneaky credit card that turns into a knife," he shared with The New York Times. "It's not something you'd want to get into a serious fight with, but it might be a rude surprise should someone grab you from behind as you enter your hotel room."

The recommendation isn't surprising, given Bourdain's edgy, punk-rock reputation. Still, traveling with knives can be tricky and should be done with caution. According to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, pocket knives and other sharp objects must be kept in checked baggage and are prohibited in carry-on luggage. Moreover, knives must be securely covered to avoid injury.

Some destinations may also prohibit pocket knives and other self-defense tools. For instance, France bans the transportation of weapons unless you prove a legitimate reason. Carrying a knife or other weapon could lead to a 15,000 euro fine and a one-year prison sentence.


Over 90% of travelers (unsurprisingly) feel compelled to take their smartphones on vacation, according to a 2023 BankMyCell survey, and Anthony Bourdain was no different. He was known to bring multiple devices on his trips to stay connected. He once told Travel Channel that he refused to travel without his iPhone, a Mac laptop, "good" headphones, and an iPad. He elaborated to Esquire, "And the iPad is essential. I load it up with books to be read, videos, films, games, apps, because I'm assuming there will be downtime. You can't count on good films on an airplane."

Having access to entertainment and apps can be a lifesaver when waiting for a delayed flight or while stranded in a long taxi stand line. Just be sure to keep an eye on your data roaming when using your phone overseas or get an international SIM in advance. In an interview with HuffPost, Bourdain added, "​​Also pack a charger to power up."

Workout apparel

Workout clothing might be a packing staple for many travelers, but for Anthony Bourdain, your typical jogging pants and breathable T-shirt don't quite fit the bill. The globetrotter explained to Men's Journal that he stayed fit by practicing the martial arts sport jiu-jitsu, even when on the road. "I train wherever I go," he shared. "No matter what city I'm in, if there is a gym that calls itself Jiu Jitsu, I will be there. I will just walk into a class."

To get his jiu-jitsu fix, Bourdain always made sure to pack the right attire. "I bring a couple of [the uniforms called] gi, actually, because one has to give serious consideration, always, I have found, to laundry cycles in hotels," he told The New York Times. "I'm very aware that you need to get it in by 9 or 10 if you want it back the same day and one can't always do that. I'm a worst-case scenario planner, so chances are I'll bring three gi just in case the laundry cycle is not what I would like."

Even if a martial arts uniform isn't in your luggage, Bourdain's tip still applies: Bring multiple sets of activewear, in case you don't have a chance to wash them in time. That way, you never have to skip a workout.

Digestion medication

Food poisoning is an unfortunate reality of travel — one 2015 study published in BMJ Clinical Evidence suggested that 30% to 70% of all international travelers develop gastrointestinal symptoms during or just after their trips. Anthony Bourdain could relate, admitting to TV Guide in 2011 that he had suffered from food poisoning twice while filming for his TV shows. For the foodie, digestive upset was just part of the experience. He told ShermansTravel, "[E]ating and getting out and expressing a willingness to try something new is the best way to see the country. You'll see things you'd never see otherwise. When it comes to that, the possibility of diarrhea is well worth it."

To prepare for the worst, he always packed stomach medication on his trips. "Imodium is important," Bourdain explained to Esquire. "The necessity for Imodium will probably present itself, and you don't want to be caught without it." According to, Imodium is a brand name for loperamide, a medicine that slows digestion and treats diarrhea. Imodium is available over the counter, so you don't need a doctor's prescription to travel with it. However, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration suggests clearly labeling any medication in your luggage for screening purposes.