Travel by definition is not static — it's being on the move, with changing locations and changing perspectives. In a new series, Travel + Leisure is profiling some of the game changers in the travel sphere that are taking innovation on the road.

Melanie Lieberman
November 20, 2017

Before co-founding TheVane, an app that tells you what to pack for every trip, Chubi Nwagbara was a management consultant traveling about 49 weeks of the year.

Being on the road so much made it clear to Nwagbara what a pain packing can be, from overpacking to extra luggage fees to always seeming to lack one key item.

“I realized there was nothing out there that helped people try to do a better job,” Nwagbara told Travel + Leisure.

Related: How Hopper’s Maggie Moran Is Changing the Way You Plan and Book Travel

The result is an app that considers a user’s personal details, as well as the length of the trip and destination, to generate a curated, fashion-driven packing list.

Courtesy of Chubi Nwagbara

If something appears on your packing list that you don’t have hanging in the closet, you can purchase it directly through the app — and even have it delivered to your destination.

T+L spoke with Nwagbara about packing smart, and about what's next for TheVane and Nwagbara.

Travel + Leisure: What is exciting about working for an app that is innovating in a traditionally low-tech space?

Chubi Nwagbara: “[Packing] is something everybody does. And no one is really trying to make this better. We are looking to be an early mover, and be able to mold how people view the packing experience. So we’re excited because it’s a chance for us to make [packing] better. As a start-up, we can move quickly and get feedback from users in a very agile way. Every day is different."

T+L: Who is using TheVane?

“Due to the fashion bent of TheVane, recommending what goes in your suitcase, we [tend to] get more women. From an age standpoint, it varies quite a bit, from 25 to 65. We get a lot of feedback from our slightly older users. They’re always the ones saying, ‘Can you make it do this?’ But on average, I would say our user is a woman in her 30s on a leisure trip. Which is interesting, because this idea came to me as a business traveler.”

T+L: How do you see technology changing the way people pack?

“Tech is here to make people's lives better. I think that’s exactly what we’re building [TheVane] to do for the packing space. We strongly believe that knowing what you need before your trip actually does inspire confidence. Whether you’re exploring a new city, traveling for a job interview, visiting in-laws who don’t like you that much, or relaxing on the beach, packing the right things improves your travel experience.”

Related: How to Pack Lighter, Smarter, and Faster, According to T+L Editors

T+L: What are your plans for TheVane?

“One of the ways we can [improve packing], in addition to our app, is to give travel companies our packing technology — and have them help their customers. Hotels, for example. When you book a four night stay, a hotel can say, ‘This is what you need to pack.’”

T+L: Do you have any low-tech tips for packing better?

“I’m a duffel-bag-weekender guy. I zip everything into my weekender ... If you pack it properly, you can make it work for a week. I also use travel cubes and compression bags. If I'm traveling and going anywhere for more than five days, you will see me with my duffel weekender and my backpack. I don’t like checking bags — I’m a carry-on person.”

T+L: How does travel inspire you?

“I’m a naturalized American. I was not born here, and I moved to the United States as a kid. Travel is multi-cultural. It’s a part of my DNA, and who I am. Travel inspires me because I believe it makes the world a better place. More specifically, I noticed people who travel more are generally more understanding and accepting of other people. That’s something we could use a little more right now. Travel is all about acceptance, understanding, adventure, and recognizing how unique our experiences are in different parts of the world, yet how we have common threads through all of humanity.”

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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