The T+L Carry-On: Professional Dancer, Actor, and Musician Derek Hough
Welcome to our series, the T+L Carry-On, where we take a look inside the luggage of those who find themselves frequently traveling around the world—and gain a few expert tips along the way.
This week, we sat down with Salt Lake City native Derek Hough at the Millenium Hilton in New York City to talk about his travel essentials, upcoming projects, in-flight tips, and more. For the full interview, read on; plus, don’t forget to check out last week’s column with Sports Illustrated model Ebonee Davis.
On His Relationship With Travel:
“I started traveling as a kid; road trips with my family to places like the Grand Canyon, Moab, Idaho—all wilderness based. And then once I turned 12, I started traveling consistently—dance is what took me away. I’d go to Hawaii, San Francisco, New York…but then I moved to London when I was a kid, and I traveled all around Great Britain. Then I’d go to France, Germany, Holland, Russia, Japan, Italy—I was all over the place. This was all for competitive dance; I won my World Championship in the Czech Republic, and then I was in Poland the next day, and then I went to Auschwitz. It was like, being in the highest high of your life, but then being totally humbled.
I’m really drawn tropical places near the beach, because most of the time for work, I’m in places that are indoors and quite dark—dressing rooms, stages, buses. So the idea of being outside and in the sun and in the ocean is amazing. Recently, I’ve traveled to places like Bora Bora, New Zealand, and Fiji. I love to travel—I think I get it from my Dad. We just have that adventurous spirit. Literally, even if I only have a couple of days off, I’ll go somewhere. I just had two days off, so I drove to Big Sur and it was one of the most beautiful trips ever.
There was a time I was traveling every week for 10 weeks. I’d fly out Sunday night, arrive Monday morning in L.A., do my show, and fly back to New York to do Radio City. So I’d do 13 shows here and go back to do Dancing With The Stars. It was nuts, but I kind of liked it.”
Travel Rituals and Tips:
“I always stretch before getting on a plane. People think I’m weird because I’ll be in the airport doing full yoga stretches and kicking my legs up. They look at me strange, but I’m like, 'You’re going to wish you did this stretch before you got on the plane.’ I don’t feel embarrassed or anything by it—stretching is important when you’re traveling, especially for me, at least. And I drink tons and tons of water—like copious amounts. You cannot drink enough water.”
“I tend to pack light and try to avoid checking a bag if I can. I just bring the basics: fresh underwear, socks, deodorant—I love Old Spice Fresh. I’ve worn that ever since I was a teenager and it just kind of stuck with me. And gym clothes and shoes, always; I normally wear Nike. I use the Lancer Method for skincare, and then I’ll take my laptop, chargers, and iPad (to draw on). Normally I’d take books, but now I can just read them on the iPad. Right now, I’m reading The Seven Paths. I’m going on this trip with my Dad to Arizona with the Anasazi Indians, and you’re supposed to read it before you go on this trip. And then, If I’m traveling for work, I’ll bring Icy Hot—you’ve just got to be careful where you put it, but that’s always really good for dance. There have been times where I’ve traveled with a stool, because I was dancing with a stool.
I always have headphones. I use Beats by Dre. I love the wireless ones that hook around your ear—they’re the best. I have so many headphones—it’s one of the things I always end up collecting, because in the airport they all just look so appealing. I’m just like, ‘I could do with those yellow headphones.’ And I’ll take my camera, or my drone if I’m going on a really cool trip to get some cool aerial stuff—I’m always taking pictures. But that’s pretty much it—just the essentials. As they say, ‘shower, shave, deodorize, accessorize’.”
His 'Our Stage, Your Story' Partnership with Hilton:
“OurStageYourStory.com is a program I’m working on with Hilton, and it’s basically a platform to create your own vision board—something very simple to help envision your dream vacation and travels. Complexity is the enemy of execution, so the simpler you can make something, the more likely you’ll follow through with it, and this makes it very simple and accessible. Sometimes we always have these things in our head, but when you actually put them down on paper, or somewhere you can see it—where it’s tangible—it makes it more real. I’ve actually gotten some really great feedback from fans who saw me work on this, and they actually went and made their vision boards and sent them to me.”
How He Stays Fit on the Go:
“If I’m at a hotel with a gym, I’ll try and use it, but if I can’t, or if it’s not a great one, I’ll just do push-ups or sit-ups or something like that. I actually have an app on my phone that walks you through exercises. P90x—you can have it on your phone and it’s an ab-ripper. It’s like 20 minutes and you can just do your workout in your hotel room.”
“I always wear these Diesel boots that zip on the side—they’re brilliant, and I wear them all the time—I even dance in them. But the game changer of all game changers is JoggJeans—they’re the best. I’ve been wearing them for like five years now—I’m wearing them now, and they’re also by Diesel. They’re great for dancing, too. People will ask me, 'How do you wear jeans when you dance?’ And I’m like, ‘They’re actually really comfortable and stretchy.’ They're perfect for travel.
“In-flight, I use these droplets called Sovereign Silver you can put in water. It’s really, really good for your immune system. If you’re starting to feel sick, just put some under your tongue—it’s great. And when I get off the plane, I’ll take a shot of something with ginger, oregano oil, lemon, and cayenne pepper. I go to Earthbar in L.A., or Juice Press in New York. Also—body lotion is key. I hate having dry skin—it drives me nuts. I use everything from Jo Malone to Vaseline. I’ll honestly use anything, because dry skin on a plane is just the worst.”
Bucket List Destinations:
“I’m an adventure guy—I’ve got to go see the Sun Temple, and I’ve got to go to South America—it’s the one continent I haven’t been to. And Egypt; I’ve got to go to Egypt. I was so obsessed with Egyptian History, and I wanted to be an archeologist when I was a kid, so I’ve definitely got to go there. And I’d love to go to Antarctica actually; I’d love do a helicopter tour and see the glaciers and capture some amazing stuff. ”
“I’ve done skydiving several times, and scuba diving is always an amazing adventure. One of my first scuba diving trips, I went 100 feet down to a sunken ship and saw sharks—I’ve swam with sharks with no cage, and I’ve done rock climbing. I’d love to ice climb, too. There’s an amazing waterfall in Utah where you can climb the frozen waterfall, which is beautiful.”
Biggest Travel Pet Peeve:
“Bad smells—it’s the worst. But also screaming kids—that’s why you have noise canceling headphones. I was actually on a plane with this kid screaming—she sounded possessed. There was no way this voice was coming from a little girl. But eventually, my noise cancelation headphones died, and I heard the full roar of it, so I was like, ‘I’ve got to solve this.’ So I took my iPad out—I have a bunch of nieces and nephews, so I have some kids programs on it—and I put one of those on, turned around, gave it to the kid, and she went quiet. The whole plane started clapping.”
“I’m doing Hairspray Live! on NBC in December. We’re filming in L.A. in the Warner Brothers backlot. I’m very excited about that. I will say, I’ve been working on some passion projects that I’ve been creating—I’ve already shot a couple of them. I’m really excited to share them with people, so stay tuned. And my sister [Julianne Hough] and I are creating a Move Experience—we did a show, Move Live On Tour, which was amazing and so much fun, but now we want to take it to the next level to where it’s more of an experience. The one we’re thinking about doing first would be a day and a half with us, our coaches, our fitness instructors, our nutritionists—everything. It’s totally an immersive experience, and anyone can do it. The main thing about is we want it to be accessible to everybody, even if you’re not the best shape.”