Five expert travelers divulge trade secrets, favorite places, and what's in their bags

Ashleigh Banfield MSNBC anchor and correspondent

"In 1991, I put my career on hold, loaded up a backpack, and set off to explore Southeast Asia, Polynesia, China, the Soviet Union, the Middle East, southern Europe, and the subcontinent. Some of those experiences propelled me into what I'm doing now. When I'm working, I'm always in transit. I live out of a bag. I lived out of a backpack while reporting through much of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's pretty exhausting—there have been a lot of twenty-four-hour days."

Booting up "I keep my packing extremely lean. I've had a pair of Roots leather tuff boots for ten years, and they've been my lifesaver." Leather boots, $95, by Roots; 888/307-6687

Carry on "I never check a bag. For some reason I'm a lightning rod for lost luggage. I usually pack as many washable shirts as I can fit—whatever's on sale and doesn't require pressing, and can be layered. Throughout Afghanistan I wore about five different sweaters on top of each other, everyday, because there was no heat." Button-down shirt by Go Silk, $160; 877/246-7455

Paper trail "I travel with Hi-Liters, legal pads, reporter steno pads, and I always bring a digital recorder to keep an audio journal of what I've been doing."

Screen Saver "Wherever I go, I take my laptop—an old IBM beater. Obviously, in certain places, it's just dead weight."

Checklist: Other essential gear
·Black Travel Pro rolling suitcase
·Her signature glasses (Team frame by Lafont, $340, Image Eyewear, Dallas; 214/521-6763)
·International cell phone, NBC-issue
·Flak jacket and hard hat, NBC-issue
·Backpack ("a hiker's rucksack")
·File folders of research ("the size of a small phone book")
·Paper Mate pens ("because they stick behind my ear without messing up my hair")

Todd English Chef—Olives, Figs, Bonfire

"I go to all sorts of wild places. I've hung out in South Africa with a Zulu chef who cooked with porcupine quills. I've spent time in Jamaica checking out jerk joints. For me, food is a story you tell, and it's important to understand the culture behind it—why certain things are the way they are." Before opening Bonfire, his new, Latin-inspired steak house in Boston, English did research in Argentina and Brazil, northern Mexico, Texas, California, Spain, and Italy. "I'm always going to restaurants, meeting with chefs, sitting in cafés, studying and watching," he says. With 13 restaurants across the country, including Olives and Figs—not to mention the three books he has written and a culinary adventure show that's in the works for CBS—English Þnds himself staying in hotels 10 days out of the month. Does he raid the mini-bar?"Peanut M&M's," English admits. "I love them."

A Shoe Thing "My biggest packing problem is that I wear size fourteen. I like to work out, and a pair of Nikes takes up half my bag. I can't bring more than two pairs of shoes, so I usually wear one dressy pair and pack something comfortable." Air Kantara sneakers by Nike, $120; 800/806-6453

Hands off "My briefcase is a messenger-style Armani bag. I can throw it over my shoulder and have one hand free for Starbucks and the other for my cell phone." Leather bag by Armani, $925; 310/271-5555

Black and light "I wear a lot of black—I've made a uniform of it. On the road, I go really simple. Prada suits travel well. I keep chef uniforms at my restaurants so I don't have to pack them." Two-button canvas stretch suit by Prada, $1,695; at select Barneys, select Saks, and Maxfield, L.A.

Checklist: Other essential gear
·Suitcase ("I'm still searching for the perfect one")
·Menu from Bonfire, his latest restaurant
·Apple Power Mac G4 computer, with Microsoft Golf and computer chess
·Motorola Timeport
·The new Olympus Camedia C-3000 digital camera ($499;
·Script for his forthcoming culinary adventure show, Todd Cooks
·Golf clubs ("I always FedEx them in advance")
·Jump rope ($13;
·Kiehl's Shaving Cream (Kiehl's Close Shavers Squadron, $13.50; 800/543-4572)
·Aveda gel and deodorant
·Food magazines, for inspiration ("I have them all")

Josie Natori Lingerie and accessories designer

"I don't travel light—it's not in my vocabulary. Some people say, 'Are you going away for a month?' But I don't like to change my style just because I'm on a trip. I'm on a plane almost every week, and I like to have what I want with me—and more, just in case." Natori travels from New York to Paris and Italy constantly and to Asia four times a year. "I'm most productive when I'm traveling, even if it's vacation," Natori says. "Travel clears your mind. When I talk to the factory in Florence, I'm totally focused. In the office, I'm sort of a scatterbrain."

Extras, Extras "I'm an accessories freak—bags and shoes and excessive amounts of my own lingerie and loungewear. I have to have a different bag for evening. I normally pack my lingerie and accessories in a separate suitcase." Embroidered fringe bag, $650, by Natori; Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Bergdorf Goodman

Evening Standard "When in doubt, at night it's always black. And a great piece of jewelry by Yves Saint Laurent Couture or Monies. I'm known for my earrings and necklaces."

Sight Specific "I bring two pairs of sunglasses—one Christian Dior, one Chanel—and four pairs of eyeglasses, because I'm either losing them or destroying them." Sunglasses by Christian Dior, $210;

Keyed Up "I also pack my music books, so if there's a piano, I can practice. Right now I'm playing Chopin's Études and Nocturnes. The Rachmaninoff—I'm still brushing up on that."

Cheers! "Even if I'm going to Tibet, I want my comforts. I'm a champagne girl: I bring along those miniature bottles of Moët & Chandon. It's my treat at the end of the day." Moët & Chandon half-bottles, $24.99 and up;

Checklist: Other essential gear
·Two Louis Vuitton suitcases
·Oversized Prada leather satchel, full of work
·BlackBerry, ("I send e-mails in the air!")
·Sleepwear (Tea party pajamas by Josie Natori, $78; at Neiman-Marcus, Saks, and Bergdorf Goodman)
·Two cell phones, one Ericsson, one Motorola ("I'm constantly on the phone, and it's cheaper than using the one in the hotel")
·Yves Saint Laurent skirts, pants, and jackets ("all gray or black")
·Hair dryer
·Sephora cosmetics bag, with Clé de Peau by Shiseido, Guerlain lipstick and blush
·Takashimaya sketchbook

Bebel Gilberto Singer-songwriter

"Any place can inspire me. London inspired my latest album. With the grayness and the weather comes a sadness, and it's good to have a little melancholia when you're writing low-tempo, introspective songs like mine." Gilberto, who now lives in New York, grew up in Brazil; she's the daughter of João Gilberto, the man behind bossa nova and the famous song "Girl from Ipanema." "Of course, I'm crazy about beaches," she says. "If you asked me, 'What's your favorite thing to do besides be in love?' it's 'Go to a beach.' " Gilberto always tries to get back to Brazil, even if it's just for two weeks. "It's important for me to go to the sea, to visit my family, to taste the fruits and vegetables and Þsh. Ultimately, that's what keeps me going."

Sound Machine "I always travel with my Sony shockproof CD player. Right now I'm listening to Björk's CD Vespertine, which I'm crazy about; Chet Baker; my own recordings, since I'm writing some music for my new album; and a burned mix with people like Zero 7, Air, and Sade." Sony S2 Sports CD Walkman, $99.95; 800/571-7669

Healthy Outlook "I'm a big swimmer and don't go anywhere without my goggles. Otherwise, I try to find a gym close by. I love a steam room—it can renew you, and it's fantastic for the skin." Women's Vanquisher goggles by Speedo, $19; 888/477-3336

Quick-Change Artist "When I'm touring, I have to have different outfits for different situations, and I hate myself if I don't use everything I bring. My current stash includes trousers (they're easier to perform in), pretty tops (a beaded one from Geova), a charm belt from Issey Miyake (it's beautiful when I dance, but it's a real problem to pack, so I bury it in other clothes), and, for day, Paper Denim jeans and Pleats Please Issey Miyake sneakers." Jeans, $150; 212/925-2886. Sneakers, $250; 212/226-3600

Checklist: Other essential gear
·Black Samsonite on wheels; red Delsey luggage (for longer trips)
·Boules Quies earplugs from France ("I'm so sensitive to sound, I can't sleep if there is even the slightest noise. I'm addicted to these. You can get them in any drugstore in France")
·Sleeping mask stolen from Japan Airlines, first class
·Tons of fashion magazines
·Tempur-Pedic travel pillow

Thelma Golden Curator, Studio Museum in Harlem

"To many people it sounds very glamorous," says Golden, who travels the international art-world circuit in search of work by new artists of African descent. "They say, 'Oh, you're going to Venice.' And, yes, it's great going to the Prada store. And, yes, at the end of the day you're going to have a fabulous risotto somewhere. But it can be the equivalent of seeing four or Þve museums in a day." For Golden, art and shopping are inextricably linked. In Chicago, between visits to the Art Institute and MCA, that means mandatory stops at Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Ultimo. And going to Gagosian in L.A. involves Barneys. Goldin admits she brings along an empty bag to accommodate purchases: "I automatically assume it will be my second carry-on."

Sole Searching "I've never gotten the concept of walking shoes, and travel usually means Thelma trying to do it all in high heels. But I just bought some Sigerson Morrison slingbacks, which don't make me feel as if I've compromised." Leather slingbacks by Sigerson Morrison, $345; 212/219-3893

Everything In Its Place "I'm a big believer in packing accoutrements ahead of time. I own those brown-and-white-striped travel cases from Bendel's in every size, shape, and incarnation. My toiletry kit is all ready to go, with my Tom's of Maine toothpaste, Aveda shampoo, Bliss moisturizer, and La Prairie eye cream. I don't even have to take the toothbrush off the sink." Cellular eye contour cream by La Prairie, $95; 877/527-7722

Road Food "I like to bring snacks. Raisins and dried cherries from Whole Foods. Chocolate soy milk. Tea bags—of all kinds. That effervescent vitamin C, Alacer Emergen-C, which the artist Kiki Smith turned me onto. And I am in love with the Au Bon Pain near International Departures at JFK."

Technologically Speaking "My Sony Picture Book, with Outlook, has my contacts, e-mail, and digital images. And I love having an ISDN line in my hotel room. The ability to dial out will often take me to the big hotels over other places." Sony Picture Book, $2,100; 800/571-7669

Checklist: Other essential gear
· Tumi wheeled suitcase
·A dressy dress ("Lately, it's a black silk jersey Diane von Furstenberg")
·Kate Spade evening bag
·Aveda Rainforest Plant Pure-Fume aroma candle
·One suit ("Kors, Chaiken, Theory")
·J. Crew yoga pants
·An umbrella ("I go to London a lot")
·Reading list: Gallery Guide (or the equivalent for the city she's visiting); Village Voice (or local equivalent); the New York Times; four books (right now I'm reading Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer); travel, fashion, and home-design magazines ("I buy the whole realm. If you buy British Vogue in Brazil, you don't realize you're paying twenty dollars for it!")