Some people collect spoons. Others collect license plates or snow globes to remind them of their travels. I have always favored items that get me to a destination versus what I can procure once I get there. My growing luggage collection includes my mother’s “World Traveler” that has seen me from Toronto to New Orleans (and Paris and back); a green hardbound suitcase from when I was a kid; and my partners’ red weekender, which accompanies us for our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Connecticut to visit his family. Our preference for vintage, structured luggage is one of the many things we have in common. It also begs the question, how does the modern man travel in style?

If what you wear says volumes about you, then how you port it ‘on the go’ can make an equally strong statement. A trunk is a large, structured heavy duty piece meant for the largest of hauls. Many luxury fashion companies made names for themselves crafting trunks for luxury travel. Louis Vuitton started in 1854 and by the end of the 1800s its signature check and LV monogram prints had been born to stave off imitators. While Goyard, started in 1792, is the oldest of the great Parisian trunk makers and still crafts customized luggage for the French elite. When ships were the main form of transportation, trunks were the obvious way to go.

A duffel bag, named after Duffel, Belgium where the particular canvas originally used originated, is a barrel-shaped bag with shoulder straps. It is still usually made of canvas (or sometimes nylon) for ease of care and transport in any weather. Duffels took off in 1950s surfer sub-culture, even taking on a certain “in-the-know” status symbol. Now ubiquitous, every man should at least once in his life toss a few things in a duffel for a quick, impromptu escape. The carefully curated options available on Hudson Made (from San Francisco-based Joshu+Vela) make a great grab and go.

If your travel plans necessitate more than toiletries and a quick change of clothes, a weekender is the perfect choice. Named for the amount of stuff you can carry in its small frame, the weekender is a more structured option for a weekend away. For an even more substantial option, a traditional suitcase is the most popular choice for its ideal build and convenience. Modern designs feature perks such as dividers, expansion panels and wheels. Gracie Opulanza, co-founder of online magazine Men Style Fashion, offers up one other option you may not think of: “Foldable bags are the way forward for maximum storage. I always find you end up buying another bag whilst travelling hence your foldable one can be stored away.” Now that’s packing smart.

Once you’ve committed to your luggage of choice (as well as a travel companion) what do you put in it? The key is versatility. Pack a wardrobe of easy T-shirts, sweaters and pants that can all work double duty and be layered. And never underestimate the need for a light jacket to pull it all together and weather the elements. I’m also a big fan of setting a clothing color story ahead of time. Pick up to three colors to add to black or khaki basics and weave a story with your wardrobe. Nothing is sharper, for instance, than a navy, brown and white vacation wardrobe. But how do you narrow down the selections from your closet?

Your best bet according to Australian GQ: “Be selective. Get together all the clothes you anticipate you’ll need for your trip and lay them out. Then put half of them back.” That’s a new riff on Coco Chanel’s famous ‘take one thing off’ rule. And when it comes to shoes, Travel + Leisure also believes in a less is more mentality: “Shoes are one of the heavier items you will have in your bag so give lots of thought to taking too many. Choose a pair that can be worn in a variety of situations. Along with the one you are wearing, you’ll have enough.” Finally, pack a stylish hat, as Men Style Fashion reminds us “a hat is a great way to cover the scruffy look once you’ve landed.” That’s using your head!

“The Art of Packing” from Louis Vuitton

But it’s not just clothes that make the well traveled man. You’ll need a collection of toiletries to keep yourself looking your best on the go. In fact, traveling comes with its own set of skin issues you’ll need to consider. Flying, for instance is extra hard on your skin with the drying cabin air. Make sure travel lotions are extra moisturizing. Australian GQ also suggests double-bagging your liquids in a TSA-approved plastic baggie inside your kit. “Put any liquids—moisturizer, sunscreen and the like—in plastic zip-lock bags to avoid them leaking through the rest of your luggage. Then place your toiletries bag at the top of your case to avoid putting extra pressure on it during the flight.”

And while most tech-savvy travelers may find themselves burrowed in their smartphones, consider bringing a notebook instead. I jot down stores, restaurants and bars I particularly like and meal ideas I will foolishly try to recreate later. I also allow myself to do the kind of free flow writing I never have the time to do in my everyday life.

And while a notebook is nice, don’t forget the last minute essentials: charging cords, power adaptors for foreign countries, passport and, of course, toothbrush. Slip them in and then slip off to your fantasy destination.

Once you’ve picked a bag and packed it with your get-out-of-town outfits and necessities, well, you’re ready to be that well-traveled man on the go. After all, a great piece of luggage is just the first step in a long lifetime love affair for travel. My vintage luggage collection is part of the romance of my world travels, this great marriage of man and his wanderlust. Every time I see one of those suitcases I think of where I’ve been and the world I have yet to explore and I’m ready to fall in love all over again. Bon voyage.


Black XL Boat Tote

Canvas Leather Dopp Kit Navy Waxed Canvas Leather duffle


Mac Smith is a New York City based fashion writer who has never met a cat, coat or cake he didn’t love. twitter: @itcantallbedior