We all strive to be that person who can travel for six weeks with just a carry-on. Some of us are, but most of us aren’t, and that’s okay.
Many of us here at Safara have to jump on planes for last minute work trips or a forgotten wedding weekend across the country. It’s helpful to have some trusty go-to items that we can brainlessly throw in every time.
Packing a carry-on for any occasion is an art form, mixing the personal with the practical. Here’s what our pro-traveler Insiders take with them. Maybe think about adding a few of these to your list.
Sabrina Meier is the Director of Membership and a founding employee at 1880 Singapore (one of the pioneering luxe co-working spaces out there, and widely considered the “Soho House of Singapore”). She met our founder, Maya, in Shanghai in 2006 while on a university exchange year abroad – so we can attest that this woman is one to follow, and keep tabs on. Fun fact: Sabrina was a professional dancer during that time, most notably for the Black Eyed Peas during their Shanghai and Beijing tour. After getting her Masters in Business in Switzerland, she moved back to Singapore and spent time building her career in events & marketing within the LVMH Group- including helping launch Sephora in Singapore.
Sabrina travels extensively as part of her DNA, and has even met the Dalai Lama this past year (holy bucket list!)…have we said enough to hook you in, yet? Read on for her colorful tips on work and play travel- from Asia to Italia, and beyond.
Overlooking its own vineyards and the beautiful rolling countryside of the Emilia Romagna, Agriturismo Opera 02 is set in a new build property located alongside a winery. This boutique farm resort was a beautiful romantic getaway for me, and one of the best meals and sleeps during my entire trip to Italy. They were ageing balsamic vinegar in barrels right outside our bedroom door, just across the corridor- the fragrance lingered, and filled the entire Dining Room space in the Farmhouse. Such a unique juxtaposition between old world wine-making traditions in a renovated modern farmhouse, and then an infinity pool beside the vineyard. Breath-taking views and a short drive into Modena, a small quaint cobblestone town with speakeasy cocktail bars and Italian cafes. Just go!
Bali is a magical place and often coined the Island of the Gods. And it truly is, especially when you step onto this property at Bambu Indah- an absolutely stunning Bamboo resort and sanctuary tucked away in Ubud. Immersed in this natural environment, you transcend into total relaxation and tranquility. It almost feels like an enchanted bamboo palace by the riverside. They have natural swimming pools and offer Yoga and Spa sessions which are just blissful because you are enveloped in this stunning place.
Topas Ecolodge is a small lodge situated on a beautiful hilltop deep in the mountains of Hoang Lien National Park- only 45 min outside Sapa town in North Vietnam. They do not have any TV in the rooms, so for relaxation they offer an infinity pool, spa in ‘Red Dao’ herbal baths, plus excursions, bike rides, cooking classes, and visits to Sapa tribes. I loved the vibe of Sapa, perched up in the misty hills- we rose at 5am to cycle down an ever winding road until we hit a remote village, and were invited in for Vietnamese coffee whilst this local villager smoked his opium pipe.
What is the most unique hotel amenity you’ve ever encountered?
Linen bed sheets, a beach bag (avoid sand in your suitcase!), and personalized pajamas.
If you work in hospitality, what do you love most about it?
I’m so proud and happy to be part of such an amazing team that helped build a members club with 1700 members to date. As with any hospitality business, we had our challenges that we needed to troubleshoot on the daily… but seeing all the smiling faces and happy members truly is a testament to the work we put in and vision we believed in. That has made all the difference. Being able to interact with so many people every day keeps me motivated and driven. 1880 is truly special as we have built this community by inspiring conversations and creating connections that may go on to impact the world. What I love about it most are the genuine friendships and deeper connections that we have curated from a whole spectrum of internal programming.
What hotel room design element can you not live without?
Bath tub with a beautiful view, bedside universal adapter & Japanese toto toilet.
Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?
Burning Man or Phuket Cleanse. Burning Man is an absolute cleanse from the world and your life as you know it. Most people that have not been think it’s an awesome party, but after you’ve been, you understand that it is a journey into yourself. The emotional landscape you navigate during that week is intense and rich. Phuket Cleanse is a retreat that includes a full day intensive program tailored to your need in fitness, nutrition, and meditation.
You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? How do you make your work travel as relaxing and fun as possible?
I bring my yoga practice and essential oils with me wherever I go. As long as I can fit in some meditation morning or nights, I’m set. It helps to find your tribe in every city, whom you can work out with.
What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?
Shawl, gum, lip gloss, sunnies, portable charger.
If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?
If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice?
I research the hottest hood, best coffee, yoga studio, best nightlife, authentic cultural activity, best brunch spot- as much as possible, via friends of friends first.
Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?
“Always back up your phone before you travel. Keep a passport copy with you & $50 bill hidden in a random pocket. Roll clothes when packing for more space. Use ziplocs for everything and reuse them again and again!” – Love, (my) Mum.
Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?
YOGA and Meditation have helped me through my darker days. Essential oils and the blends I make myself keep me calm and comfortable wherever I go.
Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?
San Francisco has changed a lot over the last few years. We won’t bore you with our opinions on the tech boom or rising rents, but it’s important to acknowledge that the city has seen a poignant shift.
Despite the cultural developments, many are still drawn to SF a few times a year for work and, yes, to take some time to play as well. We love the potent NorCal energy, mind-blowing hikes, and consistently impeccable food that makes SF one of our favorite places in California.
Named one of America’s coolest hotels some years ago, Phoenix Hotel has managed to maintain its hip factor. The courtyard pool is naturally a plus. Sitting between the Tenderloin and Civic Center, the hotel plays on the city’s arty influences and definitely has a 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll vibe to it.
If you are looking for a more upscale experience, check into the St. Regis. We love the shameless luxury and the fact it is next door to the mesmerising SFMOMA. The indoor lap pool is absolutely worth a dip and we would highly recommend visiting Remede Spa while you’re here too.
Inside the Tenderloin flatiron building you’ll find Proper Hotel. Most guests book to witness the great contemporary design and attention to detail. We love the rooms but (if we’re being honest) we really come here for the rooftop lounge with an in-built fireplace and great view of Market Street.
In the Mission District, this is easily our favorite place for pasta in the city. The queues are long but the creamy carbs are entirely worth the wait. They have inventive dishes (mixing ingredients like chocolate and lobster) and we’re hard pressed to find another spot like this in SF.
San Franciscans will claim the city has the best Mexican food in California. They’re wrong (because LA and San Diego) but Taqueria Cancun’s burritos come close. Get the Burrito Mojado and prepare yourself for a nap afterwards.
If you haven’t been to SF before, this should be your first stop. Go with a group and make room for some seriously good Dim Sum. If you’ve already been to SF, chances are you’ve already heard of this place, so what are you waiting for?
First things first: book a table early. State of Bird Provisions is one of the city’s busiest restaurants. Thanks to the quality service, every dinner is transformed into a luxury affair. Some of the experimental plates may not sound appetizing but we dare you to try them. You won’t regret it.
A place for fantastic cocktails accompanied with old-school banquets and a wood bar. The music is as good as the food. One of our favorite spots to grab a drink with that person you haven’t seen in 5 years but still want to impress.
The crowd at Bissap Baobab may have changed since its inception but the buzzing atmosphere will always deliver. Come early to order Senegalese food and stay for the sweaty dancing. They’ll be blasting West African music, hip-hop, reggae, and everything in between.
You might have seen Verve on our LA list and their SF location is just as good. You’ll find large tables, WiFi and couches. Plus their coffee is some of the best around. They have outstanding pastries and some healthy California menu items to keep you going.
This laid-back coffee shop in Russian Hill make their own almond milk (you’re in San Francisco, remember?) and has great WiFi. A good option for some caffeine fuelled motivation when you are in the neighborhood.
This route spans from Baker Beach to the Golden Gate as part of the California Coastal trail, which stretches across the state. In case you’re not a Cheryl Strayed fan, this 2-3 mile walk is a good alternative and you get a view of the bridge.
Don’t miss a Vinyasa flow class at International Orange. Inspired by Japenese minimalism (it’s gorgeous), the space absolutely feels like an escape. The real reason we come here is to unwind given that International Orange is a spa first and foremost.
There are tones of hikes in and around SF. Of course, Point Reyes for a day or two is ideal, but if you don’t have time there are plenty of other trails close by. Head to Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson or Angel Island State Park for an outdoor sweat.
This coffee shop has somehow remained humble amongst the cavalier SF coffee scene. They make their scones every morning (they are amazing) and have homemade pie at the ready. It’s the perfect place to break if you are around Hayes Valley.