Tracee Ellis Ross on How Travel Is 'Empowering'

Tracee Ellis Ross feels very comfortable at cruising altitude. The actress, director, and star of ABC’s Black-ish grew up in Europe, spent her youth accompanying her mom, singer Diana Ross, on international jaunts, and racks up frequent flier miles monthly. Ross recently partnered with the new United Explorer Card, which now offers Global Entry credit and double rewards, and we sat down with her in her hometown of Los Angeles to talk about taking travel risks, carry-on essentials, and why you should always, always bring home a souvenir.

What inspires your love of travel?
[Thanks to my mom], I got really comfortable moving about the world. It’s empowering, and has afforded me the opportunity to connect with other human beings, to see how we are all so much alike, to learn about different cultures and traditions, and to really open up my understanding of what it is to be a human. It has given my life a richness that I really appreciate.

Do you have an in-flight routine?
The first thing I do when I get on the plane is wipe everything down with my Wet Ones. I don’t drink alcohol on flights; it ruins everything. You think it’s going to make the flight more fun, but it actually makes it worse. I feel puffy and dehydrated. So I play a nice game with myself: How much water can I drink? Mid-flight, and twice if it’s transatlantic, I will cleanse, spritz, properly hydrate, and give myself a face massage. Also, I’m very good at sleeping on a plane. There’s no pill involved—I just go to sleep.

Any carry-on essentials?
I always have my black scarf that’s oversized and balls up into a pillow, and I’ve got a Gucci backpack and black Balenciaga shopping bag tote that is the perfect combination—it really fits a lot and balances out the weight. I travel with Muji travel containers, including a plastic zip case that’s TSA-approved and fits shampoo, conditioner, face products—everything I use on the flight. I also love Jurlique’s rosewater, Shiseido cotton pads, and Retrouve products like their intensive moisturizer.

Do you have a travel uniform?
I’m very big on matching sweatsuits, especially with a high-waisted pant that actually ties. Sweatpants are key because they are tight at the bottom, so when you pull your pants down in the bathroom, they do not touch the floor. Don’t wear a wide-leg trouser on the airplane! If I happen to be wearing one I will full-on tuck it into my socks—and roll the pants as I pull them down. Sometimes I’ll wear the sweatshirt around my waist and put a blazer on over it to be a little more pulled together. For shoes, my favorite travel sneaker is the Adidas Stan Smith. It slides on and off really easily for airport security, and it’s just a comfortable, good-looking sneaker that works. I also love sunglasses and a red lip for the airplane. I’m telling you, with a really hydrated, moisturized face and a red lip—you’ll look like Bella Hadid coming off a private plane, even if you’re flying commercial.

What do you do as soon as you arrive somewhere?
I immediately like to get settled, so I unpack, take a bath, and go for a walk to ground myself. I’m not so affected by jet lag—I just ignore it, honestly. You have to be in the time [zone] where you are.

Where do you like to travel?
I’m a creature of habit, and I like going back to places that I’ve been to and hotels that I’m comfortable in, where I know my way around. I’ve been going to Italy for the last ten years with a group of women who are my best friends. This is the first year we’re making a switch and going to the south of France, near Saint-Rémy. I’ve been all over France, but I haven't been where we’re staying. I’m doing two weeks, and it’s a stretch for me. It’s healthy risky behavior.

Have you picked up any memorable souvenirs?
My home is filled with treasures from everywhere. I love doing the vintage thing, going to flea markets and stuff. In Italy, I found this beautiful vintage turquoise cake plate, which could not be put in my luggage. Then I met my mom, and we went from Italy to Cyprus to somewhere else, and by the second leg of the trip my mom was like, Are we seriously going to bring that little cake plate everywhere? It made it safely home. I think that’s one of the nice things about traveling: learning something new about a different culture, a different place in the world—and also picking up a treasure that becomes a lifelong reminder.

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