What Sara Blakely, Spanx founder, can’t travel without


Home for Sara Blakely, founder of the shapewear brand Spanx, is Atlanta, where her company has its headquarters. For at least a decade, while building her business, Blakely was away from home three weeks of every month. Now that she is a parent she travels less, although she’s often in New York and Los Angeles for work. “I’m now a mom of four under the age of 7, so I’m much more selective about where I go and when,” she said, “and Spanx is not as reliant on me as the spokesperson and the face of the brand.” 

Once a year, for her birthday — she is 46 — she takes 10 of her closest childhood friends on a trip. “They don’t know where they’re going. I tell them the climate is either hot or cold. I’ve taken them to Costa Rica, to Anguilla, to Deer Valley, to California. The whole flight, they’re trying to guess where we’re going. This last one, we went to a place called the Retreat in central Costa Rica, up in the mountains. We took over the whole resort, with 10 or 11 bungalows. We had these fabulous chefs that cooked the most natural, wonderful food. We were there for four days and did yoga twice a day and went on hikes.”  

Despite frequent travel, she has a fear of flying that she tries to tame with classes and rituals. A magazine “recently had this story about me on their website, and it said that I took a fear of flying class, and I always missed the class because I was always flying — I wish I could conquer my fear because I think it’s prematurely aging me.”  

Here is what she takes on every trip.  

— Samsonite luggage  

“I’ve had the same Samsonite luggage since 1998. I’ve had it repaired more than 10 times; now there’s duct tape on it. I searched eBay, and I’ve been able to get three of them, which I rotate, but they’re all from ’98. It’s pretty dismal looking.”  

— iPod  

“I always have my original iPod; I have a good luck song that I take off to every single time. It’s Mark Knopfler, who used to be the lead singer of Dire Straits, and the song is “What It Is.” It has to be perfectly cued up. I don’t listen until the plane starts down the runway. It’s a whole ritual.”  

— Bose noise-reduction headphones  

“I have to travel with these. They just relax me. They help with my fear of flying more than even the fear-of-flying class that I hardly ever went to.”  

— Cheez-Its  

“I always have to have Cheez-Its for takeoff. I wish it was a banana that calmed me down, or celery, but it’s Cheez-Its.”  

— Spanx  

“I always have my Spanx Active Compression pants. I try to do yoga every morning or go for a walk, and that’s what I wear every day.”  

— Sneakers  

“I always have my Brooks. They have to have the right insoles in them, which are by Dean Karnazes, who is an ultramarathoner. You put the inserts in the oven for two minutes and then stand on them, and they work for me better than any other insert I’ve ever put in my shoe. I got that tip from the Navy SEAL that lived with us for a month. My husband [Jesse Itzler] met him randomly and asked him to live with us for a month to get him into really good shape, and he wrote a book about it.” (It’s “Living With a Navy SEAL: 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planet.”)  

— Scrunchies  

“Despite pleas from my friends that they’re no longer cool. I’m thinking they might make a full-circle comeback. I never stopped wearing them from the ‘80s.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

A birder’s paradise in Zimbabwe

John Brebner swept his binoculars over a fissure-ridden rock face that towered over a grove of acacia trees. Candy-colored striations of dolomite and quartz ran through the tan granite, and human figures painted by Khoisan Bushmen three millenniums ago were faintly visible on the facade.  “There it is,” Brebner exclaimed, passing the...
What's it like to film a TV travel show? I joined the crew of "Travels With Darley" to find out.

The question rang out like a cowbell through the French Alps: "Where did Darley go?"  The host of PBS's "Travels With Darley" was missing. She was last seen at the bottom of Isola 2000, a ski resort about 55 miles north of Nice. A member of the ski patrol released a stream of French into a walkie-talkie, his words punctuated...
Marriott’s new loyalty program: not as bad as Starwood fans feared

In the nearly 2 1/2 years since Marriott announced its intention to acquire Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the parent of Westin, Sheraton and W, skeptical customers of both companies have waited impatiently for answers to the following question: Just how many rewards and perks would Marriott take away from the 110 million members when it combined the...
Stewart Airport adopts a new identity: New York area’s budget flight hub

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. — As the baggage claim area at New York Stewart International Airport filled with passengers arriving from Dublin last month, the airport’s manager of business development, Michael Torelli, shook his head with delight.  “Awesome,” he said of the crowd.   Just two years earlier, the airport, 67...
Where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California's chefs have the natural advantage of an abundance of fresh produce from the Central Valley, a robust wine industry and a nearly perfect climate. These attributes have lured restaurateurs from San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles to the city's thriving dining scene, but natives tend to prefer spots with deep roots in the...
More Stories