Traveling With Gold, Cigars and a Diamond Tester
In this monthly Travel Checklist column, we ask entrepreneurs to open up their carry-ons and share the items they can't leave home without.
Billy Leroy may be a New York institution to some, but he's also a citizen of the world. The colorful owner of Billy's Antiques & Props was born in France, carries two passports, and by his count, has been to some 35 countries.
These days, Leroy literally gets paid to travel the globe, as star of Travel Channel's popular series, Baggage Battles. Now filming its third season, the show pits Leroy against three fellow antique dealers, who jet off to locales like Normandy, Glasgow and cities across the United States, bidding for everything from Chinese space helmets to 18th century paintings found at airport lost-luggage auctions. By his estimate, Leroy has bagged some 25,000 miles since the show premiered in 2012.
"I am so lucky that my job is traveling," Leroy says. "But even when I didn't have a TV show, I made a point of ‘getting away' from New York. Being a chronic New Yorker, I tend to believe that the world revolves around New York -- and traveling dispels that myth in my head."
It's good work if you can get it, of course, but all that globetrotting can also take a toll. So how does this dapper New Yorker arrive looking freshly pressed and ready to find the proverbial hidden gems in faraway lands? We recently sat down with Leroy during one of his brief layovers back in the Big Apple.
1. Sol Moscot glasses
"I wear tinted glasses for every occasion professionally and when traveling. I never wear the same pair two days in a row."
2. Business cards and Sharpie
"It's an absolute must to have a card to give to fans -- and a way to thank them for watching my show. Since my cards are glossy, only a Sharpie works for autographs."
3. Bose noise-canceling headphones
"Thank god for noise-canceling headphones. It's nice to check out from the stress of flying."
4. Gold jewelry and accessories
"All my gold comes with me in the cabin. I don't want it to end up as lost luggage on a TV show!" (Pictured above are Leroy's vintage Rolex, watch chain, elk's tooth watch fob, magnifying glass, skull wedding ring and family ring.)
5. U.S. and French passports
"The passports permit me to go to the shortest line when entering a country. And when stopped by the police, in certain countries, sometimes it's better to be European."
6. Montecristo cigars
"Traveling is stressful and long. When I finally arrive, there's nothing like a good cigar."
"I collect vintage luxury lighters, like Dupont, Cartier and Dunhill, which you see here. It just makes smoking a Cuban cigar that much more enjoyable." (To note: TSA allows most lighters in carry-ons, but bans torch ones.)
8. Classic books
"Reading stimulates my brain and makes waiting in airports more bearable. Like the gold, you don't want it to be checked because its fragile."
9. Diamond tester
"Who knows, someone might try to sell you a diamond!"
10. Vintage wallet
"I love my old aristocratic wallet. It just makes paying for things more fun."
"I've only had an iPhone for two years and it's indispensable for my business. I can research anything on the Internet, look up prices, send photos to other dealers. I also use it to practice my monologues for theater and film. Even for an antique guy, the iPhone's unbelievable."