It’s difficult to imagine a place Serena Williams has not visited. Throughout her career as the GOAT tennis player and athlete (full stop) she’s traveled just about everywhere—from Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, to Wimbledon, London for The Championships (11 times). After 25 years of countless trips both domestic and international, Williams admits she’s something of a fanatic for organized packing. So it seems like a no-brainer that she would partner up with the travel brand du jour, Away, on a set of luxury luggage—and today, her latest collection of suitcases and bags, made in partnership with Away, is available.
Williams’s line consists of the hard-shell baggage that’s become synonymous with the label in blue and green colorways inspired by shades she saw in Rome—one of her favorite destinations—along with sensible packing cubes that she insists are a must whenever she boards a plane. And to this day, she’s still on the go—when we spoke over the phone for this interview, in fact, Williams was in Melbourne training for the Australian Open. In her Culture Diet interview, the tennis star not only shares her seasoned approach to packing light and what she absolutely must bring on any trip, but also her go-to karaoke songs (Bon Jovi), and her daily routine, which is bookended by prayer.
I saw you posted a photo on Instagram today of Olympia playing tennis. I’m curious whether you’ve taken up training your daughter in between your own trainings.
Yeah! [laughs] No, we just do it for fun.
Is Qai Qai present on the court for these sessions?
[Laughs] No, not usually.
You’ve said in the past that your everyday bag or purse is very functional—for instance, you put all hair ties in a small leather case. What about your approach to packing a suitcase? Is it the same?
Pretty much—I really like to pack mindfully. If I have something I need access to, I really need to be able to get it, because we are always on the run.
I always carry on a backpack, two laptops (one is strictly for catching up on work), multiple chargers, noise-cancelling headphones, and my most important personal items, like my Moana blanket and a small stuffed monkey (his name is Max), which travel with me everywhere I go.
I notice in the suitcase you created for your Away collaboration, little pouches and individual compartments are involved with the luggage. Is that influenced by the way you pack your own luggage?
I swear by Away’s packing cubes, so it was important for me to include them in our collections. I rely on them to pack smarter and stay organized. Packing Cubes are a game changer because you can group your clothes by type, day, or destination. It makes packing so much easier, but also helps me find exactly what I need once I arrive at my destination.
What have you learned about efficient packing from years of traveling? How does your packing style compare to when you were a teenager?
Traveling now, especially now that I’m a mother, is a whole new experience. When I was younger, I could pack a few hours before leaving. Now, I always pack at least a week before my trip to give me enough time to mentally run through my packing list a few times.
I’ve always been a bit of an overpacker, but I’ve embraced my packing style and always make sure to bring whatever will keep us comfortable while on the road and offer us flexibility if and when our plans change.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
The first thing I do is pray.
I know you’re a big music head and are always listening to music. What albums or playlists are on repeat for you right now?
You know what? Ever since Covid started, I haven’t been listening to that much music to be honest, I’ve just been doing a lot of work. So I just throw on the radio and whatever’s popular is what I’ll listen to.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Usually Bon Jovi, I love Bon Jovi. Maybe “I Believe”—but really, anything in the 1990s realm.
What’s the first thing you read in the morning?
How do you get your news?
What are your favorite accounts to follow on social media?
I love my daughter’s Instagram, her doll Qai Qai’s Instagram, my husband and my sister. I also follow a lot of my friends which helps to keep up with their lives when we all get so busy.
Are you into podcasts? If so, which ones do you listen to often?
I usually listen to music, but I love Ashley Graham’s podcast, Pretty Big Deal.
What’s the last thing you Googled on your phone?
I will tell you! “Common questions for limited partners.” [Laughs].
What’s the story behind that?
I’m obsessed with always challenging myself and Serena Ventures to be better, and I’ve been blessed to have some great conversations around that topic—so I probably was getting ready for one of those.
What’s the last movie that you streamed?
It’s been a minute, but it was the movie with Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr.—I think it was Iron Man 2? I believe that was the name.
Do you remember the last movie you saw in theaters?
It was Star Wars.
Do you remember the last concert you went to?
No, it must have been a decade ago! I don’t really go to concerts anymore.
I feel like I saw something where you were at a Beyoncé concert.
Yeah, five years ago, maybe? So maybe it was the Beyoncé concert.
What is the last thing that you do before you go to bed?