If there’s one thing Roger Federer knows his way around as well as a tennis court, it’s probably a suitcase. With a life spent almost entirely on the road—jetting from his home in Switzerland to play at tournaments around the globe, train in Dubai, check in on his Roger Federer Foundation in various parts of Africa, or enjoy a well-earned family holiday in the Maldives—he’s finessed a streamlined packing process over the years.
And when Federer hits the road with his family—wife Mirka and two sets of twins, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, 9, and Leo and Lenny, 4—it’s not an unusual sight to see the clan surrounded by almost two dozen Rimowa bags toting everything from tennis gear to suits. So it was inevitable that the luggage brand would tap him as one of the faces of its latest campaign, featuring a host of high-profile travelers, from chef Nobu Matsuhita to designer Virgil Abloh to supermodel Adwoa Aboah, each sharing what a pivotal role travel has played in their lives.
We caught up with the tennis legend just before the US Open—which he ultimately exited in the fourth round on Monday—to talk about his favorite travel memories and his top packing strategies. It’s clearly one of his favorite topics: even as time ran out and he had to get back to the courts, he didn’t want to stop.
“I’m a world traveler for 20 years now,” he says. “I compare myself to a musician, but I do a world tour every year.
I think my independence, probably—I was always very independent, taking the bus or tram or train to practice. Growing up that way was a beautiful thing, and I wish the same for my children.
I learned how to get around, and travel is all about timing and scheduling and getting from A to B on time.
There was one wonderful trip with my parents back when I was 14, before I entered a tennis center—one big trip all the way to Australia.
I traveled the east coast with my sister and parents, going to Sydney, Queensland, Cairns, and also the Great Barrier Reef. After that my life sort of changed, I became much more serious as a professional with tennis.
From 14 to 16 I’d leave at 6pm on Sundays and come back on Fridays, playing tournaments a two-hour train ride away, in the midst of people taking the train back and forth to work.
It’s not for ourselves anymore, you want it to be as easy and comfortable and quick as possible for them. We try to be a little more relaxed with the rules when traveling, when it comes to food and TV, they’re allowed to do much more of that than at home, where we have different rules.
What are your tips?
We also need to know where are we traveling to, especially in terms of climate, how long are we going to be on the road, or are we going back to the same place we left. We manage it well—my wife is amazing, and I try to give as much input as possible and make sure I help as much as I can.
What is always in your suitcase?
I have one Rimowa that is shoes-only—dress shoes and tennis shoes. One with tennis outfits—wristbands, headbands, and outfits.
And one for my everyday suits and clothes. We try to not pack too much, but its hard when you’re on the road as long as we are.
But we are 6 people and when we arrive we have 20-25 bags, which looks terrible, but at least but they’re all Rimowa bags and it looks quite stylish. I also have a Rimowa carry-on with sunglasses, another jacket, and stuff for the kids, charging stuff for the ipad and phone, as well as my racket bag.
How did the involvement with Rimowa come about?
I felt it was a very natural fit for me, for both of us. I’m a world traveler for 20 years now—I compare myself to a musician, but I do a world tour every year.
I started in ‘96, it’s been a long long time, and suitcases, traveling, organization is just my life, you know. I know the Arnault family very well through a partnership with Moet and Chandon, they asked me if I would be part of their first global campaign and I said absolutely, it’s a very natural fit—I love the suitcases and the brand and there’s so much potential for the brand.
You know what, things will go wrong, and if they do, no problem, don’t dwell over it. Priority comes with the children: make sure they’re comfortable.
What we can control on our end, we try to do. Always leave on time, always give yourself a buffer.
You don’t want to start missing flights and trains and trams and buses; better to take a bit of time. And eating healthy as you go along.
How do you avoid jet lag?
I always think ahead for the time change that’s ahead. I almost forget what time it is in the place I left, and I live in the new time zone: try to eat at the right time, go to bed at the right time, and try not to cheat at those things.
We’ve gone there many times. When we had no kids we used to go to Mauritius, Seychelles, Turks Caicos.
We like beaches, but since we live in Switzerland, hiking vacations have been a big thing for us—I used to do it with my parents as well. Skiing has started for the kids, though I haven’t skied for the last 10 years.
I’ll ski again after I retire.
Any favorite hotels?
Burj al Arab in Dubai has to be at the top for me.
We spend a lot of time there, and have gotten to know it really well.
How do you eat when you’re on the road? Do you eat the local cuisine or stay in your comfort zone?
I like to explore.
I’m totally open. I’m not the kind of guy that says, “Ooh, I only have to eat turkey sandwiches every day,” no no no no.
I go out for Japanese, yesterday I ate French, I’m having Mexican tonight, I always have pasta before my game. It’s become a hobby with my wife, we eat out and explore the great restaurants in the city.
I like to dive into the culture and explore and respect what they eat.
Is there a dream place you’ve not yet been to?
And I’d love to do more travels as well with cars, not just with planes. I feel like traveling through France, traveling through Italy, in my dream I see a nice car with just a Rimowa suitcase, going into these beautiful restaurants or a nice place in the countryside, meeting people, with the family.
It would be so much fun to do—but I’ll have to wait till i retire!
Chicago next, then a tournament in Shanghai, a home tournament in Basel. But we’re going to go to East Hampton after the US Open, and I’m bringing family to China and Japan together which I’m very excited about.