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Tips From the Ultimate Travel Strategist


David Grayson of international brokerage firm Auerbach Grayson stands in his office in midtown Manhattan. PHOTO: REBECCA GREENFIELD FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


Some people travel the world looking for undiscovered beaches, vacation spots or cultural experiences. David Grayson’s quest is for undiscovered stock markets.

As the co-founder of New York-based international brokerage firm Auerbach Grayson, Mr. Grayson visits stock exchanges and finance ministries across the globe trying to solidify trading relationships in nascent markets. His clients are all U.S.-based institutional investors looking to invest in international stocks.

The 61-year-old is on the road 100 days a year. The trips are usually hectic—three or four countries in a week or so. That means he doesn’t have time for baggage snafus or technology emergencies.

“If my bag misses my flight, it will never catch up to me again,” he says. Complicating matters, Mr. Grayson is 6-foot-6. Relying on carry-on is not an option. “I watch my wife pack, and she can fit all of her stuff into a tiny bag,” he says. “My clothes tend to be bigger. There’s just no way.”

In the past few months, he has been to Austria, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, England, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

He zeroes in on countries that are setting up new stock exchanges and on stock markets that don’t yet allow foreign investment. “Eventually, people will want to execute trades on all of those exchanges,” he says. “We try to be the first U.S. broker there.”

His March itinerary: London, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Stockholm and Tallinn, Estonia.

His main piece of luggage is a reinforced aluminum suitcase by Rimowa that goes in checked baggage. He confers with airline staff before each leg of a flight. If his suitcase hasn’t made it on the aircraft, he won’t board. It isn’t that his clothes are so valuable—they’re just hard to replace. “I live in fear that if I lose my bag, I’ll never be able to walk into a store to buy clothes that fit,” he says.

Mr. Grayson admits it might be overkill, but he carries about a dozen electronics chargers and converters: A few in his suitcase, a few in his carry-on, a few in his briefcase and one or two more in a side-pocket, just in case. He even carries a car charger. Vehicle cigarette lighters are universal, so “if you’re in the taxi and your phone is running low, you can just ask the cabdriver to charge it,” he says.

In his carry-on, by Italian leather-goods maker Serapian, he always has a mini-pharmacy of antibiotics, a sewing kit and extra collar stays. A small roll of duct tape has come in handy to fix everything from a broken bag handle to a ripped inseam. “I used it on the inside. It worked great. You couldn’t even see it,” he says.

At home, he keeps about 20 clear plastic envelopes, labeled by country, each containing a few hundred dollars in foreign currency and a local transit pass. He carries two passports—his regular one, which is pushing 200 pages, and a backup, just in case.

He connects through London and Bangkok so often that he keeps one suitcase each at the Dorchester Hotel and the Mandarin Oriental, respectively, with size-14 running shoes, workout gear and extra toiletries.

The most important item he carries, he says, is a pocket-size paperback book: the Official Airline Guide, or OAG. It’s a traveler’s bible, with the latest flight schedules and code-share information for more than 900 airlines, including regional carriers and cargo flights. Subscribers receive updated books every month.

“I don’t travel without it,” he says. “It’s the first thing that gets packed.”

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