What Debra Messing Can’t Travel Without

Debra Messing has starred in television shows and movies for decades, but the actress is best known for playing Grace Adler in “Will and Grace,” which ran on NBC from 1998 to 2006 and which the network brought back to TV screens last year. The sitcom’s new season had its premiere on Oct. 4.

Ms. Messing, who won an Emmy for her performance in 2003, travels frequently for pleasure, but most of her overseas trips are for her work as a global ambassador for HIV-AIDS awareness for Population Services International, an NGO. “I’ve traveled with them to Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and I fell in love with the continent,” she says. The travel isn’t glamorous — it requires visiting the doctors involved in piloting projects to prevent and eradicate AIDS, as well as meeting local, state and health officials — and involves, as Ms. Messing says, “a lot of long drives in vans. We’re going to the places where people don’t have easy access to a testing facility, or a treatment center, or a place where they can get circumcised or get counseling. It’s very, very hot and it’s a lot of bumpy terrain, but it’s also exquisitely beautiful and the people are just magnificent.”

When she does take a vacation, she doesn’t usually get too active. “Oh no no no no no no. I am lying by the pool, and going to the spa, and having body scrubs and massages.” But her preference is usually to go back to Africa. “On some level, I feel most fundamentally myself on the continent of Africa,” she says. “It really is the place that, if I have any time, that’s where I want to go.”

Here’s what she packs on every trip.

“For this last trip [on safari in Kenya] I was with my son and we were traveling on little tiny prop planes, where there’s a weight maximum. So I bought a Sony RX10 IV which is a very compact, really, great camera for all the animal encounters that we went on.”

“I have a very bad back and neck from doing physical comedy — I’ve sprained my back and neck too many times to remember — so a backpack is really necessary for me whenever I travel. I worked on “Will and Grace” for eight years, and it was a very physical job and there was a scene where I had to pretend like I was running into a pole when I was seeing Harry Connick, Jr. for the first time and so I had to run really fast, and put my hand out in front of me to stop the impact, and turn my head back at the same time. And it went fine the first three times and then the last time, I wasn’t as vigilant and I hit my head against the pole while my head was turned and so I sprained my neck. Then I was doing a movie in Chicago with John Leguizamo, ‘Nothing Like the Holidays,’ and it was 25 below zero, and I slipped on the ice and I banged my head and was unconscious. And I fell down a flight of stairs in Australia doing ‘The Starter Wife.’”

“I have this onesie romper that I always wear when I travel on the plane for many, many hours. It’s cotton, it zips up, it doesn’t have feet — it’s not pajamas but it might as well be pajamas — it’s gray and it’s super cozy, and if I wear high boots and I tuck them into my boots, it looks really chic but if I take the boots off, basically I’m in pajamas and there’s no question that I’m the most comfortable person on the plane.”

“It helps with muscle recovery. With all the being in jeeps and bouncing all over the place for like eight hours a day, I can get really, really sore, and so I just put that in my water. It’s tasteless, but I really feel a difference when I use it.”

“Recently I read ‘An American Marriage,’ which I thought was just spectacular. I read ‘There There.’ And ‘The Leavers’ — it’s about immigrants and so I thought it was very prescient. But I think my favorite book that I read in the last three months is ‘Fates and Furies’ by Lauren Groff.”

“I take a sun hat that literally needs its own suitcase, it’s so big. It’s one of those crazy, glamorous, huge-rimmed sun hats because I’m an actress, so I can’t come back seven tones darker for continuity, so I’ve got to be kind of vigilant about not getting too tan.”