Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Occupation: Travel writer, speaker
Hometown: Minnetonka, Minnesota
Residence: Stockholm, Sweden
Short Bio: Author of 10 books, including 2 for Lonely Planet and 3 for Rough Guides, had a weekly syndicated travel column in over 40 newspapers for five years, hosted a Travel Channel show, served as a correspondent for Public Radio’s Savvy Traveler show, served as travel editor for Scandinavian Airlines inflight magazine for three years and contributed to publications such as National Geographic Traveler, Reader’s Digest, Esquire, Men’s Journal, The Guardian, National Geographic Adventure, World Hum, and Huffington Post. Has given lectures at nearly 100 universities, and spoken at travel conferences, Nat Geo Headquarters and ITB Berlin.
How often do you fly: Varies…from one a month to every day for 2-3 weeks while lecturing.
How many countries have you been to: 100+ (120 if you include short stops)
How many continents have you been to: Not Antartica
Favorite American city: New York (was born there, so there’s a bit of bias)
Favorite international city: To visit: Barcelona. Where I’d like to try living next, maybe Lugano, Switzerland.
Least favorite country: Can’t dismiss a whole country, but I’d say the eastern border town of Maicao, Colombia wasn’t particularly pleasant, nor parts of Caracas and Nairobi, and the tensions in the Middle East seem to have made the Israelis military/border guards the least pleasant to deal with.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Trick here is the people. Overcrowding has a huge effect on the experience. If you can remove all the crowds (which is impossible), you can better compare. In that case, if you include the walk, maybe Macchu Picchu.
Favorite airline: Have fond memories of Singapore, Emirates and Cathy Pacific, but it has been a while since I’ve flown them.
Favorite aircraft type: Anything fairly large and underbooked…so I can stretch out across multiple seats.
Aisle or window: Aisle short flight, window long flights.
Favorite airport lounge: Only been to a few.
Favorite U.S. airport: Wouldn’t say favorite, and there’s some hometown bias here, but I’d say that MSP sucks the least.
Favorite international airport: Gardemoen, Oslo… modern but small. Also like the security system in Stockholm.
Favorite hotel: Only stay in fancy ones when conferences book it for me. Of those, the W hotels are hard to top. Haven’t been to any fancy ones on my own in ages. When I pay, I prefer the B&Bs where you meet the owner and they bake fresh bread themselves.
Favorite cruise line: Sorry, don’t cruise.
Favorite island: Loved the Perhentian Islands back in 1993. Not sure I’d care for it much now.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Opera Källare (stockholm)
Favorite hole in the wall: Chat-n-Chew (NYC) for my fix of cheap American cuisine when I get back to the US.
Favorite fruit: Mango
Favorite food: Fresh fish cooked together with good friends, other fresh ingredients and plenty to drink.
Least favorite food: Anchovies
Drink of choice (In the air and on the ground): Caipirinha
Favorite travel movie(s): Into the Wild is the hands-down winner. Midnight Express — more of a prison film, perhaps, but a great warning for travelers.
Favorite travel show(s): I like the UK’s Channel 4. ”My Family’s Crazy Gap Year” — follows different families on their dream trips. Typically, the parts they thought were going to be cool (like driving around Africa) were boring… kids would fall asleep or play games and hardly look out the window. And usually their best experiences were when they’d stop to work at an orphanage and interact with the locals. Also really enjoyed “Meet the Natives” — a brilliant and entertaining documentary about bringing five men from a remote South Pacific Island to the UK and having them stay with different families. Also did a US version. Fantastic observations. Hate the Amazing Race… presents the world in such a shallow light, as a backdrop for Americans to race through.
Favorite travel book(s): Iron and Silk is a classic. Of the more recently published stuff, i really enjoyed Cruise Confidential… sort of like the Nanny Diaries of the cruise ship worker, but funnier and raunchier.
Right now I am reading: Kiterunner (was on my to-read list forever… finally getting around to it)
Five things you bring on a plane: Ipad for reading/films, ear plugs, blindfold, sleeping pills, Extra t-shirt (in case of drink spills).
What do you always seem to forget: Sleeping pills for long plane rides.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport duty free store? A really, really tacky souvenir.
Favorite travel iPhone app(s): If you count the camera as an app, then that. I’ve ended up using my iphone’s camera more and more. Otherwise, perhaps Tripit.
Most embarrassing/worst travel moment: When I borrowed a sleeping bag from a Argentinian cowboy while working on a farm and then peed in it the first night when a bug crawled into my mouth while sleeping. Or maybe when I got locked into a toilet in the Netherlands. Or maybe when I was woken at 3am by a drunk native in the Amazon who was yelling at me and tapping me on the nose with the blade of his machete (and drawing blood). Hard to say.
What’s your dream destination: Crossed off my bucket list… at this point it’s more about either bringing my kids to do some of my favorite experiences (canoeing the Zambezi, Horseback riding in Australia, Galapagos) or getting time away from my kids to do some kitesurfing, hiking, skiing with my wife or friends.
Best travel tip: The best souvenirs you can bring back are skills… learning how to cook a meal, mix a new cocktail, give a massage, etc.