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.
Name: Aaron Schlein
Occupation: Family man, entrepreneur, podcast host, & blogger
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Residence: Sacramento, CA, USA
College: Sacramento State University (undergrad); Notre Dame University of Maryland (grad)
College major: Economics/Risk management
Facebook: Aaron Schlein
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Short bio: Aaron Schlein is a family man, entrepreneur, and host of the Dramatic Travels podcast. Aaron got travel fever as a teenager while traveling the world with his grandmother. His adventures continued in adulthood with several backpacking trips through Europe and beyond. Becoming a father inspired Aaron to focus on family travel. On the Dramatic Travels podcast, Aaron chats with the world’s most passionate travelers who share emotionally charged memories of the people and places that inspired them to travel—and changed their lives forever. Aaron lives in Sacramento, CA, with his wife and two children.
How often do you fly? Before kids, I flew about once a month. These days it’s about half that. We do a lot of road trips around California, and I limit my work travel as best I can.
How many countries have you been to? 51
How many continents have you been to? 5 (no Africa or Antarctica…yet!)
Earliest travel memory: When I was four, my family and I went to Long Island, NY, for my great-grandparents’ 60th anniversary. The party was at a country club, and at one point I found myself alone near a fountain that had a bunch of champagne glasses sitting on it. I’d never seen glass break before, and I vividly remember grabbing one of the champagne glasses and smashing it on the ground. Of course, I wasn’t alone. My uncle was filming the party with an early 80s video camera and got the whole thing on tape.
Favorite American city: That’s a tough one, but I’ve got to go with San Francisco.
Favorite international city: Paris. Can’t get enough of that city.
Least favorite country: I have to say China, but only because it was so insanely smoggy when I was there. There were times when you literally couldn’t see across the street. A black swirl of soot went down the shower drain when I washed my hair. Pretty nasty stuff…
I have no desire to go to: Las Vegas…the day after I get home from Las Vegas.
Friendliest people in the world: Trader Joe’s employees. The Irish are a close second. =)
Country with the meanest immigration officers: I’ve got to say the good old USA. I’m not sure I’d call them mean though. I’ve definitely found them to be the grumpiest. The only place I’ve ever been hassled was in Sydney, Australia, but they hassled me in a friendly way.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Another toughy…I’m very partial to Yosemite National Park in California. It has a special place in my heart because we go there every year for my son’s birthday.
Favorite airline: I really like Lufthansa, but I haven’t flown them in a while. I’m mostly domestic these days, and Southwest is my go-to.
Favorite aircraft type: Boeing 747-100. It was so iconic and revolutionary. I also love the story behind the first 747—how it went from idea to production in just a few years.
Aisle or window: Window—otherwise you’re not getting your money’s worth.
Favorite airport lounge: It’s not an official lounge, but I love the public area in Seattle with the giant windows.
Favorite U.S. airport: I’ve got to go local on this one. For me, every trip starts and ends in Sacramento. It’s easy, convenient, and the parking garage is right next to the terminal. I can go from the jetway to the freeway in less than 10 minutes. Perhaps my favorite thing though is that all the restaurants are local Sacramento places. I don’t know why more airports aren’t doing that.
Favorite international airport: Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten.
Favorite hotel: The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite (it’s now called the Majestic Yosemite Hotel due to trademark issues…).
Favorite cruise line: Right now it’s Celebrity. When we start taking the kiddos, we’ll probably go Royal Caribbean.
Favorite travel credit card: Southwest Rapid Rewards Platinum. I love the flexibility, and you can’t beat how easy it is to redeem rewards.
Favorite island: Crete, Greece.
Favorite beach: Trunk Bay—St. John, USVI.
Favorite National Park: Can I say Yosemite again? OK, I will!
Favorite fancy restaurant: Mulvaney’s B&L in Sacramento. Everything about it is incredible, including the fact that my wife and I got married there!
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: There’s this particular gyro stand near Heraklion, Crete. I have no idea what it’s called though. I probably should, considering I ate there almost every day for a month!
Favorite airport restaurant: Dos Coyotes at Sacramento International.
Favorite bar: Camelot in Hersonissos, Greece. Honestly, it’s a pretty cheesy place, but I love it because of the memories I made there.
Favorite fruit: Avocado!
Favorite food: Stuffed cabbage.
Least favorite food: Raw tomatoes.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Iced tea.
Favorite travel movie(s): Sideways—if you consider it a travel movie. Otherwise, Up in the Air.
Favorite travel show(s): Rick Steves’ Europe.
Favorite travel book(s): “A Pirate Looks at 50” by Jimmy Buffett.
Right now I am reading: “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns and “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! I use Wikipedia all the time to learn about new places. I also love reading the articles about the history of aviation and air travel.
5 things you bring on a plane: Sweatshirt, baseball cap, sunflower seeds, gum, and headphones. Phone is a given, right? =)
What do you always seem to forget? Gum. I have dozens of packs in my house, but I always end up spending $3 to buy some at the airport.
What do you like least about travel? Jetlag. It’s especially brutal with kids.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? I’m not much of a duty-free guy, but, if pressed, I’d have to say a nice bottle of Irish whiskey.
Favorite travel app(s): FlightAware. I love all the geeky details about flights and aircraft.
Most embarrassing travel moment: I was on a cruise, and the late-night lounge entertainment was “Joke Night.” The MC would tell a joke, and then he’d call on someone from the audience to tell a joke. I volunteered without having paid attention to the MC’s previous joke. I went on stage in front of a hundred or so people and told the EXACT same joke the MC had just finished telling. When I got to the punchline, everyone in the audience just stared at me silently. I got to relive the embarrassment when they showed it on the ship’s TV channel the next day.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Sutter’s Fort. It’s a National Historic Landmark in Sacramento. I’ve driven past it hundreds of times but never been inside.
Worst travel moment: I got pickpocketed on a bus in Athens, Greece. The driver kept making these lurching starts, which I later realized was part of the set up. Fortunately, most of my cash was in a money belt. The most difficult thing to replace was my SCUBA diving card.
What’s your dream destination? Antarctica.
Favorite travel charity: The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (FLYTE). I’ve support them through my podcast, Dramatic Travels. FLYTE is a nonprofit organization that empowers youth in underserved communities through transformative travel experiences.
Best travel tip: Don’t underestimate what your kids can handle when it comes to travel.
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