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: Alexandra Baackes
Occupation: Travel Blogger, Freelance Writer, Underwater Videographer
Hometown: Albany, New York
Residence: Wherever my laptop lies
Short Bio: Alexandra Baackes is a travel writer and blogger with a passion for aquatic adventures. A New York native with a background in design, she’s spent the past two years living nomadically and sharing her stories of hopping across the globe.
How often do you fly: In the past year I’ve taken 27 flights, so I guess a little over two a month!
How many countries have you been to: I just hit twenty with my recent trip to Indonesia
How many continents have you been to: Three – Europe, North America, and Asia.
Favorite American city: New York or Honolulu
Favorite international city: Reykjavik or Bangkok
Favorite World Heritage Site: The rice terraces of Batad, in the Philippines. There are no roads leading into Batad, and locals hang their phones on string from tree branches to wait for a signal to pass through. Needless to say, there is no internet – I had to wait a few days to start Instagramming the magic I saw there.
Least favorite country: I haven’t been anywhere that I wouldn’t go back to – every trip has highs and lows. That said, I pretty much only go back to England to see friends. I just don’t have that love for London that I do for so many other places I’ve been.
Favorite airline: I flew with Emirates once and I will remember those ten hours for as long as I live. Bangkok Airways has similar luxury at a regional level.
Aisle or window: Window if I’m taking a red eye or coming home from Vegas – basically, anytime I know I need to sleep. Otherwise, I’m all aisle, though I briefly reconsidered this position recently when a flight attendant dumped a drink cart worth of soda on my open laptop.
Favorite U.S. airport: Charlotte, North Carolina – I love those rocking chairs, and the free wifi.
Favorite international airport: Koh Samui, Thailand – the open air design makes me feel like I’m at a resort.
Favorite hotel: It’s a three way tie – The Witt in Istanbul, The Alaya in Ubud, and Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize. All are boutique properties with killer design.
Do you unpack into the dresser/closet? Or live out of your suitcase? If it’s anything more than three nights, I unpack. This is my life now, so I try to replicate the comforts of home whenever possible.
Favorite cruise line: I’ve only ever been on one, and it was a Silversea cruise from Athens to Istanbul. I’m not sure how that will ever be topped.
Favorite island: As a diver my travels primarily revolve around islands – you’re killing me here! I’ve lived in Grand Cayman, Koh Tao, Thailand and Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, so those all hold special places in my heart. I also spent six weeks island hopping in Hawaii this year, though, and I very much see those islands in my future list of residences.
Favorite fancy restaurant: STK in Las Vegas. Okay, it’s basically a night club that serves small portions of expensive food. When in Vegas, right?
Favorite hole in the wall: Ganni’s Pizza in Brooklyn. When I visited the city after my most recent five month jaunt to Asia, my girlfriends had it waiting on my first night back.
Favorite fruit: While mangos and pineapples are very special to me, it has to be the banana. New travel buddies are often alarmed by how many bananas and banana-flavored products I manage to consume in a single day.
Favorite food: Mexican
Least favorite food: Indian
Drink of choice (In the air and on the ground): In the air I stick with water to avoid jetlag and dehydration. On the ground, I can never go wrong with a classic mojito.
Favorite travel movie(s): Well, the movie The Beach inspired me to go to Thailand solo when I was 19 – so that one will always have a special place in my heart! Nothing makes you book a flight like the idea of being stuck on a murder-y commune run by Tilda Swinton, am I right?
Favorite travel show(s): Lately I feel like so much travel programming revolves around food. I like to eat but I’m the opposite of a foodie, so that really doesn’t grab me.
Favorite travel book(s): Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap for wonderful short stories, Hotel Honolulu by Paul Theroux for great characters, The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost for a good laugh, Travel Writers Go to Hell by Thomas Kohnstamm for a fun exposé and pretty much anything by Pico Ayer for serious wanderlust.
Right now I am reading: Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed The World by Dan Koeppel. See my answer to the favorite fruit question above.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: I read tons of travel blogs – it’s so hard to pick three! Some of my favorites are Camels and Chocolate, Angie Away, Globetrotter Girls and No Vacation Required.
Favorite travel website(s) – besides JohnnyJet.com, of course!: Travelfish is my go-to resource for everything Southeast Asia. Tripadvisor is critical for hotel reviews forum advice, and local Time Out websites are great for finding quirky things to do.
Five things you bring on a plane: (1) Lotion and eye drops to combat dryness. (2) An eye mask and ear plugs to help me sleep. (3) Snacks to ward off hunger panic. (4) My laptop to keep me busy and (5) books or magazines for when the battery dies.
Favorite travel iPhone app(s): I love the Trail Wallet app for keeping track of my spending, Hopstop for navigating public transit, and TinyScan for keeping track of receipts and records on the road.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Recently I asked where the international terminal was at the Singapore Airport. That was met with some skeptical looks considering, you know, all flights out of Singapore are international.
Worst travel moment: I’ve had a few moments of discomfort or panic – forgetting my passport in Thailand, being propositioned at the Burmese border, having a motorcycle stolen in Laos and a few run ins with tropical fungus. But those all became good stories. Others have a pain that sticks with me, like watching in horror as my cab driver was dragged from the vehicle and beaten senseless for breaking strike in Greece.
What’s your dream destination: Brazil. Sometimes I can’t believe I haven’t gotten there yet, but on the other hand I have a sneaking suspicion I know I’ll never leave.
Best travel tip: The good judgement and wise intuition that keeps you safe at home will also guide you on your travels. And truly, the vast majority of people you meet are there to help you, not harm you.
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