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: Jason Cochran
Occupation: Writer, host
Pinterest: Ha ha!
Bio: Jason Cochran is a travel writer, consumer reporter, media commentator, and pop historian. He has worked at Entertainment Weekly, Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, and AOL, written for dozens of publications including the New York Post, Travel + Leisure, and Newsweek, and appeared as a commentator on CBS, ABC, the BBC, CNN, Fox, and many others. He was awarded the top Lowell Thomas Award for his book on London and his writing has earned accolades from the National Museum of Australia and the Croatian government. He also produced and hosted the post-show for Mark Burnett’s ABC hit “Shark Tank.”
How often do you fly: It’s gotten to where I fly even more than I drive.
How many countries have you been to: About 75
How many continents have you been to: Every one except Antarctica
Favorite American city: Besides my home, I’m always elated to be in Chicago. I went to college at Northwestern there, and I still find it endlessly stimulating.
Favorite international city: The more places I visit, the more I realize that there’s something mystical about the magnetism of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Least favorite country: Because of its tortured politics and history, and because it keeps visitors unpleasantly on edge, I’d have to say Zimbabwe. Poor thing always comes last, doesn’t it?
Favorite World Heritage Site: Too many to single out. Fatehpur Sikri in India, the Medinas of Tunis and Fes, Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, the blue-footed boobies of the Galápagos. But there’s something clean, nourishing, and accessible about a solo hike to Inspiration Point in Yosemite.
Favorite airline: JetBlue knows what it is and does it well. Carriers that don’t have in-seat TVs at this stage of the game should be ashamed of their service.
Favorite aircraft type: Is there a cozier feeling than sipping G&Ts in the small upper deck of a 747 on a long transoceanic flight?
Aisle or window: Window all the way.
Favorite airport lounge: People will be surprised to hear me say this after my recent battle with Virgin Atlantic in the international press, but its lounge at Heathrow is someplace I’d be happy to get stranded for hours on end. Which, given my history with the carrier, is probable.
Favorite U.S. airport: No airport feels more American than the one in Branson, MO. Using private money, it was recently chopped into a rustic part of the Ozarks (the rental car counters issue warnings about wild deer and turkey) and the gate area is gussied up in a bizarre Old West theme, including a fake “General Store.” There’s also a giant wooden grist mill wheel, with waterfall, above a barbecue restaurant. Each table is set with an entire roll of paper towels and beers are served in huge tankards that might be more suited to swimming.
Favorite international airport: The inspiring terminal-train combo at Hong Kong’s massive, gleaming airport never fails to put me in my place as an American who puts up with archaic infrastructure.
Favorite hotel: I love any hotel with a long history. So Brown’s Hotel in London comes to mind. I once stayed in the room where Rudyard Kipling finished “The Jungle Book.” I saw the ghost of a chambermaid standing over my bed there one night; even in the afterlife, Brown’s maintains attentive service.
Favorite cruise line: I love the way the servers on Disney Cruise Line stick with the same families no matter where they dine. Cruise line waiters are almost always from other countries, so it’s a solid way to introduce kids to the humanizing concept that people from other nations are still people worth getting to know.
Favorite island: Huahine, French Polynesia. It’s got everything that makes Tahiti legendary, except for the car traffic and the doddering honeymooners.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Probably Keens Steakhouse near Herald Square in Manhattan, a true survivor from Old New York. It’s been open since 1885 and the ceilings are covered with old 15-inch clay pipes that famous members such as Teddy Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill smoked on their nights out.
Favorite hole in the wall: When I’m in San Francisco, I always hit Saigon Sandwich on Larkin Street and stockpile a few spicy banh mi sandwiches to power me over all those hills.
Favorite fruit: Concord grapes, hands down. They’re only in season for a few weeks and I go through more bushels than a Gallo brother.
Favorite food: As a cuisine, I like Asian best, including sushi and Thai. Give me a lime- and onion-saturated plate of larb, which is Laotian, and I’m a happy (if stinky) guy.
Least favorite food: Szechuan peppercorns. Bleah. Taste like soap. It’s not a spice, it’s a stunt.
Favorite travel movie(s): This is a tough one because just because a movie is set somewhere that’s exotic to me doesn’t mean it’s about travel. But I love ‘The Accidental Tourist’ and its theme of learning how to keep yourself open to whatever journey you’re on. The scene in which Geena Davis’ character eats a burger at a Burger King on the Champs-Élysées and is nonetheless overjoyed about the romance of Paris is a reminder that good travel is not about where you go, but how you go. I loved this movie when I was in high school and hadn’t traveled much. Weirdly, years later I wrote a guidebook to London, just like Macon Leary did.
Favorite travel show(s): ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ on NBC. People don’t think of it as a travel show, but it absolutely is. It’s just that instead of seeing the major sights, the participants discover their personal links to the places they visit. That’s my kind of exploration.
Favorite travel book(s): ‘Assassination Vacation’ by Sarah Vowell. Sarah, call me.
Five things you bring on a plane: Notepad (I’m partial to notebooks from CNA in South Africa), pen, book (almost always non-fiction), magazines, and a coat, which I pull over my head when I sleep, like a weirdo.
What do you always seem to forget: Those teeny bottles of Listerine mouthwash
Favorite travel iPhone app(s): HiConverter is like a Swiss Army knife for calculations.
Most embarrassing/worst travel moment: That would have to be the time I was in a canoe on the Okavango Delta, cruising past dozens of crocodiles greedily glaring from the banks, when an angry hippopotamus surfaced from underneath me. She was a hair too late, and her heft pretty much pushed us away, otherwise I’d have met my end in an illustriously gory two-for-one safari combo.
What’s your dream destination: Every year I swear it’s time to take the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Favorite travel website(s) – besides JohnnyJet.com, of course!: I have about 50 favorites queued up in my RSS feeder, and since I have friends and respected colleagues that run many of them, I could never pick a favorite.
Best travel tip: Travel for the love of conquest and you may be disappointed, but travel for the love of people and you won’t be. Wait, that’s an adage. How about this advice: The faintest trails lead to the grandest views.