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: Mei Zhang
Occupation: Founder, WildChina
Short bio: Mei Zhang is the founder of WildChina, a trendsetting travel company based in Beijing. WildChina defines luxury adventure and off-the-beaten-path experience in China. Mei left her humble roots as an electrician’s daughter to pursue a Harvard Business School MBA, and later worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company. However, she found her true passion in travel and built WildChina into one of the world’s best Adventure Travel Companies, according to National Geographic Traveler. WildChina now has offices in China and the US, and its business model is presented as a case study to all first-year students at Harvard Business School. In 2011, Mei began another endeavor—Beshan Travel, introducing a chic travel lifestyle to sophisticated Chinese. Mei lives in Beijing with her husband and three children. All the while, she maintains a virtual identity true to her origin, @yunnangirl.
How often do you fly? 4-6 times a month.
How many countries have you been to? Approaching 50.
How many continents have you been to? All of them except Antarctica.
Favorite American city: Seattle.
Favorite international city: Cape Town.
Friendliest people in the world: Yunnan people.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Costa Rica. I arrived with a Green Card and they told me that my Green Card was expiring in 2-3 months and they wouldn’t let me in. They eventually allowed me in when they found a three-year visa for Japan in my passport.
Favorite airline: United Airlines—only because I’m Platinum and I can carry three pieces of luggage without paying. (Shocking answer, I know!).
Favorite airport lounge: Emirates—I like their food.
Favorite U.S. airport: Bangor, Maine. It’s small, and gateway to my summer vacation.
Favorite international airport: Charles de Gaulle—for the art.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Temple restaurant, Beijing—French cuisine in beautiful old Chinese temple north of the Forbidden City. Romantic, with tasteful modern touches that make the old more beautiful.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: The one-noodle stand on the snack street in Weishan. Yunnan.
Favorite bar: Mesh, The Opposite House, Beijing. It’s close my house.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): NZ sauvignon blanc.
Favorite travel movie(s): Out of Africa.
Favorite travel book(s): “A Year in Province.” I don’t read that many travel books but this just made me laugh.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Conde Nast, Afar, Centurion.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course!: wendyperrin.com.
5 things you bring on a plane: Headphones, infinity scarf, lip balm, kindle, travel socks—being able to kick your shoes off and relax is a must.
What do you always seem to forget? To book my seats ahead of time, I like to sit in the first three rows on the right, next to the window. Finally I’ve resolved this with an amazing assistant.
What do you like least about travel? Being away from my family.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Arriving at the airport and realizing my flight was the next day.
Worst travel moment: Myanmar—When I set off on my four-hour journey to the airport, I suddenly developed acute diarrhea. After a grueling drive, I arrived only to discover that my agent had mistakenly booked my ticket for the following day and I was asked to buy a new ticket. Luckily the airport manager changed it for me with no additional costs.
Best travel tip: Pack less. Carry on whenever you can. If you need something more, you can always buy more. But lugging around stuff is never fun. Invest in a good suitcase that doesn’t break.