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: Beth Norton
Occupation: Mother, e-commerce entrepreneur, and sometime travel blogger
Hometown: Harare, Zimbabwe
Residence: Oxford, England (UK)
College: University of Cape Town
College major: Print Media Production (Journalism in plain speak)
Facebook: Great Zimbabwe Guide
Pinterest: Great Zimbabwe Guide
Short bio: I was brought up in Zimbabwe and now live in Oxford, UK, with my husband and son. I worked in medical textbook publishing in Oxford for seven years, and now run, The Impala Collection, selling exclusive Zimbabwean homeware to the UK market. I try to visit Zimbabwe as often as possible. I created my blog GreatZimbabweGuide.com as a place to keep the overflow of Zimbabwe travel stories that are always on my mind. The blog was the first independent travel blog on Zimbabwe, founded in 2010. Zimbabwe’s political ups and downs have been in the media spotlight for a number of years—but there is so much more to this country. I want to share a little more of Zimbabwe with the world.
How often do you fly? Several times a year, which often includes a flight to Zimbabwe.
How many countries have you been to? I haven’t counted, but not as many as I’d like! I’ve been to a few countries in Africa and Europe, and also to the US.
How many continents have you been to? Three.
Earliest travel memory: Going on a plane when I was about five, to see my grandparents in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I can still remember the sight and smell of the leather booths in the airport restaurant. I wish I had a photo of the airport from all those years ago—it looks very different now.
Favorite American city: I haven’t been to many US cities, but my best so far is Traverse City, Michigan.
Favorite international city: Cape Town, South Africa. It’s got beautiful beaches, gutsy culture, varied nightlife, quirky shops, and great food.
Least favorite country: Ethiopia (see the immigration question below).
I have no desire to go to: Can’t think of one—I think all countries sound intriguing in their own way.
Friendliest people in the world: I really think Zimbabweans truly are the friendliest that I’ve met, and they have the best sense of humor.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: I had a layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and I was travelling alone with my three-month old baby. It’s almost like the Ethiopian officials saw that as an excuse to be unreasonable.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. There’s no way to explain how big it is: it has to be seen to be believed.
Favorite airline: South African Airways. As I regularly travel to Africa, SAA is my favorite for the region.
Favorite aircraft type: The one that has been serviced most recently.
Aisle or window: It’s a conundrum. The window seat is obviously the best for the view, but now that I’ve started travelling with a kid, the aisle seat gives you the quickest access to the bathroom.
Favorite airport lounge: I’ve only ever been to one lounge, and that was in Addis Ababa (as above). I can’t say it was great. I paid for a lounge so that I could get more privacy to nurse my baby, but I still had strangers coming and talking to me. Plus I had to pay for food. Is that normal?
Favorite U.S. airport: Not much experience here. Detroit Metro was OK.
Favorite international airport: Heathrow Terminal 2.
Favorite hotel: Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Zimbabwe.
Favorite cruise line: I’ve never been on a cruise! Does a houseboat count? We used to go on week-long holidays on huge houseboats on Lake Kariba, one of the biggest lakes in the world. We would moor up to the shore each night, listen to lions roaring on the land, and go fishing for our dinner.
Favorite travel credit card: I don’t have one.
Favorite island: Sicily.
Favorite beach: Clifton 4th, Cape Town.
Favorite National Park: Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. I got chased by a wild hippo there, but it’s still the best. It’s one of the last true wildernesses in Africa, and it doesn’t have scores of safari minibuses following your every move.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Gee’s, Oxford.
Favorite pub: Jacob’s Inn, Oxford.
Favorite fruit: Strawberries.
Favorite food: Tiger prawns.
Least favorite food: Offal.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Gin & tonic.
Favorite travel movie(s): Roman Holiday, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Born Free.
Favorite travel show(s): I don’t watch many. Shows by Michael Portillo are annoying yet fascinating at the same time. David Attenborough is always a favorite.
Favorite travel book(s): “The Last Resort” by Douglas Rogers.
Right now I am reading: I’ve just finished “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Travel Africa magazine, Young Adventuress, Lonely Planet magazine.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Nomadic Matt, Wild Eye, Mzansi Girl.
5 things you bring on a plane: A water bottle, paracetamol, a scarf, my own headphones, and my tablet (Nexus 7).
What do you always seem to forget? How long it takes to board a plane.
What do you like least about travel? Trying to sleep in an Economy seat. But it’s worth it.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Lindt chocolates.
Favorite travel app(s): Google Maps.
Most embarrassing travel moment: My husband and I were on honeymoon in Kenya’s Masai Mara and our room had a balcony overlooking the Mara River. One afternoon we left the double doors of the balcony open while we went on a game drive. There was an almighty thunderstorm while we were out, and we came back (rather sodden) to find that the rain had come directly into our room through the open doors. I’ve never seen such wet furniture and rugs! We spent a frantic half hour trying to mop up the pools of water before admitting defeat and calling the lodge reception. Thankfully, they were very understanding.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Ireland, as it’s so close to England.
Worst travel moment: A few years ago I was flying from England to Zimbabwe for Christmas, to be with my family and boyfriend. There was crazy snow in the UK that December, which held up loads of flights. I didn’t check-in online for my flight. Bad move. I arrived at the airport in good time and was told that the flight was already full, due to passengers from snow-cancelled flights being bumped up to my already-overbooked aircraft. I stood at the check-in desk with 20 other people for three hours, waiting in the standby queue, haunted by the thought of spending Christmas alone. In true dramatic fashion, I was given a seat at the last minute, meaning I had to rush through security and run through the terminal, Love Actually-style, to board the plane. But that wasn’t the end of it. When the plane attempted lift off, it didn’t have enough power, and slammed on the brakes instead. We were all asked to disembark due to engine failure. After another five-hour wait and a meager £5 in vouchers, we eventually boarded another plane and took off in snowy conditions. I had missed my connection by that time, so I had to stay in a hotel in Johannesburg before going on a replacement onward flight. I eventually arrived in Zimbabwe on Christmas Eve. The holiday that started so terribly ended well—my boyfriend proposed to me in front of a local elephant in Hwange National Park. (And I said yes.)
What’s your dream destination? Any small island that has azure waters, white sandy beaches, and cocktails.
Favorite travel charity: Pack for a Purpose.
Best travel tip: You always learn something new about yourself if you travel with the right mindset.