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: Carolyn Spencer Brown
Occupation: Editor in Chief, Cruise Critic
Residence: Chestertown, Maryland
College: University of Maryland, College Park
College major: BS Government & Politics
Facebook: CruiseEditor Cruise Critic
Short bio: As editor in chief of Cruise Critic, the world’s largest resource for consumer cruise news and information, Carolyn Spencer Brown oversees editorial operation for the Web site’s U.S.-, U.K.- and Australia-based outlets.
As primary spokesperson for Cruise Critic, she’s been featured in The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, BBC’s World Business Report, The Times of London, MSNBC, Associated Press, Real Simple, CNN, and ABC World News Tonight, among others. Forbes Travel named Spencer Brown to its list of the 25 most influential women in travel. And under her guidance, Cruise Critic has twice been honored with the Society of American Travel Writers Lowell Thomas Award.
A Baltimore native, Spencer Brown began covering cruise travel as a staff writer at The Washington Post. As a travel journalist, she’s also covered industry news, the Caribbean, Europe, spas, hotels, and myriad other topics. She’s contributed to publications including Town and Country, Conde Nast Traveler, and The Times, among others.
How often do you fly? 2-4 times per month.
How many countries have you been to? Absolutely no idea. One of the upsides (downsides) of covering the cruise industry, and cruising often, is that you can hit a whole lot of new countries on one itinerary without breaking a sweat. It’s akin to a cat swiping clutter from the mantelpiece.
How many continents have you been to? The only one I’m missing is Antarctica.
Earliest travel memory: While my dad’s away on some glamorous expense account business trip, my mom, always a restless wanderer, spontaneously packs up her five kids and heads out in the station wagon for destination unknown. I inherited that impulse from her.
Favorite American city: Baltimore, my hometown.
Favorite international city: London first, Helsinki a close second.
Least favorite country: Probably the strangest country I’ve been to is Yemen but there’s no least favorite. They’re all fascinating in some way.
I have no desire to go to: I’ll be honest, while it’s really fashionable to brag about seeing Antarctica, I don’t know, it doesn’t really move me.
Friendliest people in the world: On a recent cruise along the Mississippi River, I was struck by how genuine and friendly were the folks we met—including the crew on the ship. Southern hospitality is a real thing.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Ours, sometimes.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Petra.
Favorite airline: Emirates.
Favorite aircraft type: Wide-body, 747 first and foremost.
Aisle or window: On long-haul flights, I like an aisle—easier to move around. On short-haul flights I want to hang out the window and see what’s below.
Favorite airport lounge: I don’t often fly Virgin Atlantic but it’s a treat when I do; the lounge still sets the standard.
Favorite U.S. airport: It’s a tough choice as there really isn’t a standout. If pressed, I’d give it to PBI which still feels reasonably cozy and has good services.
Favorite international airport: Love Helsinki Vantaa for its Nordic/Asian melange.
Favorite hotel: The Inn at Montchanin, outside of Wilmington, DE, is my favorite spot for down-time.
Favorite cruise line: Don’t have one ☺
Favorite island: St Barth.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: In Lambertville, NJ—and it’s not really a hole-in-the-wall but it’s a great American pub—it’s the Swan Hotel.
Favorite fruit: Mango.
Favorite food: French bistro fare, not too gussied up.
Least favorite food: Sushi.
Favorite travel movie(s): Just rewatched French Kiss for the 200th time. Also adore An Affair to Remember.
Favorite travel book(s): “Rail to Rail: From Beijing to Berlin” by Mary Morris. It’s a fabulous tale not just of travel but of an interesting woman on a life’s journey.
Right now I am reading: “The Stone Diaries” by the late Carol Shields.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Of course, Cruise Critic—have spent 13 years there helping to build the site with some awesome colleagues. I use TripAdvisor a lot in Europe to find restaurants—it’s really good.
5 things you bring on a plane: iPad, phone, scarf in case I get cold, scented lavender spray, a snack.
What do you like least about travel? Flying and all its incumbent hassles, and in particular the sound of TSA staffers shrieking rules at you when going through security.
Favorite travel app(s): Instagram.
Most embarrassing travel moment: There are so so many. The most recent: I have a rather distinctive red Rimowa suitcase. Never seen another. After one long, long-haul flight, saw it coming around the belt, picked it up and went on my way. Irritatingly, a wheel had gotten broken somehow and I had to maneuver on three. It was until I was ten steps past border control when I realized it wasn’t my red Rimowa. Too late to return it, I needed to recheck it at customer service (further inconveniencing the poor bloke whose it really was), and paying $100 to get mine delivered. It was either that or wait for five hours.
Worst travel moment: Losing my passport mid-flight and trying to explain to immigration how I’d gotten on the plane in the first place.
What’s your dream destination? Home! I travel so much and so often that time at home feels like a holiday. At least for a few weeks.