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: Chris Blatnik
Occupation: Aid Worker, Writer, Traveler, and Pop Culture Consumer
Hometown: Washington D.C./Bethesda, MD
Residence: San Francisco, California
College: University of Maryland (undergrad)/The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) (masters)
College major: Government and Politics (undergrad)/International Relations (masters)
Short bio: Chris Blatnik is an international traveler, development/aid worker, writer, and generally thoughtful guy. When he’s not traveling for work, he’s traveling for pleasure, working on his novel, listening to podcasts, reading, or watching professional wrestling. He resides in San Francisco, California.
How often do you fly? I’ve flown over 110,000 miles flown in the last 12 months, so quite a bit. Typically, a few times a month at least
How many countries have you been to? 27 in total.
How many continents have you been to? Four, I need to get to Australia and South America.
Earliest travel memory: I didn’t start traveling internationally until college, but have been making up for it since.
Favorite American city: Chicago. I finally made it there this year. It’s just the quintessential American city with great food, drinks, views, and people.
Favorite international city: Probably Bangkok or Barcelona. There’s just so much variety when it comes to things to do for both. The experience in each can also change drastically with local guidance.
Least favorite country: I’ve never been somewhere I wouldn’t want to go back to under some circumstance.
I have no desire to go to: North Korea. I’m going to skip that one for now.
Friendliest people in the world: Thais and Filipinos, the two friendliest groups of people on the planet.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: India, I’ve always been treated like dirt at the Delhi Airport.
Favorite World Heritage Site: The Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan, the Philippines. It’s basically an underground river that you can take a tour of.
Favorite airline: United. The service isn’t the best, but they make it super easy to redeem miles. Plus, being a Star Alliance member doesn’t hurt.
Favorite aircraft type: The bigger the better. I’m just not a huge fan of flying on small airplanes.
Aisle or window: Window if it’s an overnight flight and I’m trying to sleep, otherwise it’s the aisle.
Favorite airport lounge: The Star Alliance Lounge in Zurich Airport, which has everything you might need: nap areas, showers, fully loaded bar, etc. The décor is also extremely well done with wood paneling and has an extremely modern feel.
Favorite U.S. airport: SFO–San Francisco, it’s just the best. I can usually get from my front door to the gate under an hour. It’s run super well and I’ve never had a problem there. They just need to improve the restaurants in the international terminal.
Favorite international airport: DXB–Dubai. You can find anything you’re looking for, including tons of connections to anywhere in the world.
Favorite hotel: With chains, probably the Four Seasons, but the Hilton is also typically a good value for the money. The Oakwood Premier in Manila, Philippines is the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in for work.
Favorite cruise line: I don’t think I’m really a cruise type of person, I would get bored.
Favorite travel credit card: The United Mileage Plus Explorer credit card. It makes earning and redeeming miles super easy.
Favorite island: Has to be Bali, Indonesia.
Favorite beach: Long Beach off of Ko Phi Phi Island in Thailand.
Favorite National Park: Muir Woods National Monument (park) in Marin County, California.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Woodmont Grill which used to be my neighborhood restaurant in Bethesda, MD. There are also a few in San Francisco I really like: Frances, Trestle, and Super Duper Burger (even though it’s technically not fancy).
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Papalote Mexican Grill, which is a just few blocks away from my house. I’ve eaten from there more times than any other food spot in San Francisco by far.
Favorite bar: DC Reynolds, in Washington DC, which offers a “buy one get one free” happy hour every night!
Favorite fruit: Blueberries, bananas and apples.
Favorite food: Mexican (especially in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco) or Thai.
Least favorite food: Olives.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Old Fashioned on the ground, water in the air. You don’t want to already be hung over when you arrive.
Favorite travel movie(s): Lost in Translation, Into the Wild and Up in the Air.
Favorite travel show(s): Without question, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Favorite travel book(s): “Vagabonding” by Ralf Potts, and “Ghostwritten” by David Mitchell (technically not a travel book, but deals with characters set in a number of locations around the world).
Right now I am reading: “The Night Manager” by John le Carré. I enjoyed the TV series so much I had to go back and read the book.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: I really like the New York Times’ “36 hours in…” feature they do for cities. Besides that, I usually look at Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor for places I’m traveling to, but the best recommendations come from locals or friends/family members that have already been, so I’ll usually try to find someone who has been if there’s a place I’m interested in traveling to.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! I always like to look at WikiTravel for general information about the places I’m traveling to.
5 things you bring on a plane: Kindle, phone charger, water bottle, laptop, and comfortable hoodie.
What do you always seem to forget? Power plug adapter(s), I have a drawer of about 15 of them at home, and forget to bring one every time.
What do you like least about travel? Flight delays.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Green Tea Kit Kats from Tokyo, Narita International Airport, or a Tumi suitcase.
Favorite travel app(s): I have a bunch I use daily: iCurrency to check exchange rates, Yelp for restaurant recs, Google Translate for language issues, Yoga Studio for stretching and hotel room yoga, the White Noise app for sleeping, TurboScan for document scanning, and the United and Uber apps for actual travel logistics.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Having my wallet returned to me in front of everyone waiting to board a flight in Detroit. I had left it at the Duty Free cash register by accident. I had headphones on, so it took a while for the poor girl with the wallet to get my attention. When I finally realized what was happening and took back my wallet, I received a standing ovation from all the passengers waiting to board.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Anywhere in South America.
Worst travel moment: A flight I was on to Dubai had to turn around and go back and land in Washington, DC because of a sick passenger after already flying for two hours. The flight was then completely cancelled because the cabin crew had surpassed their hours total. I realize that’s pretty tame compared to most people’s experiences and consider myself lucky. I was able to get booked on another flight 24 hours later.
What’s your dream destination? I’ve checked a lot off the list recently, but right now it’s New Zealand.
Best travel tip: Buy the noise-canceling headphones, they’re worth it.