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: Christine Drinan
Occupation: Founder of Galavante.com, the luxury media company with discerning travel reviews, lifestyle inspiration and travel concierge for the Working Jet Set
Hometown: New York
Residence: New York
College/Grad School: University of Illinois in Champaign, Columbia Business School
College major: French & Accounting undergrad, Finance & Entrepreneurship Business School
Short bio: Christine Drinan is the Founder and CEO of Galavante, the travel, lifestyle and entertainment resource for the Working Jet Set. As a travel expert, entrepreneur and finance refugee, Christine has visited more than 85 countries and counting, spending over 90 days a year traveling the world while running her growing company. Christine merges luxury travel with a personal finance perspective, having stayed at 700-plus luxury hotels around the world while maximizing her credit card points and airline mileage.
Before launching Galavante in 2010, Christine worked for the private equity firm the Blackstone Group. Christine’s love of travel and her busy work schedule at the Blackstone Group gave her the inspiration to start Galavante. Christine herself was a Working Jet Set professional with limited time off and a high standard of travel. She wanted to make the most out of long weekends by knowing exactly where to stay and what to do in some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Until Galavante, she couldn’t find an adequate travel site that gave her recommendations for quick high-end trips.
When Christine isn’t trekking around the world, she can be found in New York City. As an active part of the NYC community, her favorite place in the world. Christine has been a Founding Member of IvyConnect, Board Member of the New York Junior League, a Young Associate at the Metropolitan Opera, and a member of Creative Time. Christine has an MBA from Columbia University.
How often do you fly? At least once or twice a month. This year it’s often been three times a month to destinations around the world, and when I’m there for example for a 10-day trip, I’m making tracks and often on 6-7 flights until I return home. Galavante’s business is travel, and we personally experience every recommendation on our website either through our team or through our incredible Tastemakers. So I do my part by scouring the world for the best in travel, which means a lot of flights. I love to fly though, and next on my personal list is a heli license.
How many countries have you been to? 84, 85 by the time this article will publish!
How many continents have you been to? 6
Earliest travel memory: That would be coming to New York City for the first time as a seven-year-old, where my family and I stayed at The Roosevelt. We also had a dinner at the Waldorf, which was very expensive for my parents. We were the only kids in the entire restaurant. I decided to take that moment to insist that I forgo the makeshift kids menu they put together and order an adult filet mignon. My mom was mortified at the cost but upon seeing my tears and disappointment, my dad allowed me to splurge on that steak. Also, on that trip, my dad bought me this green muscle-tee sweatshirt that said New York on it (hey—it was the 80s) that looked like it was out of Flash Dance. He said to me, “This is New York. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” At that moment I knew I would live in New York City one day.
Favorite American city: New York, of course. Also New York is my favorite place in the world. While I love exploring new places, my favorite part of travel is coming home from JFK and seeing the New York City skyline. There is no place like it in the world.
Favorite international city: Berlin in the summertime.
Least favorite country: I don’t have one yet; I always seem to find something I like about a country on my travels.
I have no desire to go to: N/A. The world is fair game.
Friendliest people in the world: The Swedes. I would go back to Stockholm in a heartbeat. It doesn’t hurt that they are also beautiful people.
Favorite World Heritage Site: My dream one day is to be on the board of UNESCO. As I’ve traveled more, I’ve realized the importance of conservation from the sacred land in Africa and the wildlife to historic landmarks. My favorite is the Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur. Egypt is one of the destinations where I have traveled to that I am compelled to return to really immerse myself in the history and culture.
Favorite airline: Delta for flying from the U.S., Emirates for the quality of service and Singapore for the overall experience.
Favorite aircraft type: Bombardier Global, Gulfstream and I am excited to see the new Delta Airbus A350 that is coming out this fall with the Delta One suites.
Aisle or window: 2A, whenever I can snag it.
Favorite hotel: This is like asking me who my favorite child is. I’ve stayed in 55+ Four Seasons, qualify as an Aman Junkie and have a soft spot for anything Oetker—especially the Hotel du Cap and Villa Rockstar at Eden Rock in St. Barths. But if I have to choose, it would be Singita Lebombo in South Africa. I’ve been on seven safaris, stayed in eight safari lodges, and by far the service, genuine warmth of the team, gorgeous lodge rooms, game drives, guides has been a lifetime experience.
Favorite cruise line: I don’t cruise.
Favorite travel credit card: Chase Sapphire or American Express Platinum/Centurion.
Favorite island: Mustique or St. Barths.
Favorite beach: The Whitsundays in Australia. I’ve never experienced a beach with such soft white sand and so off-grid. I helicoptered in one day and another day was on the Oatley family boat, The Andiamo, for Hamilton Island Raceweek, and between watching the race sped at 34 knots to take a quick side trip to the Whitsundays. There’s no development whatsoever in the islands. Luckily both times my travel companions packed lots of champagne.
Favorite National Park: Kilimanjaro. I summited to start my 2016 and I could never do it again.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Maaemo in Oslo, Norway. While it’s a three-star Michelin restaurant, it is the antithesis of a stuffy experience. The atmosphere is modern and light; the service is impeccable but friendly and approachable. No one here takes themselves too seriously, but the food is inventive. I am a home chef and I don’t know if I could even attempt one of their dishes. I had a langoustine with smoked pine and caramel of langoustine garum served over an actual evergreen. Every dish is so intricate in flavor, and to miss the Maaemo experience is to miss out on a big part of what makes Oslo special. Also, anyone who can serve me heart shaped Norwegian waffles for dessert with brown cheese is my hero.
Favorite airport restaurant: The Caviar House & Prunier at JFK. If I’m feeling like I worked hard enough or hit certain milestones, I will treat myself to a tin for the airplane and if I’m living really large, I’ll have some king crab prior to the flight.
Favorite bar: I love Jimmy’s in Aspen. Laid-back Colorado cool and a great cocktail and wine list. Also, Jimmy is a Mezcal expert and he’s the only person I will drink anything in the tequila family with.
Favorite fruit: Harry’s Strawberries which I buy from Eataly. They are heart-stoppingly expensive but have the exact natural sweetness that we miss in most strawberries.
Favorite food: Caviar. With potato chips, crème fraiche and chive.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): An incredible red wine—preferably from Montalcino. I love Stella di Campalto who in one of her first vintages receive a 90+ Parker rating for her Brunello. I love bada—, talented women entrepreneurs. Also in the air, sometimes Delta will have a Tesseron Cognac and that puts me right to sleep.
Favorite travel movie(s): 100 Foot Journey. I love happy movies that combine food, travel and gorgeous cinematography.
Favorite travel show(s): I would have to say Anthony Bourdain’s because his production is the best. I don’t always agree with his content and I think in certain destinations like San Sebastian he misses the boat by excluding for example the Spaniards’ obsession with the gin & tonic, the wine cellar at Rekondo which is indisputably one of the best in the world, and the local area outside of the touristy Old Town in Gros where there are some of the best pinxto bars as well as buzzy places like the newish Topa by the guys at controversial Mugaritz. But until we launch our own Galavante travel show, his is the best out there.
Favorite travel book(s): I still love “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas. The descriptions are so vivid I can picture the stunning French Mediterranean and rocky islands that are so beautifully written about in this classic.
Right now I am reading: My back issues of The Economist, Conde Nast Traveler and the latest news. I love the Financial Times. You can take the girl out of Wall Street but not the Wall Street out of the girl.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Galavante, Johnny Jet and Vogue—the latter may not always get specific recommendations but I like to see where the celebs and tastemakers are traveling. Galavante’s recommendations come from Tastemakers—some of whom have been on the cover of Vogue and within its pages, so I read a wide range of publications to see where people with impeccable taste are traveling.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Of course you Johnny! I love what you have built on your platform.
5 things you bring on a plane: I fly so much that I am a fanatic about my skin. There is nothing that can age you more than air travel. In my bag, I have Koh Gen Do Spa Water cloths, Decleor toner which I use as a mist, Biologique Recherche Oxygen cream, by Terry baume de rose, and travel socks—either my Loro Piana that I bought in Milan ages ago or my sheep socks from my friends Dave and Melanie’s wedding in Vermont. I get a lot of amused stares at the front of the plane with my sheep socks.
What do you always seem to forget? Now I’m going to jinx myself by saying this, but I don’t forget anything. I create a packing list for each trip that includes what outfit I’m going to wear from the moment I wake up until I rest my head in the wee hours. I’m a list person, so I meticulously check off my list to ensure that I don’t forget anything and I also don’t over pack. I never check baggage unless I’m bringing donations to Africa for my various charities that I work with.
What do you like least about travel? I can’t believe I’m going to say this but flying commercial once I’m on the ground. I love to fly commercial internationally to earn miles, but once I’m in my destination, especially when I’m a flight every other day or daily between cities, there is a lot of wasted time in airports that would be much mitigated by a private charter.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Jo Malone as there are so few ways to get a discount on their candles, Christian Dior sunglasses, and anything Loro Piana.
Favorite travel app(s): Galavante’s Reviews app, when we launch it this fall. Johnny we must have you as one of our Tastemakers for the app!
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Turks & Caicos. The Aman there is on my list for when I get a free weekend.
Worst travel moment: Luckily, I haven’t had one yet. Or maybe I’m just an eternal optimist.
What’s your dream destination? Antarctica. The penguin is my favorite animal because of their monogamy and their importance on family.
Favorite travel charity: Beyond Capital. They fund entrepreneurs whose businesses are in infrastructure—clean water, medical and other critical needs.
Best travel tip:
- Pack light. I can go to Africa for two weeks with just a carry-on. I create a packing list with the outfits I’m wearing each day and I mix and match. I don’t throw in anything that’s not on the list and I limit my shoes to two pairs, in rare cases three, where I wear my heaviest pair on the airplane and when I’m transiting between destinations.
- Choose your travel companions wisely. Just because someone is your best friend doesn’t mean they will be the best travel partner. Travel with people who are flexible, easy and open to experiences. Also get the discussions about budgets out of the way before you get to your destination so everyone is on the same page.
- Ask friends whose style you like (and especially check Galavante) for recommendations. Those are the best resources when you are mapping out your own rock star itinerary.
- When you’re on your trip, relax, enjoy, and roll with it. By the nature of travel, things can be unpredictable that are out of your control, even with the best laid plans. Everything is going to be splendid and your outlook dictates your experience in a destination.