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 Sarkis
Occupation: Senior Editor at SmarterTravel.com
Short bio: I love travel and writing equally, so I feel lucky to have helped shape the online publication SmarterTravel over the last decade. My work regularly appears on USAToday.com, the Huffington Post, and other publications. I’ve also had stories in Conde Nast Traveler online and in the Best Women’s Travel Writing series. I’m currently polishing up a book-length piece about a string of Parisian haps and mishaps, and I am mother to two small adventurers.
How often do you fly? 6-10 times a year.
How many countries have you been to? 25ish. I tend to go deep before going broad. For instance, I’ve been to Spain five times but haven’t yet started exploring Portugal.
Earliest travel memory: Rusty amusement park ride in Mexico. I must have been about three years old. There was candy.
Favorite international city: I lived in Paris for about a year and met my husband there, and it’s a great city, so it tops my list. I also have wonderful memories of Kyoto in spring, though I haven’t been back for two decades.
Friendliest people in the world: I think friendliness looks different depending on where you are in the world, and for the most part, figuring out what constitutes friendliness in each culture really highlights how many warm and generous people there are in the world. I’ve found friendliness in the guise of people going way out of their way to help me (Japan), being patient with my mangling of their language in pursuit of a pastry (France), and coming at me with a huge smile and a big hello (the U.S.).
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Romania. My visit there was also the only time I came away with bruises from a security screening.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Tikal between 4 and 8 am. You have to stay inside the park to pull it off, but there’s just nothing like climbing the Double-Headed Serpent Temple in the pre-dawn mist, arriving at the top just in time for sunrise over the jungle, and then spending the next few hours wandering the ancient city (and catching all the early-morning wildlife activity) without any of the crowds. Go with a guide—they’ll keep you from getting lost and tell you incredible stories that bring the ruins alive.
Favorite airline: As a San Francisco native, I’m a big fan of Virgin America. I find the mood lighting soothing and I love the ability to order food whenever.
Aisle or window: Aisle all the way.
Favorite U.S. airport: Oakland. It’s fast, has local restaurants, and is now (finally!) connected to BART for easy public transportation access.
Favorite international airport: Florence. It’s surprisingly small and rustic for being the gateway to a world-class city. Last time I was there I walked off the plane and was in a car within four minutes.
Favorite hotel: Conrad Tokyo. Such views, even from the bathtub.
Favorite island: Anguilla. It’s so beautiful without being self-conscious about it, and, because it’s slightly out-of-the-way (you fly to St. Maarten and then take another flight or a ferry), there aren’t big crowds or packed beaches.
Favorite beach: Not even sure it’s a real beach, but I had the best forty-minute float of my life in the warm, clear water along a stretch of road near Menton in Monaco.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Sir and Star in Olema near Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California. It’s ultra-local, eccentric, delicious, and a perfect spot for dinner on a rainy winter evening. Also, the tables are close enough together for some pretty interesting eavesdropping.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Chez Louisette at the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen in Paris. The food is terrible, but it’s an incredibly fun and weird time warp complete with what look like Christmas decorations from the 60s and aging chanteuses belting out French standards, with accordion accompaniment of course.
Favorite fruit: Strawberry guava. I only had one once, but I’ve been searching for another ever since.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): In the air, plenty of water. On the ground, plenty of wine.
Favorite travel movie(s): Fitzcarraldo. I love the scene at the end with the opera singers on the river.
Favorite travel book(s): “Heat” by Bill Buford. I wish he would write a hundred more books about food and cooking and travel so I would always have something great to read.
Best travel tip: Learn at least a bit of the language of every country you visit before you go. There are so many great resources out there, and it’s nice to at least be able to say hello, please, thank you, and a few other niceties before you land in another person’s country.