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: Denise Soulam Banks
Occupation: TV Production/Freelance Writer Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Facebook: Denise Soulam
Short bio: Denise takes great pride in saying that she grew up at “The Tonight Show”—working with both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. She began producing the New Products segments after the head writer learned she was selling one-liners to Joan Rivers. Early in Leno’s tenure she became involved in photography and shot the bumper slides of LA that led in and out of commercial. During her first year at the show, she saved enough money for a trip to Italy and it’s been her destination of choice ever since. This year she made her 20th visit…she’s counting down the days to number 21.
How often do you fly? Not nearly enough.
How many countries have you been to? 19
How many continents have you been to? 3
Earliest travel memory: Standing with my mother outside the Mint Hotel waiting for my father to finish gambling. Fortunately he won and we celebrated at The Golden Nugget’s buffet.
Favorite American city: Los Angeles.
Favorite international city: Naples, Italy.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Not mean, but most imposing was the former USSR. This man had the height of a basketball player, girth of someone who had never said no to a knish & a scar on his temple that served as a delivery device for his sweat. When he asked, “You vant visit Moscva?” all I could say was “Nyet.”
Favorite World Heritage Site: Historic Center of Naples. Stand on any corner and do a 360. You’ll see ancient ruins, Baroque churches, pizzerie, kids playing soccer, graffiti, an entire family on a Vespa. Oh, the humanity!
Favorite airline(s): Delta.
Favorite aircraft type: No preference.
Aisle or window: Window.
Best flight attendant you’ve ever had: The sweetheart who brought me desserts from first class after she learned my boyfriend had dumped me the day before.
Favorite airport lounge: Haven’t been to very many.
Favorite U.S. airport: LAX.
Favorite international airport: Charles de Gaulle.
Favorite hotel: Four Seasons, Santa Barbara
Favorite island: Ischia—fewer tourists than Capri and equally as stunning.
Favorite beach: Any of the little coves along Pozzuoli—facing Mt. Vesuvius.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Geoffreys, Malibu.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Los Amigos, Burbank.
Favorite bar: The outside bar at Hotel Excelsior, Naples. Views of the city and the ocean are breathtaking—not to mention the volcano!
Favorite fruit: Figs.
Favorite food: Cheese
Least favorite food: Haggis.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): In the air: Water. On the ground: Frozen chips of water surrounded by lime juice, tequila & Cointreau.
Favorite travel movie(s): To Catch A Thief, Roman Holiday, Life of Pi, The Darjeeling Express, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Favorite travel show(s): Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, Michael Palin’s series, An Idiot Abroad.
Favorite travel book(s): “Naples ‘44” by Norman Lewis—it covers the Allies’ liberation of Napoli.
Right now I am reading: “Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: National Geographic Traveler, Napoli Unplugged, Tiffany Parks’ thepinesofrome.blogspot.com.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! TripAdvisor.
5 things you bring on a plane: Water, a hoodie, warms socks, earplugs, stretchy pants to accommodate high-altitude/middle-aged bloating.
What do you always seem to forget? Techie stuff—cables, connectors, converters.
What do you like least about travel? The high-altitude/middle-aged bloating.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Good olive oil.
Worst travel moment: During heavy turbulence on an Aeroflot flight in 1989 when I realized that (a) I was sitting directly beneath an old VCR the size of a Smart Car and (b) I realized I was sitting under an old VCR because the overhead compartments didn’t have any doors on them! The matter was resolved when someone from the cockpit came out with a roll of duct tape.
What’s your dream destination? Anywhere in Italy for a couple of months…with our dogs.
Best travel tip: Try to master at least a couple of phrases in the native tongue of wherever you’re visiting. It’s a sign of respect and shows that you’ve taken the time to learn something of your host country’s culture.