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: Don Nadeau
Occupation: President, BidOnTravel.com
Hometown: The San Gabriel Valley in California, which at the time hosted many Canadian expats hopefully not to its despair; all but one family on our block was Canadian, including us delinquent children
Citizenship: Canada, Ireland, United States
College: Parsons College, USC, MUM, UCLA—the latter for a California teaching credential, not a degree
Degrees: Social Science Education, an advanced degree in that, MBA
Short travel bio: Taught high school World Geography with focus and Africa and Asia, as well as Urban Studies. Then worked for an inbound travel and tour company targeting international travelers to North America. We were budget-oriented and I loved it. Our company sold the third-largest dollar amount of Amtrak tickets in the world at the time and sold even lots of Greyhound passes, etc. Nearby travel agencies sent their unwanted travelers to us. Based on our business volume, that was clearly an economic mistake.
After that came experience at an agency focusing on Third World corporate travel also in Canada. Now I own BidOnTravel.com. I achieved CTC (Certified Travel Counselor) status in the industry.
Am still a backpacker at heart, but one with a healthy appetite for luxury.
How many countries have you been to? Forty. Tend to spend a long time in some (altogether more than six months in South Africa alone), so am in no rush to experience them all.
Earliest travel memory: Checking out the Grand Canyon. Awesome!
Favorite large American city: New York City never bores. Have long felt would love to live in mellow Portland, Oregon.
Favorite small American city: Austin and Santa Barbara (tie).
Favorite international city: Sydney.
Least favorite country: Our opinions, I believe, too often depend on how much sleep deprived, etc. we are at the time. Have never encountered a country that would not want to visit again.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Redwood national and state parks, California. Several nearby state parks are even more spectacular than Redwood National Park. My mother called these groves her cathedrals.
Most surreal country: Former Kingdom of Sikkim, which was later taken over by India.
I have no desire to go to: North Korea. Although I know how to keep out of trouble in other totalitarian countries, North Korea seems to act entirely upon the mood of its leader, which can change at any moment.
Friendliest people in the world: Many countries are not as open to American-style “instant friendship” intimate interactions with strangers. That does not necessarily make them unfriendly. I find wonderful people everywhere.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Luxembourg. Of course, me returning from nearly six months of backpacking in Africa looking like Charles Manson on a bad day might have played a part.
Favorite travel modes: Great trains and exploring by walking, which I do for hours. Still get excited when try a new airline.
Favorite large airline: Love carriers that also treat their economy passengers well. Have found none better at this than Emirates—simply outstanding.
Favorite small airline: Mango (South Africa).
Favorite aircraft type: 747.
Aisle or window: Window. Did not study Geography for my health. :)
Favorite U.S. airport: Portland, Oregon. 1) Five free live music venues, 2) vendor rents set at downtown rates if maintain downtown prices, 3) abundant non-chain food choices, and 4) a pleasant environment. What’s not to love?
Favorite international airport: Am tempted to say Auckland—those cute little dogs—but Bagdogra in India wins. We waited in a pleasant outdoor area filled with fragrant flowers sipping local Darjeeling-grown tea. How wonderfully different this was from the usual airport experiences.
Favorite hotel: The Plaza, NYC, because of its superb location, unique aura and history. I like best historic hotels and truly distinctive modern ones, as long as they offer excellent service.
Favorite travel credit card: Showing an American Express card alone got me through Luxembourg immigration when I carried nearly no cash. Membership does have its privileges.
Favorite island: Ireland.
Favorite beach: Camps Bay, South Africa.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Although not French restaurant-style fancy, absolutely love Frontera Grill by Rick Bayless in Chicago.
Favorite airport dining spot: Frontera Grill’s little fast food sister Tortas Frontera at Chicago O’Hare. Find it in both the American and United gate areas.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: So many! A takeaway that always shines (five visits over time) is poor-boy heaven Parkview Bakery in New Orleans. Not in a tourist area. As down home cafes go, Duarte’s Tavern off Highway 1 in Pescadero north of Santa Cruz, California, cannot be beat. I have to tell you a bit about this choice. Be sure to order Duarte’s cream of green chile soup, garden salad (fresh from its two-acre garden out back) with Thousand Island dressing, any seafood main course and any pie (most popular Olallieberry).
Favorite cuisine(s): Again, so many. Three are Indian, Mexican and Southern USA “family Sunday dinner.”
Least favorite food: Anything drenched with fat that is not butter.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Water. When I drink enough I feel great. And then there are the piña coladas—virgin, of course—especially at Hawaiian, Mexican and Puerto Rican beaches.
Favorite travel movie: Airplane.
Favorite travel show: Hotel Impossible.
Favorite roadtrip music: Green Day and U2. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” sums up perfectly one of my shorter trips, with a day lost due to a rental car breakdown in an isolated area. Its catalytic converter actually caught on fire.
Favorite travel book(s): The original version of “People’s Guide to Mexico” has to be one of the outstanding guidebooks of all time. Without even one hotel or restaurant recommendation, nothing has better prepared me to enjoy and then love a country
Right now I am reading: “Julie and Julia” by Julie Powell.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Too many blogs I love to rank. National Geographic Traveler, as well as CN Traveler, but latter’s 5-star choices do not speak as well to the budgets of most travelers I serve.
5 things you bring on a plane: Nothing exciting.
What do you always seem to forget? I never forget now that I finally learned to have a permanent check-off list and to have most items already packed at all times.
What do you like least about travel? Obnoxious and rude people interacting with airline and other travel employees.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Milk chocolate anything and lots of it.
Favorite travel app(s): Overdrive for iPad works perfectly to prevent boredom while flying or waiting without Wi-Fi. It gives a Kindle-like experience without having to haul around an extra tablet. Make sure that your public library uses it before downloading.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Where to start? Brazil, Russia…
Worst travel moment: Boarded a Vancouver to Toronto train not knowing that the meal prior had given me severe food poisoning. Conductor and staff discussed throughout the night whether or not to put me off at one of the rare hospitals along the route. Interestingly, I have never had such an experience in so-called Third World countries.
However, you’ll have no worries. That restaurant closed (thankfully) years ago.
What’s your dream trip? Exploring southern India in depth, while avoiding its large cities as much as possible, just after a monsoon.
Best travel tip: Without becoming serial paranoid, consider how you can reduce risk when planning your trips. Really, it is entirely your fault if you:
- Miss that 35-minute connection you booked at busy Chicago/O’Hare,
- Do not make a 70-minute evening connection (also a “legal” one) from American to Qantas at LAX that puts you in Australia at least a day late,
- Buy tickets issued by different airlines for travel the same day, with both refusing to help with your missed connection (“not our fault”) and the second refusing to refund what you paid for its non-refundable ticket (“not our fault”), and
- Book same-day air travel from Buffalo to your Miami cruise in January and not surprisingly miss that cruise departure.
Sorry to end this conversation on such a sour note!