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: Joanne DiBona
Occupation: Freelance Travel Writer & Photographer; Contributor to USA TODAY/10Best
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Residence: San Diego, California
College: Schiller International University, Strasbourg France
College major: English Literature/Theater Arts
Website: 10best.com/local-experts/joanne-dibona, getthepicturetravel.com & joannedibonaphotography.com
Facebook: Joanne DiBona
Google+: Joanne DiBona
YouTube: Joanne DiBona
Short bio: It’s not often one’s life passion can translate into a career, and I’m delighted to have achieved this goal. I left the corporate world in 2010 (after a long and fulfilling tenure as Director of Communications for the San Diego Tourism Authority) to begin my new journey as a travel journalist. My first assignment as contributing writer and travel photography expert for USA TODAY/10Best continues to this day and gives me the opportunity to feature my travel experiences on a national platform.
But my outreach doesn’t stop there. I am also a prolific freelance journalist and photographer and my images and articles can be found in countless publications and on travel web sites around the world.
I work together with my husband and 10Best contributing photographer Tony DiBona, with a focus on experiential travel. Our specialties include small ship and river cruises, wine destinations, rail travel, spas and wellness, national and state parks, history and culture, culinary, hiking and walking, and soft adventure.
As a member of the esteemed Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), I represent some of the most influential content producers in the travel industry. When we aren’t traveling, you might just see us up on stage at an Italian Festival with our renowned folkloristic musical ensemble Roman Holiday.
How often do you fly? At least once a month, sometimes multiple times a month, depending on my press schedule.
How many countries have you been to? I lived in Germany for ten years and managed to visit almost every country in Europe during that time. I’ve added quite a few since. I honestly don’t keep track…perhaps 30+?
How many continents have you been to? Five, but hope to reach all seven soon.
Earliest travel memory: My father worked for the B & O Railroad in Pittsburgh, and as an employee benefit, he’d receive free train passes for the family for one trip a year. So each summer, we traveled by train to Miami Beach, Florida (in August, when hotel rooms were cheap), and stayed a week in an ocean view room. Our first trip was when I was five, and I can still very vividly recall my excitement and awe at seeing my first palm tree when we changed trains in Jacksonville…and my first view of the ocean when we reached our hotel in Miami Beach.
Favorite American city: What can I say…my home town, beautiful San Diego, California. But San Francisco is a really close second!
Favorite international city: Maybe I’m biased from living ten years in Southern Germany, but every time I get to Munich, I get that Gemütlichkeit feeling. Besides, I love wearing dirndl dresses, and that is one of the few places you can get away with it! But Venice is right up there too. What photographer can resist that magical city?
Least favorite country: Fortunately, I haven’t visited one that didn’t have some redeeming feature.
I have no desire to go to: I’m not attracted to China or North Korea, for a variety of reasons.
Friendliest people in the world: During a recent trip to Japan, my husband and I couldn’t believe how the locals went above and beyond to help us find our way, although many hardly spoke English. Such a gracious, hospitable people!
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Fortunately I’ve never had a truly bad experience, but I’ve noticed our US officers could certainly be less gruff at times.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Sicily. Many travelers don’t realize that this island boasts incredibly preserved Greek ruins and a phenomenal history, based on all the civilizations that settled there over the centuries.
Favorite airline: Any airline where I can get an upgrade to business class using flyer miles.
Favorite aircraft type: Wide-body 747.
Aisle or window: I gravitate to the window seat because I am always looking for a photo opp. Some of my best photos were shot from my window seat in the plane.
Favorite airport lounge: American Express Centurion.
Favorite U.S. airport: SFO.
Favorite international airport: Amsterdam Schipol.
Favorite hotel: Most recently, I think it would be the Jumeirah Hotel in Frankfurt Germany. Our suite was the height of luxury, with every high tech convenience available to man, together with a breathtaking view over the city from our floor to ceiling window.
Favorite cruise line: I currently have two that I can highly recommend: UnCruise Adventures, which is the ultimate in luxurious, small ship, adventure cruises to incredibly beautiful natural destinations and Viking Cruises for outstanding European river cruises that combine luxury with an exceptional educational experience.
Favorite island: Kauai for the ultimate in relaxation, hiking and natural beauty and Sicily for art, history and jaw-dropping scenery.
Favorite beach: California’s Coronado Beach, which consistently appears on all the “America’s Best Beaches” lists each year. Great thing is, it’s a 15-minute drive from my house.
Favorite National Park: Yosemite. Each day brought new wonders.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Top of the Mark, San Francisco. Excellent cuisine with a spectacular 360° view of the city.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: The Lighthouse Café, Hermosa Beach, California.
Favorite bar: The Ohio Club in Hot Springs Arkansas. It’s the oldest bar in Arkansas (1905).
Favorite fruit: Mango.
Favorite food: Pasta. As a second-generation Italian American, I was weaned on it.
Least favorite food: Fast food of any sort.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): A nice glass of chilled Chardonnay.
Favorite travel movie(s): The classic Roman Holiday, because I never get tired of seeing scenes of Rome.
Favorite travel show(s): Travels in Europe with Rick Steves.
Favorite travel book(s): “Under the Tuscan Sun”: Someday I’ll buy a fixer upper in Italy.
Right now I am reading: Proofreading all the articles I have due…wish I had time for a good novel!
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: LA Times Travel, NatGeo, Travel & Leisure
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! USA TODAY 10Best.com (of course), TripAdvisor, The Points Guy.
5 things you bring on a plane: Eye mask, earplugs, wipes, neck pillow, duplicate chargers since I always seem to lose them.
What do you always seem to forget? Extra reading glasses.
What do you like least about travel? Tortuous seats in economy & jetlag that lasts for days.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Nothing at all…can’t fit anything extra in my carry-on anyway.
Favorite travel app(s): WhatsApp, Google Maps.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Fortunately I haven’t had any of those, but I’m not holding my breath.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Yellowstone National Park.
Worst travel moment: When I left my camera on a crowded bus in Paris. The worst was losing all the photos on my card, but fortunately my husband is my back up photographer and saved the day.
What’s your dream destination? I’d love to experience a week in Venice directly on the Grand Canal.
Favorite travel charity: Doctors Without Borders; Fair Game for Safaris, Against Poaching.
Best travel tip: Pack carry-on only. It’s so liberating to be able to travel through airports and cities with just one wheeled bag in tow. We traveled for 25 days in Europe this spring (and experienced every weather condition from snow to intense heat) with our super light carry-ons and camera bags only. Once you get the knack of packing light, you’ll wonder why you ever burdened yourself with checked bags.