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: Laura Watilo Blake
Occupation: Photojournalist, Travel Writer and Filmmaker
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Residence: Cleveland, OH
Short Bio: Laura Watilo Blake is a travel-obsessed photojournalist and the Chief Exploration Officer for farflungtravels.com. Her work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications, such as National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times and V¡VA Travel Guides. Skills include the ability to bend time and space. Her first documentary film, “Making Waves from Cleveland to Uganda,” is making the rounds in the festival circuit.
How often do you fly: At least twice a month.
How many countries have you been to: 83
How many continents have you been to: 6 (Antarctica remains elusive)
Favorite American city: Santa Fe, NM, has a unique culture and identity that is all its own — from food to fashion. And then there’s the geographical diversity that surrounds it. Within a 20-minute drive you can be skiing on the slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains or hiking through slot canyons among giant hoodoos.
Favorite international city: Lima, Peru. I spent six months living and working there. The culinary scene at the time was at beginning stages of its rise to international acclaim. I was happiest, though, stopping by the corner market on my way to work and buying a ripe, juicy mango for the equivalent of 25 cents.
Least favorite country: The sex tourism trade is so overt in The Gambia, In this case, middle-aged Western women come for hot sex with the young, strapping black men. Needless to say, it was uncomfortable for me, as a female traveler without those intentions, to wander through the streets and continuously get approached and propositioned.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: The good ol’ USA. Those folks need to take a course on customer service skills. At least the Tanzanian immigration officer who was funneling travelers’ visa money into his own pocket had a smile on his face during the entire transaction.
Favorite World Heritage Site: The old town of Lijiang, China, is a car-less twisty maze of cobblestone streets and arched bridges spanning the narrow waterways. At each turn, you’re rewarded with postcard-perfect views or even some Naxi graffiti.
Favorite airline: Singapore Airlines
Favorite aircraft type: I love the iconic shape of the classic Boeing 747, and I like it even better when I’m seated in the upper deck.
Aisle or window: Aisle
Favorite airport lounge: United Club at IAH
Favorite U.S. airport: I’m partial to MCI, where I grew up. I rarely have to wait more than two people deep in the security screening line.
Favorite international airport: Narita (NRT) has it all: strange unidentifiable food in the gift shops, massage chairs, free WIFI and best of all, day rooms for longer layovers
Favorite island: Staying on Anglesey, off the northwest coast of Wales, is like living in a fairytale. No wonder William and Kate kicked off their married life there. I even spotted the prince on his way home for dinner (see photo).
Favorite beach: El Médano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands
Favorite fancy restaurant: Since I never had the opportunity to experience elBulli in Spain, I’ll go with Market, a Jean-Georges restaurant in Paris
Favorite hole in the wall: Chili Works in Los Alamos, NM, is a great place for a tasty breakfast burrito topped with homemade red and green chile (aka “Christmas”-style)
Favorite fruit: Papaya
Favorite food: I crave salad and raw vegetables after being on the road for weeks at a time.
Least favorite food: anything squishy or still moving
Drink of choice (In the air and on the ground): water (but bourbon is a close second)
Favorite travel show(s): Globe Trekker, Amazing Race
Favorite travel book(s): Vagabonding by Rolf Potts inspired me to live abroad. Nothing to Declare by Mary Morris documents her expat life in Mexico. I’m sensing a theme.
Right now I am reading: The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy, which just won gold for best travel book category in the 2013 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism competition
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Afar magazine, Digital Nomad, BudgetTravel
Favorite travel website(s) – besides JohnnyJet.com, of course!: lonelyplanet.com, tripit.com
Five things you bring on a plane: an eye mask (airlines don’t always provide them), moisturizer (to keep my skin hydrated), toothbrush, my iPad loaded with appropriate Lonely Planet chapters and all of my camera equipment (I don’t let it out of my sight)
What do you always seem to forget: a razor or other toiletries.
What do you like least about travel? Jet lag
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport duty free store? Pocky
Favorite travel app(s): Waze (for road trips), Tripit (to keep track of my itinerary).
Most embarrassing travel moment: I carried on entire conversation in Spanish with a Canary Island couple I’d just met about preservatives in food before learning that the word for “preservative” in Spanish is a false cognate that actually means “condom.” I’m glad I didn’t tell them I was “embarazada” afterward. Luckily, I already knew that means “pregnant.”
Worst travel moment: I’ve been pretty lucky overall, but I nearly broke my neck while white-water rafting on the Nile. The boat overturned, dumping people on top of me, which drove me to the bottom of the river, where I hit my head on a rock, scraped my leg and broke my toe. It was only after I was back in the boat that I realized my helmet was cracked in half.
What’s your dream destination: The Maldives, Easter Island, Mongolia, Micronesia…the more I travel, the longer the bucket list
Favorite travel charity: The Passport Party Project is a great program that provides passports and travel opportunities for underprivileged teenage girls. I planned to participate last year, but my recipient didn’t get full parental support.
Best travel tip: Pack light. I make sure everything I pack serve at least two purposes, or I don’t bring it – with the notable exception of underwear. Scarves dress up an outfit or can be used as a headscarf or beach cover-up. Duct tape can repair a ripped backpack or restrain unruly airplane passengers (such as the one on a particular Icelandic air flight).