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: Lillian Africano
Hometown: Paterson, NJ
Residence: Jersey Shore and New York City
College: Barnard College
College major: History/Political Science
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Short bio: Author of 16 books, including an award-winning business travel guide to the Middle East and a mass market fiction bestseller (using a pseudonym), Lillian Africano has written about her travels in dozens of print and online publications and blogs. She is the cruise editor at JAX FAX and managing editor at Luxe Beat. Lillian is past president of both the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and a member of the Industry Advisory Board of the New York Times Travel Show.
How often do you fly? 1-2 times a month.
How many countries have you been to? Lost count a long time ago.
How many continents have you been to? All seven—my trip to Antarctica was my all-time favorite.
Earliest travel memory: My parents took my sister and me on a fabulous trip that included a stay in Paris. I was very young and all I knew about French food was that there was a romantic-sounding dish called Crêpe Suzette. So on our first morning in Paris, I went down to the restaurant on my own and tried to order it. Alas, the waiter told me the restaurant didn’t serve dessert so early in the day. Though he didn’t actually laugh at me, I could tell I had done something dumb. I was so embarrassed, I didn’t try to order the dish again until years later. It was worth the wait.
Favorite American city: New York City.
Favorite international city: Paris.
Least favorite country: So far, I have none. I have found something interesting or wonderful everywhere I’ve been.
I have no desire to go to: Afghanistan. It’s a fascinating country, but I’d be afraid to travel there at this point in time.
Friendliest people in the world: I have found friendly people everywhere, though I was particularly struck by the kindness of the Greeks I met during a recent visit. Considering the country’s dire economic problems, I had not expected such warmth and generosity.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: So far I haven’t run into any. (Fingers crossed I haven’t jinxed myself by saying that.)
Favorite World Heritage Site: So hard to choose one. The Acropolis, Petra, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Alhambra, others.
Favorite airline: Air New Zealand. They treat you like a human being, even in coach.
Favorite aircraft type: The 747 wide-body—Is Boeing really going to phase it out?
Aisle or window: Aisle—I like to move around, especially on long flights.
Favorite airport lounge: Delta at JFK.
Favorite U.S. airport: I have no US favorite, though Newark Liberty is most convenient for me.
Favorite international airport: Charles De Gaulle (for duty-free) and Heathrow (when I’m at Terminal Five) for Gordon Ramsey restaurant where I can buy decent food to take on my plane.
Favorite hotel: Ciragan Palace, Istanbul.
Favorite cruise line: Viking on the ocean and AMA Waterways on rivers.
Favorite travel credit card: Capital One Venture.
Favorite island: The outer islands of Venice.
Favorite beach: The one outside my door in Deal, NJ.
Favorite National Park: Grand Canyon National Park.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Per Se.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Federici’s in Freehold (The Boss’s favorite) and in Belmar, for out-of-this-world Jersey pizza.
Favorite bar: Avenue in Pier Village, Long Branch, for great oceanfront location, outstanding bar bites, craft beers and $7 martinis at Happy Hour (every day)
Favorite fruit: Watermelon.
Favorite food: French.
Least favorite food: Raw fish.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Water in the air and Rose wine from Provence on the ground.
Favorite travel movie(s): Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris because it features my favorite international city and If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium because this movie actually inspired me to take one of those coach tours that went to a different European city every day—just to see what it was like. It was…interesting.
Favorite travel show(s): Stephen Fry in America and the documentaries on the Travel channel.
Favorite travel book(s): The Inspector Brunetti mystery series by Donna Leon, who brilliantly evokes contemporary Venice—and her non-fiction book, “My Venice and Other Essays.”
Right now I am reading: “A Confederacy of Dunces.” This is my favorite book of all time and I re-read it once a year.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Afar, Geographical, Saveur (because I love culinary travel).
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Trivago. Hotwire, Priceline, Hotels.com.
5 things you bring on a plane: Water, snacks, disposable socks, iPhone/camera, iPod loaded with good audiobooks.
What do you always seem to forget? It’s always different, but I always forget one thing that I really, really want—and then have to buy while I’m away.
What do you like least about travel? Flying economy. It used to be fine—long ago.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Ricci Ricci Dancing Ribbon perfume by Nina Ricci.
Favorite travel app(s): TripAdvisor, GasBuddy.
Most embarrassing travel moment: I was traveling alone in Cairo when I saw a pair of beautiful antique earrings in a shop window in the Khan el Khalili. The shop was empty and no sooner had I expressed an interest in the earrings than the owner decided he was in love (I was young and cute then). He dropped to his knees and started singing an Arabic love song. I wanted to leave, but darn it, I also wanted the earrings. So I endured the serenade and fought off the man’s clumsy attempts to touch me—and finally bought the earrings without even bargaining. I know I overpaid, but every time I look at the earrings, I start to laugh.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: So many great American cities.
Worst travel moment: I was meeting a group of travel writers and editors at JFK to travel to Spain—and realized I had left my passport at home. I could not believe I’d made such a dumb mistake, especially in front of other travel professionals. Had to meet the group in Europe the following day.
What’s your dream destination? Several, but if I had to pick one, I’d say Tuscany, where I’d love to spend a few months living la dolce vita and working on my Italian.
Favorite travel charity: USO Wishbook.
Best travel tip: Get Global Entry for $100 (some credit cards reimburse you) which makes you eligible for TSA pre-check—and see how many hassles you’re spared.