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: M McCown
Occupation: Senior Learning and Development Consultant
Hometown: Somewhere in the wilds of eastern Pennsylvania
Residence: Outside Phoenix, Arizona
College major: Theatre
Short bio: My love of travel was instilled at an early age and I have been wildly fortunate to have my passport filled with stamps from 20+ countries on six of the seven continents and 40+ UNESCO World Heritage sites. I believe travel educates you, challenges you and provides a deeper understanding of the human condition, plus, it’s just cool to see constellations in another hemisphere, eat food you never knew existed and embarrass yourself in a foreign language at least once in your lifetime.
How often do you fly? Over the past three years, I average about twice per month.
How many countries have you been to? 20+
How many continents have you been to? Six of the seven.
Earliest travel memory: Driving across country in a VW bug with two adults, two kids and two dogs stuffed in the storage space behind the back seat, panting and drooling on my little four-year-old head. Hot, sticky, cramped, and amazing! Seeing the US from the lower two inches of the old-fashioned cranked window set me up for a life of wanderlust.
Favorite American city: San Francisco and Washington, DC.
Favorite international city: Hanoi, Cairo and Paris.
Least favorite country: Israel and to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
I have no desire to go to: I’m a curious nerd, so I will go anywhere. It breaks my heart that there are parts of the world that aren’t safe enough to visit.
Friendliest people in the world: Almost everyone has been friendly to me (even the French :D ) but the Egyptians have been the warmest people I’ve met.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Israel.
Favorite World Heritage Site: With more than 40 under my belt, I cannot name just one. How about all of them? If it’s good enough for UNESCO, it’s good enough for me.
Favorite airline: Whichever one gets me there, with a soft spot for United and Qantas.
Favorite aircraft type: Airbus A330, Boeing 767 or anything that gets me there, but I don’t love tiny planes.
Aisle or window: Aisle at the exit row. If I can’t have that seat, I get a bit “uncomfortable.”
Favorite airport lounge: Anywhere there is a United Club. I admit it, I am a club snob. I love the relative quiet and exclusivity. It’s saved my sanity on a few occasions. Plus, they always seem happy to see me and who doesn’t love that?!?!
Favorite U.S. airport: IAH, because it has everything and usually means I am going somewhere great!
Favorite international airport: Hands down, SYD. Bright, beautiful and energetic. 2nd runner-up is MID. The cool marble and damp air swirl together to evoke a sense of calm before the madness of the taxi stand. Gets me every time.
Favorite hotel: Overall, the Windsor Hotel in Cairo. For decadent luxury, the Ritz-Carlton on Nob Hill, San Francisco. For personal service, the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, and for exotic flair, Chivapuri Koh Chang.
Favorite cruise line: Not sure, I’ve never been on a cruise.
Favorite travel credit card: Capital One Venture card, baby! What’s in YOUR wallet?
Favorite island: Koh Chang, but I think I can add England and Australia as runners up!
Favorite beach: Again, too many to count and all for different reasons.
Favorite fancy restaurant: I don’t really frequent fancy places. When I travel, I find more culture and flavor at the local places which are usually rather casual or downright dives but La Pigua in Merida is pretty amazing. Tofuya Ukai in Tokyo is a great setting, and Dahl & DiLuca in Sedona is lovely, too.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Too many to count, but Creperie du Moulin near the corner of Rue Lepic is pretty bad-ass and does NOT skimp on the Nutella.
Favorite bar: Not a big bar person but I really liked the Pig & Whistle in Rotorua, NZ.
Favorite fruit: All of them! In fact, when I travel I usually have a goal of eating as many native fruits as I can. That noted, if you do the same, plug your nose when trying durian fruit!
Favorite food: Koshary, Falafel, Bún Chay, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Brazos de Reina, and Purtumute (all vegetarian).
Least favorite food: Meat.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Water, although I recently fell in love with cider/cidre. I am a coffee freak on the ground, but in limited quantities and only the good stuff.
Favorite travel movie(s): The Darjeeling Limited, If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium, and Hector and The Search for Happiness.
Favorite travel show(s): Anything hosted by Michael Palin and Long Way Down/Long Way Around with MacGregor and Boorman.
Favorite travel book(s): Anything by Theroux or Bryson, “The Longest Way Home” by A McCarthy, and “Travels with Charley” by Steinbeck.
Right now I am reading: I usually have a few books going and right now, I’m reading “Mornings on Horseback” (biography) and “Jane Steele” (fiction).
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Is it weird to choose Twitter?
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Airfarewatchdog.com
5 things you bring on a plane: Scarf/wrap, platypus collapsible water bottle, UltraBalm from Lush, a bag of almonds, and an iPad.
What do you always seem to forget? I’m a list maker, so I don’t forget anything. A bit obsessive, probably.
What do you like least about travel? Lines, I do not like to wait in lines. Large groups of people are never where I want to be. Herd mentality sort of freaks me out.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Nothing, I’d rather have something from a little local place or just hear a really great story after getting a hug and a kiss (told you I was a nerd).
Favorite travel app(s): The airline apps (United, American, etc).
Most embarrassing travel moment: Takes too long to write, but it involves a really hot guy, gun runners and my inability to speak in a whisper. Good times.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Canada. Sorry, eh?
Worst travel moment: Almost anything travel-related ends up as a good story for me, but if I had to choose a moment, it would be having my luggage lost on a fast, three-day trip to visit my mother (in another country). I NEVER check a bag but did so because I had lots of birthday gifts for her and needed a larger suitcase than I normally use. The ONE time I check a bag, it gets lost and I wasn’t even there long enough for them to find and deliver it. It was awful. She got the bag three days after I left…a solid six days AFTER it should have been there. Thankfully, everything was in there, but that was the last time I will ever check a bag. Now, I ship stuff instead. It’s more expensive but nothing has been lost yet.
What’s your dream destination? Antarctica! I need to get to that 7th continent. I also want to see the Chinese countryside, far away from the cities.
Favorite travel charity: Not a travel charity per se, but I support Heifer International for the good work they do around the world, empowering people to attain sustainable livelihoods through community-owned interventions.
Best travel tip: I have so many tips, but limited to one I would tell people to: Be kind to everyone, even in a frustrating situation. Be tolerant as everyone has a different way to do things and leave your preconceptions at home.