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: Marcela Swenson Bleicher
Occupation: Bed & Breakfast Owner
Hometown: Grand Junction, Colorado
Residence: Evanston, Illinois
Short Bio: I was born and raised in Colorado with frequent trips to Medellín, Colombia where my mother grew up. It was in Colombia that I learned to love to travel and to experience new cultures and foods. After attending college and living in Los Angeles for seven years I married my husband, Noah, and we moved to Medellín. We opened a bed and breakfast in the home that once belonged to my grandparents and we specialized in treating our guests like family and making them feel like locals. Almost immediately we found ourselves ranked #1 on TripAdvisor which brought guests from all over the world through our doors. This summer, after 3.5 years of introducing foreigners to a vibrant, modern Medellín, we made the tough decision to move back to the United States so Noah could pursue his MBA at Northwestern University. Although we’ve closed the doors to our B&B we still love to advise people on what to do in and around Medellín and have left our website up to serve as a resource to future visitors.
How often do you fly: 10 times a year
How many countries have you been to: 18
How many continents have you been to: Five
Favorite American city: San Francisco
Favorite international city: Paris and Amsterdam
Least favorite country: Cambodia (I got sick on my honeymoon there which made it tough to like)
Favorite World Heritage Site: Cartagena, Colombia. It’s like being transported to a different time!
Favorite airline: Lufthansa, even though a flight attendant spilled soup on my lap!
Aisle or window: Window, I love taking pictures of sunsets from planes
Favorite airport lounge: Frankfurt first class lounge. It has its own security check point, great food, and more types of whisky than most bars.
Favorite U.S. airport: SFO, they’ve done a wonderful job remodeling it. It’s like checking into a hotel!
Favorite international airport: Frankfurt again, they have EVERYTHING there. Shopping, hospital, vet, churches, synagogues, even a strip club–not that I’ve been inside!
Favorite hotel: JW Marriott in Cuzco, Peru. We stayed there for a night after doing a four day trek to Machu Picchu. A hot tub, shower and bed have never felt so good!
Do you unpack into the dresser/closet? Or live out of your suitcase? I pack my clothes in eBags and put those in the dresser. Easy peazy, and once you’ve worn your clothes you have a handy place to keep your dirty laundry separate from your clean clothes.
Favorite cruise line: Never been on a cruise before but I’d love to go!
Favorite beach: Railay beach in Thailand. We spent a few days of our honeymoon here at the Rayavadee resort. It’s straight out of a postcard!
Favorite fancy restaurant: Carmen Medellin and Carmen Cartagena. The best meals I’ve eaten in my life have been at these two restaurants where they do a modern take on tradition Colombian fare.
Favorite hole in the wall: Rocky’s Burgers in San Diego. The best burgers around, no frills, cash only.
Favorite fruit: Mangosteen, originally from South East Asia but can now be found in Colombia. If have the opportunity, buy as many as you can carry!
Favorite food: Hamburgers. No fancy ingredients, just quality meat on a good bun, plus red onion, lettuce, mustard, tomato and some grease.
Least favorite food: Fish soup. I just can’t get on board with fishy smelling soups.
Drink of choice (In the air and on the ground): Bloody Marys! Whoever thinks they’re brunch fare only is silly; they are delicious anytime of day. Plus, you practically get a meal out it with all of the garnishes.
Favorite travel book(s): The Great Canadian Bucket List by the best, funniest, most colorful and descriptive travel writer I know, Robin Esrock
Right now I am reading: Game of Thrones Book 5. Winter is coming!
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: seecolombia.travel/blog which has great posts about Colombian destinations, culture, and food.
Favorite travel website(s) – besides JohnnyJet.com, of course!: Coolhunting.com/travel which features great city guides and helps you uncover hidden gems in big cities, Travelfish.org, a great independent travel guide for Southeast Asian countries, Matadornetwork.com which has great travel articles, forums, and even offers online courses to become a travel writer.
Five things you bring on a plane: A long sweater that doubles as a blanket, an easy to eat meal like chips and guac from Rick Bayless’ Frontera restaurant, headphones for the in-flight entertainment, my lap top and a pen to do the Sudoku puzzles in the airline mags.
What do you always seem to forget: To pack some emergency supplies (clothes, toothbrush, etc.) in my carry-on in case my luggage doesn’t make it to my destination.
What do you like least about travel? Going through security. It’s such a hassle!
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport duty free store? Shiseido makeup. Sometimes international airports have great deals on cosmetics!
Favorite travel app(s): Tripit for keeping my flight info organized and easy to share with others, Flight Aware for monitoring flight arrivals/departures
Most embarrassing travel moment: I flew back from Colombia to Salt Lake for my best friend’s wedding with a suit case full of very risqué bachelorette party decorations. Of course this had to be the time when the customs agent decided to send me to the person who inspects the luggage by hand. I must have turned the color of a tomato thinking of the naughty piñata, cup cake toppers, party favors, etc. that the agent was about to discover. I was preparing my explanation when he decided to send my bag through the x-ray instead. Whoever was operating the x-ray got some extra entertainment that day!
Worst travel moment: Getting a stomach bug on my honeymoon and missing out on 2 of our 3 days to see the ruins at Angkor Wat.
What’s your dream destination: Galapagos Islands or an African safari.
Best travel tip: If you book a flight on American Airlines using frequent flier miles, you can often schedule in an extra stop for free. For example, when flying from Colombia to Los Angeles you always go through Miami. When booking through AA’s advantage program I would add a weeklong stop over in Miami for no extra cost. It’s a great way to get the most out of your miles! Tip #2 if you’re hungry on the plane and don’t want to pay for a snack, get a can of tomato juice/bloody mary mix to tide you over.