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: Riley McKibbin
Occupation: Professional Beach Volleyball Player
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
Residence: Hermosa Beach, California
College: University of Southern California
College major: Business Administration with a concentration in Finance
YouTube: MCKB Volleyball
Short bio: I was born and raised on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, and after graduating at Punahou high school I attended the University of Southern California. I played indoor volleyball there for four years, three years as captain, leading the team to two final four appearances, becoming a 1st team All-American my senior year. My first year out of college I decided to play professional volleyball in Italy’s A1 Superlega in a small town in the Umbria region called San Giustino. Moving to Itay was my first time leaving North America, and I’ve been traveling the world ever since. Volleyball has taken me all over the world including China, Japan, Greece, the Czech Republic, Portugal, and Bermuda to name a few. I learned Italian language in two months, I speak a little Greek and Spanish, and because I’ve played with such an eclectic group of foreigners, I know just about every swear word in six or seven languages. And now, I am a professional beach volleyball player on the AVP Tour with my brother. My brother and I are the only brothers in volleyball history to have played together in high school, college, professionally indoors overseas, and now professionally on the beach.
How often do you fly? Average about once a month domestically for tournaments and once every three months for vacation
How many countries have you been to? 17
How many continents have you been to? 3
Earliest travel memory: I went on a camping trip to Kauai with my dad when I was four-years old. The only reason I remember this was because we boogie-boarded into a cave off the beach, and also a rat snuck into our tent one night, which forever seared the trip into my memory.
Favorite American city: New York, New York. In my opinion, their restaurant and bar scene is second to none throughout the world.
Favorite international city: This is a tough one because I spent three years in Italy playing professional volleyball, so I am a little biased. But I would have to say Rome, with Florence as a close second.
Least favorite country: China.
I have no desire to go to: North Dakota.
Friendliest people in the world: The Italians and Japanese.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Haha this reminds me of when my brother and I came back to the US from playing overseas and grew ridiculously long beards, then looking nothing like our passport pictures. We both got taken to back rooms at customs and asked a lot of questions of the places we had traveled and what we had been up to so long out of the country…so I would have to say the USA.
Favorite airline: Turkish Air.
Favorite aircraft type: Just a plane that offers a little more leg room!
Aisle or window: I used to like the aisle, but after traveling so often I’ve learned how to sleep on planes so I now prefer the window.
Favorite airport lounge: I’ve actually NEVER been in an airport lounge before.
Favorite U.S. airport: Honolulu’s, not because it’s the best, but because as a kid, going to the airport meant we finally got to leave our little island, and I still get that feeling of excitement when I’m there these days.
Favorite international airport: Istanbul, Turkey.
Favorite hotel: I can’t say that I have a favorite hotel for two reasons. One, when I travel I try not to spend that much time in a hotel, I view it more of a place to sleep. Two, I prefer to find Airbns because it’s often much cheaper and you are able to better absorb the culture of the place you’re visiting by staying in someone’s home. I highly recommend this if you ever plan on visiting Venice, Italy.
Favorite cruise line: I’ve only been on one cruise, which was with my family about ten years ago to Alaska and I can’t remember the name of the cruise line, but I certainly remember the adventures we had.
Favorite travel credit card: American Express.
Favorite island: Again, I’m much too biased here, but I would have to say Oahu, the island on which I was born and raised.
Favorite beach: Sandy Beach in Hawaii Kai, Oahu. Best body surfing in the world.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Bottega Louie in downtown Los Angeles.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: B-Bar in Sansepulcro, Italy in Umbria. They have the absolute best seafood risotto and wild boar pappardelle.
Favorite airport restaurant: Not a huge fan of airport restaurants in general, but I’ll take a bread bowl of San Francisco’s clam chowder any day.
Favorite bar: The name of this speakeasy in New York is PDT (standing for Please Don’t Tell). You walk into this janky hole-in-the-wall Mexican or hot dog restaurant (I can’t remember which) and half way into the restaurant on the left-hand wall randomly lies an old-school phone booth. You walk into the glass door, pick up the phone and ask if there is any availability. Normally there’s no room and getting a reservation is just as tough, but if you get lucky, they open a secret door inside the phone booth and you enter one of the coolest bars in New York, serving the most delicious cocktails including my favorite, their bacon-infused Manhattan.
Favorite fruit: Nothing better than a perfectly ripe mango.
Favorite food: Japanese food 100%. I went to Japan to train against their national beach volleyball team last year for one week and they fed us like kings. I’ve weighed 190 lbs (give or take five pounds) since I was 17, but after that one week feasting in Japan I came back weighing, for the first and only time in my life, over 200 lbs!
Least favorite food: I like almost any kind of food and always eager to try new things, but I hate mayonnaise and canned tuna. Any other form of tuna ranks in my top ten favorite things to eat, but I’m pretty sure canned tuna is cat food.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): A grapefruit mezcal paloma is my cocktail of choice when I’m feeling fancy. If not, a vodka soda with lime is my go-to, or a glass of red zinfandel wine for dinner.
Favorite travel movie(s): When I’m traveling and have to pick a movie to go with me on the road it’s Gladiator or Star Wars (only episodes four through seven). My favorite movie about traveling is Slumdog Millionaire (if that counts).
Favorite travel show(s): Oh where do I start?! Playing pro volleyball overseas you are training so much, when you get home all you want to do is relax and binge watch TV shows so I’ve seen them ALL. My favorites include Peaky Blinders, House of Cards and Game of Thrones to name a few. My favorite travel show, and not sure if this counts but in my opinion it is more or less, is Chef’s Table on Netflix.
Favorite travel book(s): I’m a huge fan of the Kindle so I don’t have to lug heavy books around all over the world. I’ve realized I cannot read non-fiction, just doesn’t hold my attention. My favorite book of all time is “Shantaram” or “Ender’s Game,” but my favorite series is hands-down Harry Potter (I may have read them all twice…but who’s counting).
Right now I am reading: “Dune,” I know it’s old and I have no idea what inspired me to pick it up, but I’m embarrassingly SO into it.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Kelsey Robinson, outside hitter on the USA Women’s Volleyball National team, writes a blog that I once wanted to start as well, talking about food, travel and the lifestyle playing professional volleyball overseas. She writes about the places she’s traveled to, where to eat and how to get there, and also gives out the recipes she’s learned from different cultures. Its called Nom and Play (nomandplay.com)
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! TripAdvisor.
5 things you bring on a plane: I dress in ALL Lululemon attire when I travel because it’s the most comfortable stuff you can wear (and it looks good, too). I bring a pen so I can do the crossword puzzles on the in-flight magazines. I bring my Kindle so I can read and headphones so I can listen to music; I know it’s strange but I like to listen to music when I read. And lastly, I bring my iPad so I can watch my TV shows.
What do you always seem to forget? I always forget my sunglasses.
What do you like least about travel? Taking out my computer from my carry on and Ubering to and from the airport.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Tequila.
Favorite travel app(s): TripAdvisor.
Most embarrassing travel moment: My first day ever off of the North American continent was when I moved to Italy to play professional indoor volleyball. In my contract I negotiated having a car there for the nine months I would spend there playing. On my very first day, they gave me a brand new BMW…however it was stick-shift and, at the time, I had only driven automatic cars. I was so excited to have this luxury car that I bent the truth slightly and said I knew how to drive manual. They gave me the keys and I took the car into the parking lot and began with one of my teammates who said he would teach me. After about five minutes my teammate said he was getting bored and convinced me I was somehow ready for the open road. As I was exiting the parking lot, I took a hard right, the back tire hopping the curb and then slamming back onto the road, cracking the under part of the car and exploding the back tire. Mind you this was less than 12 hours into my trip right after I had met the owner of the team, the coaches, etc. I thought they were going to throw me back on a plane and send me home, but luckily they only sent me to Italian driving school. It was by far the most embarrassing moment in my life, but my favorite story to tell about my journeys.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: All the Hawaiian Islands.
Worst travel moment: I’ve never missed a flight in my life, but once. I was in Prague with my brother on vacation after playing a season in Italy. We went out and stayed out late, I mean really late, the night before I was supposed to catch a flight…and I slept through it. What made it the absolute worst travel moment was that my girlfriend at the time had warned me NOT to miss it because she was waiting for me in Rome…well, I missed my flight, resulting in my girlfriend waiting an extra seven hours in Rome’s airport. It was a dark moment haha.
What’s your dream destination? I want to play with the monkeys in Thailand.
Best travel tip: If you can, go live somewhere outside of the USA where no one knows you. You can reinvent yourself, be the person you always wanted but maybe were too scared to be…and if you’re lucky you might learn a language or two while you’re at it. Cheers.