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Tom Bartel
Tom Bartel

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: Tom Bartel

Occupation: Travel blogger and photographer at Travel Past 50 

Hometown: Council Bluffs, Iowa

Residence: Saint Paul, Minnesota

College: Carleton College, University of Minnesota

College major: Religion, English, Latin


Twitter: @TravelPast50

Facebook: Travel Past 50

Instagram: travelpast50

Pinterest: Travel Past 50

Google+: +Tom Bartel

YouTube: Travel Past 50

Short bio: Along with my wife, Kristin Henning, I was a publisher of a weekly newspaper and a couple of monthly magazines in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota. Then the publishing business went to hell, so I retired and started traveling full-time. I used my publishing and photography chops to start with Kris.

How often do you fly? 8-10 times per year.

How many countries have you been to? 66, or 63, depending on how you’re counting. Is the United Kingdom one country or four?

How many continents have you been to? All of them, except Antarctica, but that’s in the plans.

Earliest travel memory: Camping in the Colorado mountains with my dad and brothers, and occasionally with my mom. She was a lot more comfortable in motels in tents though, so she stayed home a lot while we went charging around in the woods.

Favorite American city: Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the best place in the country to live. I do love visiting New York, though.

Favorite international city: It’s hard to pick just one, but if I have to, it’s Madrid. I do love London and Rome, too. I’ve lived for a time in all three.

Least favorite country: Ecuador, except for the Galapagos, which are amazing. Quito, on the other hand, is the street crime capital of the world.

I have no desire to go to: Back to Quito.

Friendliest people in the world: Spain, especially if you speak Spanish, which I do.

Country with the meanest immigration officers: United States.

Favorite World Heritage Site: Pretty much all of the Spanish cathedrals. I’m especially partial to Sevilla, and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Favorite airline: Lufthansa.

Favorite aircraft type: I do like the new Boeing and Airbus planes. And the ones that have just a little bit of legroom.

Aisle or window: Aisle.

Favorite airport lounge: The Delta lounge at MSP is pretty nice, and I’m in there a lot waiting for my flights to take off. I like to get to the airport early. Cuts down on stress.

Favorite U.S. airport: MSP, but they’re all pretty much the same. Except for Miami, which I hate.

Favorite international airport: Schiphol in Amsterdam. The first airport I was ever in that was more than just a hallway with gates.

Favorite hotel: I usually am happy with any bed, but believe it or not, I’m partial to the Best Western Superior Inn on the shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota. It’s right on the shore, and I do love Minnesota. Oh, and the Villas Satori in Ubud, Bali, which is a completely luxurious sensual experience.

Favorite cruise line: Viking River Cruises. They do a great job. The cruise we did in China just blew me away.

Favorite travel credit card: Amex Platinum.

Favorite island: Bali.

Favorite beach: I’m not much of a beach guy, but I do have fond memories of Sitges, south of Barcelona.

Favorite National Park: Zion. Hiking up the Narrows was unforgettable.

Favorite fancy restaurant: El Botín in Madrid. There’s something about it that just reeks Spain. The roast lamb is amazing, too.

Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Pretty much any local bar in Spain, although I’m really partial to La Venencia and the Cerveceria Alemana in Madrid.

Favorite airport restaurant: I try to not eat in airports. When I do, it’s usually whatever the lounge is serving.

Favorite bar: Morrissey’s on Lake Street in Minneapolis.

Favorite fruit: A ripe mango.

Favorite food: Jamón serrano in Spain.

Least favorite food: Broccoli.

Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Water.

Favorite travel movie(s): Aguirre, The Wrath of God.

Favorite travel show(s): I like Rick Steves. His interests in European culture mostly mesh with mine.

Favorite travel book(s): “The River of Doubt,” about Theodore Roosevelt’s trip down the Amazon. Absolutely riveting. And frightening.

Right now I am reading: Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci.

Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: National Geographic, Afar, Outside.

Favorite travel website(s)—besides, of course! Everything-Everywhere, Ottsworld, The Insatiable Traveler.

5 things you bring on a plane: Noise-cancelling headphones, iPad for reading, eyeshades (when I remember), water bottle, patience.

What do you always seem to forget? Patience.

What do you like least about travel? Flying in steerage.

What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Very dark chocolate and Cardenal Mendoza Spanish brandy.

Favorite travel app(s): TripIt, Google Maps, Google Translate, Evernote.

Most embarrassing travel moment: Being in Spain when Donald Trump was elected and trying to explain my country to an incredulous Spaniard.

I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Africa, except for Egypt.

Worst travel moment: Getting robbed for the fifth time in Quito, Ecuador.

What’s your dream destination? An African animal photo safari.

Favorite travel charity: Doctors Without Borders.

Best travel tip: If you come to a fork in the road, take it. I have to credit Yogi Berra for that.


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