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: Trey Ratcliff
Occupation: That’s a tough one nowadays, eh?
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Residence: Queenstown, New Zealand
College: Southern Methodist University
College major: Computer Science
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Short bio: Trey Ratcliff is an artist on a somewhat quixotic mission to help spread consciousness and mindfulness to the world through photography and creativity. Running the #1 travel photography blog in the world, StuckInCustoms.com, has taken him to all seven continents over the past decade, and Google has tracked more than 140 billion views of his photos, all while building a social media presence with over five million followers.
Chris Anderson from TED called him a “pioneer” of the now ubiquitous genre of high-dynamic-range photography. Ratcliff had the first HDR photograph to hang in the Smithsonian Museum and, subsequently, sales of his large format, limited-edition prints to fine art collectors worldwide have grown into a multimillion-dollar business. In 2014, he moved his photography business down to Queenstown, New Zealand, before it became a trendy doomsday contingency plan and is now based there with his wife, three children, and a dog named Blueberry.
How often do you fly? 20 times a year?
How many countries have you been to? I am not sure—around 50?
How many continents have you been to? All seven. But maybe eight since geologists think New Zealand might be on its own tectonic plate now.
Earliest travel memory: Driving to DFW to visit my grandparents in Alaska when I was seven. It is a long drive on a hot Texas highway. I was in the back seat of a Cadillac. No seat belt, you know. It was 1978. I was looking out the window. There was a big truck that was hauling a big trailer with a big, thick, rusted chain holding them together. I watched the chain bounce around for about 30 minutes. I couldn’t look away. I just remember that chain, and I don’t remember anything about that trip to Alaska. I don’t know what this means, but it is my earliest travel memory.
Favorite American city: San Francisco.
Favorite international city: Tokyo.
Least favorite country: I don’t think I have one. There are cool people in every country (except Canada).
I have no desire to go to: A Women’s Book Club gathering.
Friendliest people in the world: Omanese? Is that how you say people from Oman?
Country with the meanest immigration officers: USA.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Cinque Terre because they serve wine.
Favorite airline: Any of those high-end Middle Eastern Airlines.
Favorite aircraft type: New ones with flight attendants that enjoy serving you.
Aisle or window: Window. I go to the bathroom once every two days.
Favorite airport lounge: The American Airlines lounge in any airport in the USA. I’m just kidding.
Favorite U.S. airport: I honestly can’t think of one. I don’t mean to sound snobby, because I am not like that. But I can’t think of a single US airport that comes close to comparing to some of the best in the world.
Favorite international airport: Most of the big ones in Asia are amazeballs.
Favorite hotel: Ritz-Carlton, and NOT just because I have a deal with them.
Favorite cruise line: I don’t have one. It’ll probably be the new Ritz-Carlton one, though.
Favorite travel credit card: Amex.
Favorite island: New Zealand! Wait, maybe it’s the 8th continent.
Favorite beach: Milford Sound Beach.
Favorite National Park: Zion.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Hinokizaka.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Any restaurant where no one speaks English on any tiny side-street in Japan.
Favorite airport restaurant: The DFW Admirals Club. Just kidding. Like, totally.
Favorite bar: The Blue Door, Arrowtown, New Zealand.
Favorite fruit: Dragonfruit.
Favorite food: Hummus.
Least favorite food: Human.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): G&T.
Favorite travel movie(s): The Trip.
Favorite travel show(s): Travels With My Father.
Right now I am reading: “How to Change Your Mind,” by Michael Pollan (a book about drugs and psychedelics, which I like).
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Oh, no favorites…there are many people doing great work out there.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Yes, JJ of course… how about Atlas Obscura?
5 things you bring on a plane: Nintendo Switch, Bose headphones, Kindle.
What do you always seem to forget? It’s random, but I do forget stuff more than I should.
What do you like least about travel? Dealing with most of the flight attendants on any airline in the USA.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? The good chocolate. Oh, and maybe really crazy-looking bottles of alcohol for the bar in my studio!
Favorite travel app(s): HotelTonight.
Most embarrassing travel moment: One time, I got a cheaper flight to fly back to New Zealand on American Airlines. As you may have noticed, I don’t like them very much, mostly because many of their flight attendants are not terribly nice, even in biz class, which is related to this story. Anyway, we were about three hours out from New Zealand, over international waters. I was just waking up. This somewhat large man ambled over, pushing the breakfast cart. He asked if I wanted coffee. I said, “Yes, thank you, and I’d also like a bloody mary, sir.” He said, “Sir, I am a lady. And we’ve locked the liquor cabinet, so no, you can’t.” So anyway, I had to spend the rest of the flight completely sober with this dude.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Scotland!
Worst travel moment: In Dubai. I can’t talk about it.
What’s your dream destination? Space!
Favorite travel charity: Oh jeez, I don’t know about any of them.
Best travel tip: Don’t take yourself seriously.