A journalist and consumer advocate, Christopher Elliott is National Geographic Traveler’s reader advocate and a nationally syndicated columnist through Tribune Media Services. He writes a column for The Washington Post’s travel section and is a personal finance columnist for Mint.com. Elliot’s also a regular commentator and expert on TV. He can be reached on Facebook, LinkedIn and . Or follow him on Twitter.
Cheapflights: What is an absolute must on your packing list?
Christopher Elliott: My iPhone. It has my life on it. Everything else can be replaced quickly, with the possible exception of my passport.
CF: What’s your routine before you fly?
CE: I’m a procrastinator. You wouldn’t know I’m going anywhere until 10 p.m. the night before, when I start throwing things into my luggage. It drives the rest of my family crazy.
CF: Any tips on researching a new destination before taking off?
CE: I love discovery, so I try to be as spontaneous as I can. I read the State Department website to make sure I’m not going to get killed. Not that it’s any guarantee, but it helps. I also spend some time on the city or country’s tourism website, so I know which tourist traps to avoid.
CF: How do you recommend anxious travelers stretch their comfort zone?
CE: If you truly want to get comfortable outside of your comfort zone, the only way to do it is to travel as often as possible. After a while, it will become second nature.
CF: What is your travel pet peeve?
CE: That everyone thinks the only way to travel is to fly. Seriously, if you read the top travel blogs or publications, you could be forgiven for thinking everyone flies. That’s not true. In the United States, more than nine out of 10 vacations are by car.
CF: Of the airports you’ve passed through – Stateside and abroad – which is the most convenient?
CE: You see what I mean? I’m kidding. I love Orlando’s airport. It’s more of a shopping mall than an airport.
CF: Who’s the most memorable seatmate (or what’s the most memorable moment) you’ve had on a plane?
CE: I was flying from Newark to London a few years ago, and we were lucky enough to be upgraded to first class. We gave our then 13-month-old son a nip of Baby Benadryl so he would nap. Instead of sleeping, he got hyper – that’s a rare but not unheard of reaction to the medication – and ran up and down the aisle for the duration of the flight. I’ll never do that again!
CF: How has air travel changed since you started traveling?
CE: This is what it was like when I took my first flight.
Actually, my first flight was on Pan Am in 1969. New York to Munich, Germany. Everything has changed since deregulation; I hardly know where to start. It’s so sad.
CF: Do you have a routine for staying healthy when you travel?
CE: Stay away from alcohol, caffeine and processed foods. And get plenty of sleep.
CF: What countries or regions do you believe offer the best bang for your buck?
CE: Europe is something of a deal with the flagging currency. But I think some of the best bargains are to be found right here in the USA. It’s just a matter of timing. If you can travel during the off season, you can save a bundle and have a great time.
Cheapflights is proud to have guest voices express their opinions. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheapflights Media (USA) Inc.