Jordan Simon has worked all over the entertainment industry, and began his journalism path through the American edition of TAXI magazine. Since then, he has covered stories in travel, food and wine, the arts and astrology. He is currently a contributing writer for AOL Travel and also works with Caribbean Escapes, Nikki Style and Caribbean Living among others.
Simon agreed to share his insight with us on a few travel topics.
Cheapflights: Do you have routine travel procedures that you always stick to?
Jordan Simon: First I check weather reports (not that they’re reliable, of course), and pack accordingly. I back up all my latest data onto an external hard drive, and also check food blogs like Chowhound to locate any off-the-radar local restaurants.
CF: What is your travel pet peeve?
JS: Not to sound curmudgeonly because this is out of our control as travelers, but given typical airplane seat pitch, it’s hard to use my laptop when the person in front of me reclines their seat. I’m forced to contort in anatomically awkward positions.
CF: What is your favorite kind of trip?
JS: I’ve been to utterly gorgeous places during utterly disastrous relationships! The right pairing will find the romantic in even the most commonplace events/places. My ideal trip is a beach city, so I can combine cultural, gastronomic and recreational pursuits (give me a room with a harbor view!). Sydney is a perfect example. Others are Cape Town, South Africa; Valencia, Spain; Hong Kong (especially all the tiny islands in the harbor). I revisited San Diego, California for the first time in 20 years, and it felt like a revelation.
CF: What’s the best destination you have ever been to and why?
JS: There’s no such animal. Even compiling top 10 lists (as I’m often asked to do) is unfair. I’ve been fortunate to travel to six continents, but if pressed, I’d say South Africa (game parks, wineries, beaches) and Australia (wildlife, beaches, handsome Victorian architecture and truly warm people who invite perfect strangers to dinner parties). I’ve also been privileged to stay in a winemakers’ home in Douro Valley, Napa and Tuscany, but most travelers don’t have that opportunity. I think agri-tourism is an exciting travel trend for anyone interested in food, wine or sustainability.
CF: In your opinion, where in the world offers the best value for money?
JS: It’s not easy keeping track of the dollar’s fluctuations, and so many spots have become discovered and developed. Sadly, that $5 massage and meal on a Thai beach has achieved urban legend status. The key is identifying places on the cusp of developing tourism infrastructure: South America beyond Rio and Buenos Aires, or western Africa beyond Morocco. The value is the indigenous experience. In terms of more westernized comfort on a budget, parts of Eastern Europe, as well as Turkey and Central America, perhaps, and less trammeled Caribbean islands like Dominica.
CF: Where would you pay to stay? Is there anywhere you think offers great value and a great deal?
JS: Many places if I had the money. Again, value is relative and depends on personal preference. If you’re willing to forgo certain high-tech upscale amenities and spend an extra hour traveling, islands off of islands (like Vieques & Culebra off Puerto Rico, Les Saintes & Marie Galante off Guadeloupe, Little Cayman & Cayman Brac off Grand Cayman) can present huge value as well as greater, more authentic cultural interaction. You’re often staying at family-run inns or small apartment complexes.
Off the beaten path doesn’t have to be inconvenient or uncomfortable. In Vegas, I recommend the “locals’ casinos,” which often feature the same mega-theming as The Strip, big-name performers, several restaurants and bars, free shuttles to the action and extras like multiplex cinemas and bowling alleys.
CF: What is the best airport you have flown from, and is there a special tip to make this airport experience a great one?
JS: I’m not a fan of the NYC-area airports, but they’re a necessary evil. Schiphol and Heathrow offer terrific shopping. As a foodie, I appreciate the options at Hong Kong International Airport. I love the trend of wine bars cropping up (no pun intended) in the U.S. The first was arguably La Bodega at DFW, which serves Texas juice (more promising than you’d think!). Other airports may not be terrific, but offer a good taste – literally – of the destination. Wish I could offer a tip, but I usually head for the nearest electrical outlet and hit the computer.
CF: What would you recommend for ensuring a good in-flight experience?
JS: Unless you fly first class, you’re going to be crammed in like cattle. So accept that there will be invasion of personal space. Smile, say hello to the flight attendants and your seatmates – politeness goes a long way. They’ll likely be more willing to accommodate requests like turning down iPods or re-arranging their seat backs. Bring candy or gum and make a goodwill offering. And if they’re flying home you might also learn some locals’ insider tips.
CF: At one point in your life, you will have to sit in the middle seat when you fly. If you have two people next to you, who you most want to share a long haul with and whom would you least?
JS: Despite years and a million miles of travel, I still get claustrophobic in planes. So first off, flights longer than 5 hours, it just ain’t gonna happen. I’d rather pay a surcharge for an aisle seat (in my opinion, seat selection and boarding are among the few compelling reasons to obtain elite status on your preferred airline). But if there’s no alternative, they have to be quiet, practically comatose. Ginormous bladder for the window seat person. And I know it’s politically incorrect to say, but please make them skinny.
CF: If you had one travel nightmare trip, where would it be to and what would it involve?
JS: Camping, especially in a shared tent – not to sound delicate and diva-ish since I do like adventure. I’ve always been a city boy, a tenderfoot, never joined the Scouts. My parents’ ideas of outdoorsy activities included skiing (only while sunny), tennis, golf, sailing and quaffing wine at a sidewalk cafe. So I’d love to go fishing someday, but at an elegant camp. Likewise I’ve done tents (the luxury safari kind with shower and toilet, no strangers!) No insects, dirt floors or sleeping bags. I’ll bunk in the grand park-chitectural Lodge at Yellowstone, thanks.
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