Robert DiGiacomo has rarely met a city he didn’t like. As the co-founder of The City Traveler, an online magazine, he gets to write about and showcase content about urban destinations around the world. His travel writing and other feature articles can be seen in major newspapers, magazines and websites, including USA Today, The Washington Post, Fodor’s, Monster and Wine Spirits Quarterly. As an entertainment writer, he has chatted up all manner of celebrities, from Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Paula Dean to Alanis Morissette, John Waters and the B-52s.
Cheapflights: Do you remember the trip that first gave you the travel bug?
Robert DiGiacomo: Although my first big trips were to Spain during my teenage years, I really caught the travel bug during my version of the “grand tour” just after college graduation. I trained my way around Italy, France and Germany for five glorious weeks. However, after lugging around a huge duffel in the days before wheeled luggage had even been invented, I learned my first –– and still most important –– lesson: Don’t overpack.
CF: How did you get into travel writing?
RD: After a stint as a cub reporter covering local government, schools and “Neighbors in the News” for a major metropolitan paper, I tried doing PR for a university and a government agency. I then realized an office job wasn’t going to cut it for me, and segued back into journalism, this time as a freelancer. From there, travel writing seemed like a logical next step.
CF: What inspired you to start a website focused on urban travel?
RD: As a longtime city dweller, I naturally gravitate towards urban destinations. But I wasn’t finding the kind of personal recommendations and nuggets about cities I wanted to shed light on the real character of a place. With my partner, JoAnn Greco, I have built a site that gives seasoned travel writers the chance to share their perspectives on cities big and small, familiar and exotic, along with the occasional beach or spa getaway.
CF: What is an absolute must on your packing list?
RD: For a plane trip, it’s important to bring snacks, a piece of fruit, pretzels, granola bars, nuts and the like. I always carry a folding umbrella, if only to ward off the rain. I have to tote several books, because I won’t know in advance whether I’ll be in the mood to tackle that serious literary novel on my bucket list or want to lose myself in a page-turner. So far, I’ve resisted buying an e-reader, mainly because I log so much screen time already.
CF: Of the airports you’ve passed through –– stateside and abroad –– which is the most convenient?
RD: Las Vegas is probably the most convenient airport of any major city I’ve visited, since the Strip is 10-minute taxi ride away. Plus you can immediately jump into Vegas mode by hitting a slot machine on your way through the terminal. Across the pond, Heathrow, despite its sprawl, offers easy connections by rail or tube to central London.
CF: Have you ever had a near-death experience on a flight?
RD: I’ve been fortunate to encounter mostly clear skies, aside from the occasional turbulence. But there have been many times that I questioned my travel choices while flying on a tiny, propeller-driven puddle-jumper to some lovely tropical spot or remote corner of the world.
CF: Do you have a routine for staying healthy when you travel?
RD: My routine is to stick by my routine from home. That means drinking plenty of water, making sure I have fruit and veggies in my diet and respecting jet lag. When taking a red eye, I make sure to take a stroll around my destination upon arrival to help re-set my clock. But I also allow myself a strategic nap, before setting out again for dinner or the next activity. I always stock my version of a pop-up pharmacy, with over-the-counter remedies for headaches, upset stomach, allergy attacks and the common cold.
CF: What cities or countries or regions do you believe offer the best bang for your buck?
RD: Southeast Asia is still one of the great bargains, despite the expense of getting there. I also find Morocco to be affordable, especially if you avoid restaurants catering solely to foreigners. In the past, I would have put Canada on this list for Americans, but due to changes in currency values those bargain days are over.
CF: Is there a destination that without fail (barring floods and famine) you visit regularly?
RD: As much I love to explore less-touristed destinations, I’m always drawn to world capitals. To paraphrase a favorite classic movie, I’ll always have Paris, and I certainly don’t mind regular visits to London or Rome, either. The pulse of these cities is so intense and the surroundings so encompassing that each visit can feel like the first time –– there are always new places to uncover and old favorites to re-visit. Who knew the central mosque in Paris offered some of the best Moroccan pastries this side of Marrakech, while brunch at the grand Wolseley cafe in London’s Mayfair is on my list for a return visit. It’s the conundrum of travel, whether to repeat the familiar or always seek out the new; my solution is to do more of both.
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