Valarie D’Elia is a travel expert who doesn’t wear that label loosely. Born into a travel industry family that dates back to 1902, Val has developed an expertise that is cultivated from a century’s worth of perspective. Known for her trademark D’Elia’s Deals featured on her site Travel With Val, Val has a built-in barometer that scrutinizes values from the inside out and knows the difference between genuine savings and marketing mumbo jumbo. Having traveled to 100 countries on seven continents, Val is setting an example for others with her independent spirit and open mindedness. Follow Val’s journey on Twitter and Facebook for more travel inspiration.
Cheapflights: You encourage travelers to stretch their comfort zones. What’s the first step novices should take?
Valarie D’Elia: It’s an individual thing. For me, it ranges from the extremes of jumping out of an airplane, (check) and swimming in the frigid waters of Antarctica (not!), to the equally daunting prospect of leaving my blow-drier at home (always).
Maybe it’s something as simple as trying a headstand at your yoga retreat, or packing only two outfits for a five-day trip.
Whatever makes you feel as if you’re doing more than merely sticking your toe in the water. Something liberating, that allows you to see life from a different perspective and in turn, experience a destination in a new way, physically, spiritually or mentally.
CF: As a travel expert who can identify true savings, what countries or regions do you believe offer the best bang for your buck?
VD: That’s not the way I approach it. My mantra is Travel with Value and that means anywhere you go. I’ll help you find a D’Elia’s deal even when you have your heart set on one of the world’s priciest resorts or luxury cruises.
It’s all about timing. You can enjoy the exact same benefits as a well-heeled traveler if you visit a high-falutin’ place in its off-season, for less than half the price.
You can always get a deal, discount or bargain on any mode of travel. For instance, I’m traveling to the Caribbean the week before Christmas because I found a $300 round-trip airfare to St. Martin. A week later, you can only guess what it might cost over the holidays.
Again, the week of Dec. 12: A 12-night cruise on the new Celebrity Silhouette departing from Bayonne, NJ is $899 per person per day (at press time). That’s an incredible $75-a-night on a luxury cruise ship.
CF: How do you stay connected when you travel?
VD: Since I shoot and edit my own video for my Travel with Val segments, it is vital that I find a super-duper high-speed internet connection.
I FTP my edited stories back to NY1, and that process has ranged from as short as 20 minutes to as brutally long as 10 hours.
In London, I remember hotel hopping in the middle of the night just to find a better connection which I successfully begged for at the newly reopened Savoy.
I’m all about staying in touch by email and updating my website and Twitter account, @travelwithval, on Wi-Fi. I carry a locked iPhone and have an international calling plan, but use Skype if I need to call home.
Fortunately, I can easily do my business without making too many phone calls.
CF: What’s your routine before you fly?
VD: I don’t know why, but I clean my entire apartment. I straighten up, dust, scrub, vacuum and Swiffer the floors. As a consummate procrastinator, I don’t pack until the very last minute. Much of what I need, however, stays happily ensconced in my beloved Tumi split duffel between trips.
It upsets my Havanese, Mojito, tremendously when he sees me pack. When I return, there’s always a squeaky toy buried in my suitcase, so he associates the process with a good experience. It’s so darn cute to see him jump on my bag, ignore me, and dig the toy out.
CF: Any tips on researching a new destination before taking off?
VD: Personally, I like to leave my trips mostly to serendipity. I strive to be as spontaneous and unobtrusive as I can while lugging around a tripod and video camera.
I like to travel free of preconceived notions and discover my angle on location. I very much enjoy the process of packaging stories, from figuring out what to shoot, style of writing, who to interview and the pacing of the edit.
The beauty is, aside from assigned news pieces, my segments are reported from my point of view, so I can rarely be wrong!
CF: Of the airports you’ve passed through – Stateside and abroad – which is the most convenient.
VD: While “convenient airport” is quite an oxymoron, I live on New York City’s Upper East Side just over the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge for a reason – so I can be ultra-close to LGA and JFK.
Quite antsy, I’m not into spending a lot of time in airports, so I usually cut it pretty close to flight time. My favorite place to be delayed is Heathrow’s T5 in the British Airways lounge. Love the perks that go along with business class air travel.
CF: Who’s the most memorable seatmate (or what’s the most memorable conversation) you’ve had on a plane?
VD: Last spring I sat next to the CEO of a major retail company—and a couple Bloody Marys into the flight we started talking about collaborating on a travel project, combining our brands. I’ve since had a follow-up meeting (sans alcohol).
The fortuitous twist here is that I was transferred to that plane after my original flight developed engine trouble on the tarmac.
CF: How do you discover local or off-the-beaten-path places?
VD: Ditch the guidebooks and ask your friends, followers or locals for recommendations. Take a chance. There’s more than that one good pizza place in Naples that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in Eat, Pray, Love.
CF: Is there a destination that without fail (barring floods and famine) you visit regularly?
VD: I just visited my 100th country this year, so I try to visit as many new places as possible to keep up the count. Since I am a New Englander at heart—born in Connecticut—I love Martha’s Vineyard, especially Chappaquiddick on a hot summer’s day. It reminds me of the simplicity of my childhood. The season is so ephemeral; it almost hurts to go there.
CF: Do you recommend using guided tours at a new destination?
VD: Absolutely! As much as I advocate finding your own path, I’ll never forget my journalism professor’s sage words: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
So all those clichéd places are must-sees for a reason. And there’s no better way to get the lay of the land than from an experienced local guide. Once you get your travel equilibrium, it’s time to go out on your own and shake it up!
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.