Vera Marie Badertscher is a freelance writer who has written for everything from AAA magazines and regional magazines to Arizona Highways and National Geographic Traveler. She blogs about books that inspire travel at A Traveler’s Library (http://atravelerslibrary.com/).
With Charnell Havens, she has completed a book, Quincy Tahoma: The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist, (http://tahomablog.com) which will be for sale in April, 2011.
Cheapflights: What are your personal routine procedures every time you fly?
Vera Marie Badertscher: I comparison shop for flights and hotels before I book. Then I make copies of passports, reservations, tickets, itinerary – one to leave at home with a relative and one to carry separate from the Real Thing. I use a packing list to keep down the overflow and make sure I don’t forget things. Day before, I print my boarding pass.
CF: What is your biggest travel pet peeve?
VMB: Airline pricing practices. The creeping surcharges airlines charge in the face of declining service drive me up a wall. Surcharges for checked luggage have led to over-full luggage bins as people get away with carrying on bags that are clearly oversized. Also, sites that quote prices without including taxes and other fees makes comparison shopping difficult.
CF: What kind of trip type do you prefer, and why? (Examples: beach vacations, city breaks, spa weekends)
VMB: I love road trips, whether domestic or foreign. I revel in the planning, love the opportunity to see a place and its people up close, appreciate being on my own schedule, and am delighted by the serendipity of discoveries along the way.
CF: Although it’s hard to choose, tell us what your favorite destination is, and why.
VMB: Greece. I’ve returned there five times and I rarely go anywhere twice. Why? In Greece you walk across millennia of history – a past that is common both to the European west and the Middle East. The skies are the blue of the flag and the light turns everyone into an artist. The people are friendly, opinionated, cranky, flirtatious and open.
CF: Cheapflights is all about value. What location do you think offers the best value for travelers?
VMB: Sadly, it is no longer Greece, at least in Athens and the more popular tourist destinations. We found Southwest Asia to offer amazing sights for very affordable prices.
CF: What is your ideal airport, and what’s your advice on how to best enjoy it?
VMB: Lovely question. I like the new Heathrow Terminal Five and was blown away last year when I flew from Amsterdam‘s Schipol. The best way to enjoy an airport, if you have time on a layover, is to take a walk, just as you would do to discover a new city. Good airports abound in interesting art. Many have live music concerts and the very best have tastes of local restaurants and shops instead of just McDonald’s and W.H. Smith Bookstores.
CF: If you had to sit in the middle seat on a plane, who would be your chosen (or most-feared) seat mates, and why?
VMB: Most feared: A professional wrestler (heaviest weight class) who got on the plane just after his fight with no time to shower. To top it off, he drinks too much and wants to tell me about his career.
Chosen: My husband is good, because he doesn’t mind me using him as a pillow, and when he sleeps he does not snore. (And I already know his life story, so he does not bore me that.)
CF: What would you classify as a hypothetical travel nightmare?
VMB: I’m a physical coward, so I generally do everything short of voodoo to avoid the usual travel nightmares, but besides my terror of flying through a thunderstorm, I would not want to be caught in a tidal wave at a beach resort or in a revolution anywhere. Being stuck on the plane sitting on the tarmac for 24 hours ranks right up there, too.
CF: How does what you do for a living give you a unique angle on traveling?
VMB: I used to work for a Congressman and so I tend to be interested in the politics and government of the places I visit. I like to find out how things seem on the ground rather than the limited information we get in our news reports. Now that I am a blogger and freelance writer, I want to know everything about the tourism experience, and particularly what books people recommend for getting to know a particular locale.
CF: Share with us a few insider tips on how to improve the in-flight experience, in general.
VMB: Carry more water than you think you need. The air inside of a plane can be literally as dry as the Sahara. Dress comfortably. You do not need to make an impression on all those people who don’t know who you are and will probably never see you again. Carry disposable wash cloths (Olay facial cloths are my choice) and freshen up before you arrive. Check your negative attitudes at the gate. That’s one kind of checking the airlines don’t charge extra for, and you will enjoy your flight more if you make the flight more enjoyable for the TSA employees, gate agents and flight attendants, not to mention the wrestler in the seat next to you.