Why you should never eat food on planes, and other jet-set tips, writes Mark Ellwood.
Those of us who love to travel always want to make sure we're doing it right. So we're talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields — food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate -to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.
Melissa Biggs Bradley is the founder of luxury travel firm Indagare. The membership-based travel club is the secret weapon of 1 Percenters, known for planning and arranging near-impossible trips from chartering planes and yachts to overnights at billionaires' private islands.
When not planning others' jaunts, Biggs Bradley herself spends between three-and-a-half and four months on the road each year, flying around 320,000 kilometres. "I'm not really loyal to any airline - to me the most important thing is the convenience of the time," she says, though she recommends Delta in the US and the premium cabins of Air France and Cathay Pacific.
She lives in New York City with her husband and two teenage children.
The cabin crew's secret to avoiding jet lag
I eat nothing on flights. I've talked to a lot of stewardesses about it, and it's a stewardess secret. Ten years ago, it was [a cabin crew member] on Singapore Airlines on what was, at the time, the longest flight in the world (17 hours from Singapore to New York). She told me that her tried-and-true trick was not eating in-flight. Basically, at superhigh altitude, your digestive system shuts down completely. Someone said to me it's like being under anaesthesia. So when you get off the plane, everything restarts and [your digestive system] has so much more work to do and so it makes you more tired.
Most people overeat because it's a diversion, or a way to pass the time; but even the best plane food is oversalted and preserved so it can be microwaved. So I have something to eat a couple hours before getting on the plane, but otherwise it's nothing but lots and lots of water. Really and truly, I live by it and I feel so much better. I flew to Paris last week, for example, and I got off the plane at maybe 10am, and when I landed I went for a fabulous lunch, which I didn't feel guilty about in the slightest.
How to find a local recommendation in a city where you know no one.
To me, so much about travel is not about where you go but who you meet when you're there. When you go to another city, you always want to have the name of somebody [to ask for recommendations]. A friend of mine told me one of his tips is always to go and seek out a restaurant with a communal table in any place he's going where he doesn't have the name of somebody to look up. It's an instant way to interact with local people.
Travel insurance is vital — but so is stomach insurance
A number of years ago, I was in Delhi and I went out to dinner, and immediately started to feel that I was getting food poisoning, which was the first time for me in India. So a friend of mine gave me a jar of probiotics; I popped two or three pills, and the queasy feeling was instantly cured. It was the craziest thing. Ever since then, I take them daily whenever I'm traveling anyplace-I carry Pro-15. I also take Pepto-Bismol pills. The probiotics build up healthy bacteria in your gut and the Pepto-Bismol acts as a prophylactic that coats your digestive track like a protective sleeve and can help filter out organisms in contaminated water or food.
Sometimes it's smarter not to stay in a five-star hotel
In some [very popular] cities, you're better off taking an amazing suite in a four-star hotel instead of the lowest-category room in a five-star. In Rome, for example, you can get something really amazing at the Portrait Suites, or in Barcelona, the Hotel Arts vs. the Majestic Hotel.
How to manage your family during holiday — and how to make the most of it afterwards
If you're on a multigenerational family trip, announce there are three roles: instructor, documenter, and note taker. Every day, someone has to document everything - they're the cameraperson. Someone else is taking notes, and someone else is in the position of trip leader, so they have to brush up and give a few minutes' talk on what you're seeing today. Every day, rotate those roles, and then at the end of the trip, you have a wonderful record. You can also assign one family member the role of editor, who will compile a book of everyone's photographs and print it for everyone.
How to get a billionaire to subsidise your holiday
Many of the most incredible hotel properties in the world today are owned by successful business leaders who fell in love with a place and decided to spend time there but also to share it with paying guests - there's Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull who turned Malcolm Forbes's private island in Fiji into the sustainable luxury resort Laucala, or Paul Tudor Jones, who leases a 350,000-acre concession in the northern Serengeti in Tanzania and has lodges like Singita Sasakwa and Sabora.
They've not built it to monetise it, or as a profit centre — they're just very successful people who fell in love with a place and bought it for their own personal pleasure, investing enormous amounts of money to extremely high standards [for themselves]. As soon as you're there, you recognise it: You're paying $4,000 per night, perhaps, to be at one of Paul Tudor Jones's places, but the value of the food, the activities, the comfort? You think, 'He's subsidising me.' On Laucala, it's maybe $5400 per night for two people, all-inclusive, but you literally can be on that island, with the whole place to yourself, and have 400 staff taking care of you.
How to never lose service for just 10 bucks per day
A friend gave me a Skyroam, the mobile hotspot, a few years ago. You pay US$10 ($13.50) per day and it doesn't matter how much data you use in those 24 hours, whether your kids download three movies or use Instagram, which takes up so much data. Even in a lot of lounges at airports, I use it, as so many people will be on the lounge WiFi it's too slow, and in a hotel, when there's a usage charge per device, I can use Skyroam instead-I've got five people on the same connection, and I'm not paying the WiFi fee either. The only way you get into trouble with it is if you don't check the coverage before you go — it doesn't work in every country, but it's never failed me. There's a long list on the website, and it works beautifully in Mexico and Italy and Japan.