Plus: Aisle seats, the best souvenir, the one item never to leave home without, and six other travel tips learned over a lifetime of wanderlust.
By Mark Ellwood
At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we 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.
Sunny Hostin, 53, has spent the last six years sparring with everyone from Meghan McCain to Whoopi Goldberg as a regular panelist on ABC’s The View, which returns for Season 26 on Sept. 6. The New York City-born lawyer and former federal prosecutor started her broadcasting career on Court TV and Fox News before being poached by CNN to be one of its resident legal eagles. She jumped to Disney-owned ABC and became a co-host of The View in 2016, and has since become a staple of daytime TV.
When she’s not on TV or in Westchester, N.Y., with her husband Emmanuael and their two children, Hostin travels some 250,000 miles per year. Her airline of choice? JetBlue – especially its business class, Mint. “When I’m flying to the West Coast, which is kind of often, I only fly Mint because you get that little – it’s almost like your own pod,” Hostin says. “The last time I was on it, John Kerry was on with me.”
When you book a trip, check whether the arrivals airport offers this paid-for service.
Starting your vacation and leaving your vacation, these are two really important times: You’re looking forward to having a wonderful time, or you know you have to get back to reality. You don’t want to spoil it, so try to have a greeter that meets you at the airplane door. They take you through customs, and everything’s sort of fast-tracked. It’s a concierge-level service that means your vacation starts right there and then. We just did it in the Turks and Caicos and again in Cabo, Mexico – and we were on to our vacation, Champagne in hand, within 10 minutes of getting off the plane. It’s a time saver, but it’s also a peace-of-mind saver. I don’t want to travel any other way now; it’s such a treat.
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I refuse to go anywhere without my True & Tidy steamer. You must have one. A lot of hotels certainly don’t have them, and even if they have a steaming service, I like to do it myself. It means I don’t have to check any luggage, and I can still wear fabulous things. I can wear linen. It lets you refresh clothes, so all you need is a carry-on.
Planning a major group getaway? This is how to guarantee it won’t go awry.
I take a trip with a group of women in media every year, Black women in media, like Angela Rye and Tiffany Cross. This year, they chose Turks and Caicos. And they know how to do it well: They basically send someone in advance to check things out. They do this huge reconnaissance. So if you’re going with a group and want nothing to go wrong, do that. The meals can be pre-planned – everyone’s food allergies and beverage of choice. It makes it such a wonderful trip.
Why you should feel good snagging that aisle seat.
You’re doing God’s work in the aisle seat. I didn’t like to interrupt people when I was in the window seat. I was told there were some studies done by psychologists that it’s actually the least-selfish seat on the plane.
If you want to meet locals, follow Hostin’s schedule…
I’m naturally a night owl, but I have to get up really early for my show. So if I can stay up until 3 a.m. while I’m traveling, I’m in my happy place. (Have plenty of cocktails.) Bali and Vietnam were both great really late at night, and so was Hong Kong. At first, the bar there was filled with expats, but around 1 or 2 a.m., it became packed with folks from Discovery Bay, I guess – people who lived on houseboats. It was the best time ever. No question: The later it gets somewhere, the more local it is, which is why it’s worth staying up. The locals are waiting for the visitors to leave.
…and also this attitude.
I love meeting new people, which I think is a requirement to really get the full experience of travel, not just seeing new places. My son has that wanderlust as well. I can’t keep him home. He just came back from a gap year in South Africa; I doubt he will live in the States permanently. And my daughter is the opposite. She’s like a homing pigeon. She just likes to be here. But it’s easier as a woman to meet locals. My husband says I smile a lot, and that’s why I’m so approachable – I mean, yeah, I have very big teeth, a big smile. I remember we went to Spain to visit my husband’s family (he’s originally from there) and we went to a little medieval town, Medinaceli, that’s like, stuck in time. And I met this older Spanish woman, and we spoke for probably two hours.
Even such an inveterate traveler as her has places she’s missed out on – and for unusual reasons.
Japan is top of my list of places to go that I’ve never been. I got into a program in college, and a scholarship to study in Japan for a year. And then I met a guy who was a little dumb and couldn’t get into that program. And I decided not to go, so I could spend the summer basically with him – it’s one of my life’s big regrets. So I’ve promised myself I would go there, but I haven’t had the time. i’d really like to go for a month.
The best sense-memory souvenir to bring back home.
I love hot sauce! So when I go to different countries, if there’s a hot sauce that’s just made there and you’re not going to be able to get on Amazon or whatever, I generally bring that back, so I get a little taste of where I was – like this incredible oil. It only requires a drizzle, but it changes the flavor of any bit of food. [Editor’s note: Just remember to pack it in your luggage; most hot sauce bottles exceed the carry-on allowance for liquids.]
Hostin starts glowing when she talks about Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is fully recovered from Hurricane Maria now. I was there in April. You feel like you’re in a different country, but it’s still part of the United States. And there’s a way to do it luxuriously: Stay at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve on Dorado Beach, with a butler, a bartender, and a chauffeur, in one of the villas that are owned and rented out. Then go to Luquillo beach, which has the phosphorescent bay. Go very late at night for a tour on a beautiful boat, and have a lobster dinner. Then they give you these crystal glasses to put into the water, and when you pour it out? It looks like liquid fire.
How the British capital stoked a lifelong love of adventure – and a heart skepticism to common wisdom.
The first trip I took without my parents was when I went to London to study. I learned about myself that I’m quite an adventurer and I like traveling alone. I have never minded sitting at a restaurant alone with a book. And I’m quite the barfly as well. I enjoy my own company. I’m there as a Puerto Rican, African American woman, and I’m living on Albemarle Street in Mayfair. It was fine, but I see all these Black folks kind of walking around and wondered: Where are they hanging out? People were explaining to me that Black people have been part of the UK, and of London, forever. I heard you couldn’t go to Brixton, because it was so dangerous, but as someone that grew up in the Bronx, I was like, it can’t be more dangerous than that. And it wasn’t at all – it was great: the reggae clubs, the food. My night owl self loved every second of it.
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