How has your job changed the way you travel?
When I travel with my family, I fly in coach, but for business, I fly first class and stay in nice hotels—and to pack, I just throw in armloads of stuff. If I miss something, I run to the Gap or Banana Republic.
How much do you plan your trips in advance?
I often plan at the last minute. Once, we wanted to go to Tasmania for a family vacation, but no cheap hotels or airfares were available. So we went to Melbourne instead at the last minute.
What's the one thing you won't leave home without?
You'll forget everything once, including your passport. You think to yourself I'll never travel without underwear, but then you forget it, and you get by. You just go shopping. I'm sure I've spent at least a couple grand over the years on the stuff I've forgotten to pack.
What do you wear on the plane?
If I have a meeting, I'll wear business clothing. If I'm traveling overseas, I'll change into pajamas on the plane. On overnight flights, I'll bring slippers. I have this fantasy that if you dress nicer on planes they treat you better, but I haven't found that to be true. We're all cattle.
What do you bring with you on the plane?
I have a set routine of what I bring with me on planes for short, long, and overseas flights. It includes slippers, pajamas, noise canceling Bose headphones, an iPod, work, reading material, and computer cords. I wish Bose would adapt its noise-canceling headphones so you could sleep with them on, because they're really uncomfortable when you're lying down.
How do you deal with jet lag?
I rarely sleep more than four hours anywhere I am. My biological clock is permanently broken. If I can sleep for 20 minutes on a bus or a train, I'll do that.
How do you find non-touristy spots?
I usually do a little networking with business colleagues. When I discovered Russell's Pizza [in Willunga, Australia], for instance, I went with a local wine writer and an owner of a specialty food store. If you see a farmers market or you see a small cheese store, just stop and look. Hotel concierges will send you to the places that pay them, and that's how you know where not to go.
How much of your travel is on your own? Do you have any solo travel tips?
Eating in a restaurant alone is one of the great pleasures of life, but one that is often forgotten or actually avoided like a social embarrassment. Don't be intimidated. I love to sit at counters. Often the restaurant is able to serve dinner at the bar, but you have to ask if they'll do it. Then you can chat with the bartender, or not. I always find I'm very creative when I dine alone. That's when I get a lot of my best writing ideas.
How do you keep in touch with others while traveling?
I recently set up Skype and iChat and bought computers with video cameras so I can see my kids when I'm away. I also e-mail and telephone. Cell phones are international.
What sorts of tourist etiquette tips have you picked up?
It makes a difference if you're really nice to the flight attendants on the airplane. They will be nicer if you establish an immediate relationship. And tip big! If you give someone a twenty and say, "Take care of me," they will. It's not a lot, and they'll remember you and jump next time you come and help you out of your cab.
Read on to see Armenia Nercessian de Oliviera's top tips >