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News / Life / Travel

Bring two phones and other travel hacks

Take note of tips to have your best vacation, trip

By Mark Ellwood, Bloomberg News
Published: May 28, 2023, 6:49am

One time in Paris, I lost my phone and I had to spend $2,000 for a new iPhone. I’ve also had a phone stolen on the beach in Rio — a whole team of kids that came and stole my phone right out of my hand — and one that submerged into the Aegean. And one was flung off the back of a horse on the beach in Careyes. We had to turn the horse around and tried to go find it but, nope, couldn’t find it. So now I never discard my old iPhones.

You can also buy a reconditioned one online. They come in handy, because whenever I’m packing for a trip, I always throw one in my bag. I bring a spare one and an extra SIM wherever I go. The cards cost about $10. You can call your carrier and tell them to switch your number to that SIM and use it in the old iPhone.

Packing an extra phone is just one of the tips I’ve picked when traveling.

How to beat jet lag when flying a long-haul flight.

I don’t sleep well on planes. Most flights to Europe end up being too short for a proper rest, and I’ve never loved the whole hit-the-ground-running approach. Instead, I book my hotel for the night before I land, and I take the earliest flight out. If you board the plane at 4 p.m. from New York, you land at the equivalent of 11 p.m. ET, and by the time you get to your hotel you’re tired, like a normal night.

And yes, you lose half the day to sleep when you get to your hotel. But it’s better than roaming around a zombie in Paris for half a day trying to pretend that you’re normal. It eliminates the dread of waiting for your room to be ready, and by the time it’s dark out your jet lag kicks in and you’re tired again anyway. The Hoxton Hotels let you check in whenever.

Rio de Janeiro is a favorite. Here’s a cheat sheet.

I am a big Rio de Janeiro fan. I can’t sit on the sand endlessly, no matter how beautiful the setting, so a city on the beach like Rio is the perfect way for me to do the traditional holiday things plus a lot more. I love Hotel Arpoador and the Ipanema Inn if I am just doing a quick getaway. Hotel Arpoador is right on the beach at the border of Ipanema and Copacabana. I go every day for a quick lunch and catch up on work while sitting on their terrace.

Then the afternoons are for exploring. I find myself wanting to go back to even the obvious touristic places I’ve seen a dozen times: Christ the Redeemer, Jardim Botânico, Parque Lage. I always stop by Confeitaria Colombo in Centro for a coffee, have a pizza at Canastra, a big seafood meal at Satyricon, a drink at the Copacabana Palace, watch a horse race at the Jockey Club over a late lunch at Rubaiyat. The residential streets are beautiful, but they’re really quiet. I stay on the commercial streets, where things are open until 4 a.m. and no action is happening. I try to stay around people.

Find the cheapest way to travel to a secondary city long-haul.

If I am traveling for leisure and have a few days to spare, I always use Google Flights to find the city in Europe with the least expensive flights. Type in your home city and then for the destination you just type “Europe” and check the box for nonstop. It’s going to auto-populate direct flights to Barcelona, Milan, Prague or Berlin. Pick the best deal, and then you can connect to wherever on a discount airline, such as EasyJet or Wizz.

Every August I travel to Patmos in Greece, and lately I’ve avoided the overpriced and oversold New York-to-Athens route and have flown instead to Berlin, and then fly a discount airline to Kos, where I catch the ferry. It’s also a way to find cheaper business class: If you fly to a market that is mostly leisure tourism, for example, you can find better deals. On the way back, I use a website called Kiwi, where you can do the opposite, saying you’ll fly from anywhere in Europe to New York.

Ask local restaurant owners and diners to score the best recommendations.

I’ll go to a restaurant that someone has recommended to me and ask around. “I’m so happy that I found this place. It was amazing. Where should I go tomorrow?” And the locals will point you in the right direction. I know what my answer would be if somebody asked me that at my restaurant. I could tell them in two seconds where to go in New York. A lot of people in hospitality would welcome that question.

European airlines offer way to cheap business-class seats. Here’s how:

When I was flying to Paris for Fashion Week, the business-class tickets were $10,000. Well, I’m not doing that — somebody else would have to be paying for that trip for me. Instead I booked in economy each way and upgraded when I checked in. So it cost me an $800 ticket, with two $600 upgrades: a total of $2,000 for the trip instead of $10,000. U.S.-based airlines often don’t make the same offer. They usually don’t upgrade, and there’s no way to pay your way up or upgrade with miles, which is crazy when you see the inventory and empty seats. But on both Virgin and Air France, which partner with Delta, they’ll do it.

Practice the hub-and-spoke ritual when planning a vacation.

I would spend the whole summer at the hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano on the Amalfi Coast — waking up in that fortress of beauty and luxury. It’s just the most incredible jumping-off point for the style of travel that I like to do, and which allows me to have mini-adventures every day.

I’ve looked at people’s itineraries for the South of France, and I say, “Wait, you’re going to all those places? You’re doing three days in Nice, and then two days in Antibes, and then you’re driving to Monaco for a night, and then you’re going back to St-Tropez?” I would just stay at Antibes for a week and jump in the car and go see it all. I really like to settle in one place. I love coming back to the hotel and seeing the bartender every night and having them ask me, “Oh, how did you like the beach?” I just don’t like to repack and move my luggage.