Mike Gerrard and Donna Dailey are award-winning travel writers and the authors of numerous travel books. He is British, she is American, and they divide their time between the UK and Arizona. They are joint editors of 101 USA Holidays and publish several travel websites of their own, including Pacific Coast Highway Travel.
CF: What do you do when you travel – any routine procedures?
MG: We always like to be well-prepared and have our itinerary and hotels and directions in a file with us. When we get to a hotel I often have to wait outside the room or in the hallway with the bags while Donna photographs the room before we mess it up! We review most of the hotels we stay in, and even if we don’t plan to, we want to have our own photos, just in case.
DD: I’d like to say that after all these years of travel I have a routine down pat, but that’s usually not the case. I try not to leave it all till the last minute, and I find it helps to make a list of must-take and must-do items, such as clearing my memory cards and charging camera batteries so that I’m ready to go when I get to the destination.
What is your travel pet peeve?
MG: Hotels that charge for WiFi, and those with hefty parking charges when there is absolutely nowhere else to park nearby.
DD: Airlines with tiny hand-luggage allowances and the varying size and weight restrictions between different carriers. It makes it very hard for photographers, since you can’t put valuable, breakable gear in the hold. At the same time, I hate it when people bring great hulking cases on board and hog all the space in the overhead compartment.
What is your favourite kind of trip?
MG: We love road trips, especially in the USA. We’ve driven the Pacific Coast Highway several times, to update our website, and there’s always something new to discover. I think most of the trips I remember best are the ones where it’s been just the two of us, driving somewhere – Alaska, Florida, Wyoming, New Mexico, the Rockies, Spain, France, Crete, Scotland. Lots of places, but we like to be independent, and on the road.
DD: I agree. It’s great to have the freedom to stop when and where you like for hiking, wildlife and to explore off the beaten path.
Best destination you have ever been to and why?
MG: That’s really hard to say, as there have been so many, enjoyed in different ways. I’ll never forget camel-trekking in the Sinai Desert in Egypt, which I’ve done twice now. Magical experience. But for fascination, and learning what the place was like rather than being told what it’s like – three weeks in China. Though if you ask me again tomorrow, you’d probably get a different answer.
DD: I really couldn’t choose a “best” destination as I love so many places for different reasons. I like Mallorca and the Greek islands for relaxing, destinations like Kenya for wildlife, Colombia, Nicaragua and Alaska for scenery and adventure, cities like New York, Paris, San Francisco… just to name a few.
Where in the world offers the best value for money?
MG & DD: By and large, the USA offers good value. It sometimes has a reputation for being expensive in some cities, but it generally isn’t. You can find good, cheap motels, great diners that are inexpensive, gas is cheap, and so much stunning scenery.
Where would you pay to stay? Is there anywhere you think offers great value and a great deal?
DD: We’ve had some great deals in the USA, Mexico, Tunisia, Egypt, Greece and Mallorca. Most destinations apart from the very upmarket ones offer special packages at certain times of the year, and if you do your research you can usually find a deal that offers great value and good weather too, often in the shoulder seasons which also mean fewer crowds.
What is the best airport you have flown from and is there a tip to make this airport experience great?
MG: Our local airport, Tucson, is a great little airport. It’s more pleasant because it is small. You’re in and out quickly, there’s always somewhere to sit, and of course it’s usually warm and blue skies outside, which helps. I don’t mind too much being at an airport, provided you’re on time and there are no flight delays. Get checked in, get through the awful security checks – and then relax with a book for a while.
When you fly is there a tip you can share to make the experience a great one?
MG: For me stress starts if I’m running late. I’ll never forget the time a dozen things conspired against me and I almost missed a flight. Literally, the doors were about to close as I got to the gate and it was the pilot’s decision whether I was allowed on board or not. Thankfully he said yes. So my tip is – get there early and relax.
DD: Unfortunately so much is out of your control. I take ear plugs and noise reduction headphones to help block out bawling, ill-behaved children, but it’s down to luck whether you get considerate passengers in the row ahead who don’t insist on reclining their seat into your lap. Be nice to the flight attendants and they may help smooth out any difficulties.
As a travel specialist what is the most important piece of travel advice you can give?
MG: I don’t think you’re necessarily any better at travelling just because you travel a lot. I’ve left things behind in hotels, forgotten to take our phone charger with us, and one time even turned up on the wrong day for a flight – thankfully a day early, not late. So my advice would be don’t take my advice.
DD: Go with the flow. Things happen, and you have to be able to quickly adjust if your flight is delayed, the museum is closed or some mishap interferes with your plans. The most memorable travel experiences are often unexpected, so find a way to salvage the day and make the most of your time wherever you are.
At one point in your life, you will have to sit in the middle seat when you fly. If you have two people next to you, who do you most want to share a long haul with and whom would you least? And why.
MG: It would be amazing to get to sit next to Barack Obama, on one side, and maybe Mick Jagger on the other. I’d say Bob Dylan but I don’t think you’d get much conversation out of him. Why? To try to get some idea of what both of them are really like. I think Obama is a fascinating politician. In fact he’s probably the only politician I’d want to sit next to, apart from maybe Bill Clinton. And I think Mick Jagger would have a fund of good rock music stories, and he’s probably a charming man. Plus it means I’d be flying First Class, which I’ve never done.
DD: The least desirable companions? Someone who forgot their deodorant (for obvious reasons), and a lone parent with a 17-month-old on their lap (because a child that age will never stay quiet or still). That would be a very stressful trip indeed.
If there was one travel nightmare trip, where would it be to and what would it involve?
MG: It would be to the Pearly Gates and it would involve being dead.
(Featured image: rkramer62)