What You Should Really Ask the Taxi Driver and Other Travel Tips

(Bloomberg) — At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And when we can again, we 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, time-saving tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.

Roman Jones has been a mainstay of Miami’s nightlife since the late 1990s, when he hosted the likes of Jay-Z and Sylvester Stallone at Living Room on Washington Avenue. He went on to create other headline-grabbing venues, from the megaclubs Mansion and Opium Garden to the tiny, ultra-exclusive Privé, as well as restaurants such as Kiki on the River in downtown Miami. His latest venture, The Gramercy, is a brasserie that takes inspiration from classic hotels.In a typical year, Jones, a new resident of Coral Gables, Fla., logs around 75,000 miles. He’s airline agnostic domestically, but when he flies internationally to Europe, there’s a clear choice: Virgin Atlantic. Virgin “was the first one to have a bar onboard, and for somebody who’s in the bar business, restaurants and so forth and so on, I appreciate that touch,” he says. “I have a little bit of a fear of flying, so I try to have a few drinks before taking off.”

His approach to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic has been preparedness. “I had it early on,” says Jones, “and I test myself for antibodies every three weeks. As long as I [still] test positive for it, I try not to really worry. I wear a mask, because it’s important, but I won’t let the pandemic ruin my trip.”

That stress-free state of mind is honed by a childhood spent traveling with a rock star father.

Traveling is stressful enough as it is, so I always pack a pair of flip-flops and shorts to change into on the plane when I’m heading on vacation. The minute I put them on, I immediately feel like I’m on vacation. Even when I’m traveling to a city like New York, my flip-flops convey that I’m in a vacation state of mind, and people often spot me on the street as “That guy from Miami.” It’s sort of my nonverbal way of saying, “Yep, I’m that guy.” 

I also get to the airport early, because I prefer to wait. The waiting to get on the plane is less stressful than the rushing. When I traveled with my dad [Mick Jones of Foreigner] as a kid, we were always late. It was always a commotion, a nightmare. It’s a horrifying memory from my childhood experience. It was like, Dad, me, my brother Chris, [my half-siblings] Mark [Ronson], Samantha [Ronson], Charlotte [Ronson], Alexander [Dexter-Jones], Annabel [Dexter-Jones], two nannies, 20 bags. This nightmare. My dad probably had a few drinks and who knows what else. It was a circus. So the basis for everything that I do now when I fly is about not stressing out.

What you should actually ask the taxi driver in a new destination.

It’s as old as time to ask the taxi or Uber driver where to go for a great meal or bar scene in town, but don’t do that. Instead, ask them where they’ve been dropping off a lot of people, or where the busiest spot is, or where the hot chicks asked to be dropped off.

A case for never packing socks and underwear. 

Everyone knows that it’s easier to pack when you’re leaving for a trip than when you’re leaving the hotel because for some reason, [your stuff] never fits. You know what I mean. It. Never. Fits. Somehow everything fit perfectly when I left and then all of a sudden, like, what happened? So I just said to myself, “All right, how can I cut some of the extra space and whatever, and it’s not going to break the bank?” So I started picking up socks and boxers from Walgreens, or a gas station, or American Apparel when it was around. The quality is just fine, and socks are nobody’s fashion statement. While it is wasteful, I can just throw them out at the end of my vacation. It saves me from repacking a bunch of dirty laundry—another ritual I hate—so I only have to repack my main items. 

No vaccine passport, no problem. Here’s how Americans can travel “internationally.”

Puerto Rico is a really easy flight from the East Coast, and it has had a really rough couple of years between everything—the hurricanes, the politics. It’s such a beautiful vacation spot, and you feel like you’re leaving the U.S. but yet you’re not, which [these days] makes it easier to travel. And that island has given us so much culturally, especially in music: Look at Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee. While Puerto Rico has been ravaged, these artists have been at the top of the charts churning out hit after hit. You can’t find a better hotel than El San Juan Hotel; it was designed by Morris Lapidus, who designed many iconic Miami properties, and it is so grand. 

When first class isn’t first class. 

Some people say, “Oh my God, I’m going to sit right at the front of the plane,” and I say, “No, I want to be in first class, but not right in front of the plane, because you’re next to the bathrooms, which is not a good idea.” I don’t like odors, and you’re next to a high-traffic spot, even in a mask now.

Unpredictability can be a safety strategy.

It’s better to not have a routine when you’re traveling, and not be easy to target and pinpoint, especially if I’m traveling somewhere like South America, where there’s a lot of kidnapping and so forth and so on. If you’re tipping people nicely, as I do, and you’re tall, you stand out, and word gets out. I’ll check out of the hotel two days “early.” If I get a taxi and I’m like, “Hey, drive me around the night for 50 bucks or whatever,” they might ask, “When are you leaving?” and I say “Thursday. Can you drive me to the airport on Thursday?” and I take their card. Then I’m out of there Wednesday or a day or two before. I just don’t like to leave when people expect me to leave. I like to leave earlier.

If you’re tipping generously, make sure you’re tipping right. 

A lot of people tip when they leave the hotel, they leave their change and whatever that was in their pockets, blah-blah. I always give 20 bucks right upon arrival. Why? If you tip the housekeeper on the first night of your visit vs. the last night, your room will be taken care of—you know, you will get your extra soaps and towels folded into swans. If I see the [room attendant] as I’m in the hallway and they’re turning the bed down, boom, I always go up to them, and I give them a 20, because right away the word spreads: “We got a tipper—we got a live one!” 

In fact, tip everyone: the stewardess, the valet, the concierge, the bellboy. You may [choose to] save a couple hundred dollars on your room type, but splurge on your tips, because having extra service, smiles, attention will make your stay so much better.

Think like a teenager to make the most of every trip.

My first trip on my own was in high school, and I went with my best friend to Paris, Corsica, Italy, and back to Paris. I was 15. We didn’t have the ability to just get on a cellphone and call New York [in the 1980s], like when we were in Florence and ran out of money. The ingenuity comes out then. My best friend pretended [to be] a photographer, and I said I was a reporter for Details magazine in New York.

I think when you’re young, you’re just worried about the destination you’re going to, whereas I think as we get older, we start worrying about the trip to the destination also. Teenagers are like, “Look, I don’t need money to travel. I can go in coach and stay in a [cruddy] hotel.” The whole point is getting there and experiencing it.

Where he’ll go on his first long-haul, post-pandemic adventure.

My ideal trip is this: I go from Miami to L.A. to spend a few days there, relaxing. Then I fly to Hawaii for a few days, then from there to Tokyo and Kyoto, because I’m dying to see the old, feudal areas of Japan, traditional stuff. Then I head down to South Korea. I’m obsessed with Korean food, and I am dying to get drunk in a karaoke bar with [hostesses] rubbing my head and telling me how amazing I am. I’m being completely serious. Honestly, because it reminds me of, like, what clubs must have been like in Vegas, in the ’50s or ’60s when it was just, like, one guy with like 10 showgirls around him. It’s like a set out of a movie, a gangster movie. I also love Korean movies, which is the best Asian cinema [culture] by far. I’d give myself a month for that trip.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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