Christopher Burch’s Travel Survival Guide
The American entrepreneur shares his tips for traveling with ease.
I enjoy traveling. My work demands it, but I’ve discovered ways to make it less stressful and more productive. At my last estimate, I fly about 400 hours a year, mostly between New York, Los Angeles, Indonesia (to visit my resort, Nihiwatu) and Paris to visit friends. I know people who fly more often than that, and we share some extraordinary tips. A handful of routines and thoughtful gestures not only get me where I need to be with less fatigue, but also make me new friends and inspire my appetite for new ideas, because traveling is a bountiful source for the curious at heart.
1. Show empathy
We all have our habits and rituals during travel, but my first piece of advice is, have empathy. People who know me are familiar with my inquisitive nature. If you take the time to get to know people with a few quick questions to understand their state of mind, especially if you are going to be on a 15-hour flight together, it can make a long flight all the more comfortable. Where are they going? Where have they been? Where did they grow up? What are they most looking forward to? Be charismatic. Be positive. A little edge will set you apart. Telling a flight attendant, for example, that you appreciate his or her job might earn you some added hospitality. The same goes with the concierge at a hotel. Be genuinely warm and engaging. Try not to ever show anger, rudeness or hostility. The more you give, the more you’ll receive. These people can be your best friends while you are away and take care of you when you need anything.
2. A gift goes a long way
I also love gifting—imagine getting a gift from your customer. Hotels and airlines, especially those you frequent, are always giving. So return the favor! I enjoy the surprise on a flight attendant’s face when I hand him or her a little gift to say thank you. It can be as simple as a little box of chocolates I picked up, or a small trinket from one of my portfolio companies. I love giving gifts from my daughters’ fashion line, Trademark. They have the coolest accessories.
3. Find what works for you
People who know how much I travel often ask me what airline I prefer and what luggage I use. I love Cathay Pacific for international travel to Asia; the first class sleeper seats from JFK to Hong Kong are the absolute best. I can get a full night’s sleep and the staff is incredible—they treat everyone with love and care. For domestic travel, my favorite flights are on American—they have new Boeing 777 planes with flatbed seats that fly from Miami and New York to LA—and JetBlue Mint, that carrier’s new premium class. As for luggage, I am a big fan of my lightweight Rimowa suitcase. It moves so well it almost pulls me through the airport. When I’m in the mood and listening to a great song from the ’60s, it becomes a great dance partner through the terminal.
4. What to bring, and what to leave behind
I have TSA pre-check and always carry on so I can zip through check-in and security. Travel light and don’t be afraid to do laundry along the way. Shop local. In many cities, such as Shanghai, I’ll ask the concierge about a great location for custom shirts. I’m also known for my eccentric style. I have casual, pajama-like pants made in Shanghai by a vendor at a fabric market that are comfortable, with extra-long pockets to carry my wallet and passport. I wear them on the plane with a button-down shirt and keep a scarf or sweater handy. Then I always take a melatonin or sleep aid to make sure I rest well and minimize jet lag.
5. Once you arrive
Don’t forget the use of the Uber button! I have found Uber everywhere around the world. It is a reliable and easy option. Go out for a run or a walk, and get lost taking in the sights of the city, then take an Uber or taxi back to your hotel. Make sure you pile your phone or iPod with podcasts or audio books for those walks, runs, hikes and flights. It’s the best way to make time for some education. Right now I’m listening to PBS’ Frontline documentaries, and a book titled Bold by Peter Diamandis.
Don’t forget—the farther you go, the more exciting your travels will be. Just taking that extra step around the bend and spending the effort to explore can lead you to remarkable places in life.